Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Quartering Act Moves America Toward Revolution

On this day (March 24), the British Parliament approved one of the most controversial and provocative measures in the years leading up to the American Revolution. The Quartering Act of 1765 required the colonies to provide barracks or suitable alternative arrangements for British soldiers stationed in North America.

Those alternative arrangements were, if necessary, to include "inns, livery stables, ale houses, victualling houses, and the houses of sellers of wine." If all such "publick houses" were filled, colonial authorities were then obligated to "take, hire and make fit for the reception of his Majesty's forces, such and so many uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings as shall be necessary."

Opponents of the Quartering Act of 1765 saw such a large presence of British soldiers as not only unnecessary (the late French and Indian War having been concluded), but dangerous to colonial liberties. They also objected to Parliament making such demands from thousands of miles away. Colonists treasured their hitherto unchallenged tradition of self-government.

Agitators called up images of British redcoats tossing families out of their homes, taking liberties with colonial women, and engaging in other forms of bullish behavior.

Along with Parliament's tax legislation, such as the Sugar Act and Stamp Act, this forced presence of British troops in colonial North America only served to increase tensions with the Mother Country. Street brawls became fairly common, until finally things came to a fatal head in the streets of Boston in 1770. And the American Revolution was, from that day forward, almost inevitable.

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