After the French and Indian War, Great Britain wanted its colonies in America to bear the expenses of sustaining its army, which is why it passed the Quartering Acts. But how did the colonists react to the Quartering Act of 1765? Historyplex gives you the answer, along with the definition, facts, summary, and significance of the Quartering Act of 1765.
Did You Know?
Contrary to popular belief, the Quartering Act did not force colonists to house British soldiers in their own homes.
The middle of the 18th century brought with it a great deal of conflict to North America. Two great superpowers of the time – France and Great Britain, battled for the control of their colonies. Finally, in 1763, France was defeated, and had to hand over most of its colonies to Great Britain. British settlers in America were initially relieved, only to be treated like cash cows by the British Parliament, who was seeking to settle its own debts. As the British Empire in North America neared its demise, a number of repressive Acts were passed by its parliament. The first Quartering Act was one such move, which heightened the fears of the colonists. But, what was the purpose of the Quartering Act of 1765? Let’s find out.
The Quartering Act of 1765 was an Act passed by the British Parliament, which made it mandatory for the provincial assemblies in America to provide housing and food to the British troops stationed in their respective colonies.
● The Quartering Act of 1765 was one of two quartering Acts, the other of which was passed in 1774.
● This Act was passed by the British Parliament on March 24, 1765, and received royal assent on May 15. It was valid until March 24, 1767, i.e., for two years.
● The Act was actually an amendment of the 1765 Mutiny Act, which governed the discipline, pay, and punishment for desertion and sedition by soldiers. The British Parliament was required to renew these Acts annually since the first one was passed in 1689.
● The Act was passed by the parliament at the request of the British Commander-in-chief of North America, Thomas Gage, who had suffered problems in providing accommodation to his troops in the past. However, when the Act was passed, it far exceeded what Gage had desired.
● None of the 13 British colonies in America, except the Province of Pennsylvania, agreed to implement the Act, and avoided it, giving one reason or the other, until it became ineffective in 1767.
● Of all the colonies, the Province of New York was the hardest hit, because it received most of the troops sent from England.
● In January 1766, the Provincial Assembly of New York passed a resolution which rejected the Quartering Act of 1765.
● In 1766, about 1,500 British troops arrived at New York harbor, but since the Provincial Assembly had rejected the Act, these troops were forced to stay on their ships. This resulted in a violent altercation between the troops and local sailors, leading to a colonist getting injured.
● In response to New York’s rejection of the Quartering Act, the British Parliament passed ‘restraining Acts’ in 1767 and ’69, which suspended its governor and assembly, until the Act was implemented.
● These restraining Acts were, however, never implemented, as in 1771, the New York Provincial Assembly finally agreed to provide funds for accommodation of British troops.
● A direct fallout of this Act was the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770, when a British army unit, on being harassed by a mob of settlers, killed five of them, and injured six others in the town of Boston, Massachusetts.
The Quartering Act made it mandatory for provincial assemblies in America to provide barracks for British troops that were stationed there. In case these barracks proved to be insufficient, then the colonial authorities were required to provide the troops with local taverns, boarding stables, eating houses, and residences of makers of alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, cider, and rum. If even these places couldn’t accommodate all the troops, then they were to be housed in unoccupied houses, barns, and outhouses. Moreover, the Act required that all troops should be provided with a regular supply of essentials, like food, firewood, utensils, bedding, salt, vinegar, candles, and with beverages like beer and cider (not more than 5 pints), or half a pint of rum mixed with one quart of water. These troops were not required to pay for such provisions, which, along with the cost of their housing, was to be entirely funded by the provincial governments.
Background and Causes
The 1765 Quartering Act arose from the French and Indian War, in which the British defeated the French in 1763, and became undisputed masters of North America. However, Lieutenant General Thomas Gage, who was the Commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America, suffered resistance from some colonists in obtaining sufficient accommodation for his troops during the war. This led him to request the British Parliament to look into the matter, to prevent similar difficulties.
Moreover, after the end of the war, colonial settlers were beginning to expand westwards, where they clashed with Native Americans. To protect the colonies from attacks by Natives, such as the Pontiac Rebellion of 1763, Great Britain adopted a policy of preventing westward expansion altogether, by stationing troops at the frontier. Moreover, since British troops were stationed there to protect the colonists, the British Parliament felt it was justified that they bear all expenses of sustaining the troops. Also, Great Britain, which was already reeling under enormous debt, didn’t wish to spend more on stationing its soldiers on its own soil. This led to the Quartering Act of 1765.
The colonists in America were perplexed by the Act, since the French had already been defeated two years before, and British troops were no longer necessary for the protection of the colonies. The peacetime stationing of troops in faraway lands was also not common at the time. Moreover, while during the French and Indian War, the provincial governments had looked after the expenses of housing and feeding British troops. Doing so now had become very expensive, as they were already being taxed heavily by Great Britain.
In the years preceding the Quartering Act, Great Britain had increased taxation on the colonists, with several unpopular Acts, like the Stamp Act, which taxed anything printed in the colonies such as pamphlets, newspapers, dice, playing cards, etc.; the Sugar Act, which levied taxes on the import of commodities like sugar; and the Currency Act, which prohibited colonies from issuing their own currency. By these Acts the British Parliament hoped to pay off its own debts by raising revenues from its colonies in America. Since these Acts had been widely protested in the colonies, the settlers began to feel that Great Britain now planned to station troops in America to enforce its taxes.
Moreover, the settlers felt that the Quartering Act directly violated the Bill of Rights passed by the British Parliament in 1689, which assured settlers that they won’t be taxed unfairly, and forbid the stationing of troops during peacetime without Parliament’s approval. The enactment of this Act eroded a lot of trust between Great Britain and the colonists, since for them, paying for British troops during peacetime was just another tax.
The Quartering Act of 1765 created an atmosphere of suspicion between Great Britain and the colonists, who preferred that their own provincial assemblies legislate on the matter of stationing British troops, rather than being ordered to do so. This Quartering Act, coupled with another passed in 1774, paved the way for the American Revolutionary War in 1775. In fact, the Act’s requirement of providing accommodation to troops whipped up such a rage among the colonists, that they introduced the ‘Third Amendment of the US Constitution’, which explicitly prohibits any such activity without the consent of the owner of a private property.