This Day in History: March 24

On this day in 1765, Parliament passed the Quartering Act, which detailed conditions and locations in which British soldiers were to garner room and board in the American colonies.

The Quartering Act of 1765 required the colonies to house British soldiers in barracks provided by the colonies. If the barracks were too small to house all the soldiers, then localities were to accommodate the soldiers in livery stables, ale houses, local inns, victualing houses, and the homes of sellers of wine. Should there still be soldiers without accommodation after all such public houses were filled, the colonies were then required to utilize uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings for said purpose.

As the language of the act specifies, the popular image of Redcoats tossing colonists from their bedchambers in order to move in themselves was not the intent of the law; neither was it the practice. However, the New York colonial assembly disliked being exhorted to provide quarter for British troops; they preferred to be asked and then provide their consent. Thus, they refused to comply with the law, and in 1767, Parliament passed the New York Restraining Act, which forbade the royal governor of New York from signing any further legislation until the assembly complied with the Quartering Act.

In New York, the governor managed to convince Parliament that the assembly had complied. In Massachusetts, British officers followed the Quartering Act’s injunction to quarter their soldiers in public places, not in private homes. Within these constraints, their only option was to pitch tents on Boston Common. The soldiers, living side by side with Patriots, were soon involved in street brawls and then the Boston Massacre of 1770. The British soldiers would stay in Boston until George Washington drove them out with the Continental Army in 1776.

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