The Quartering Act of 1774 – The Background
The Boston Tea Party was a turning point in the relationship between Great Britain and the colonies in America. Prior to the Tea Party, the colonies had rights and privileges unique among British colonial possessions. However, after the Tea Party, the British government decided that the colonies (particularly Massachusetts) had moved from being simply troublesome to being in outright rebellion. The British government passed a series of Laws or Intolerable Acts, designed to punish the colonists for their misdeeds.
The Quartering Act of 1774 – The Details
One of the acts was the Quartering Act of 1774, which was made law on June 2. This law was an amendment to the original Quartering Act which had been passed in 1765. The purpose of a quartering act is twofold: first, this act allows for a very close supervision of suspected rebels, and second, it does so while shifting the cost of feeding, housing, and clothing a soldier is shifted to the people that are sheltering that soldier.
In the Act of 1774, several changes had been made to the original law. First, the original law had required that soldiers be quartered in homes, but had little enforcement by the colonial government. The Act of 1774, however, made provision that soldiers might occupy barns and other private buildings if not given approved housing. Further, this act included provisions that would prevent British soldiers from being held to military law while in the colonies, meaning that a soldier would not be held to the much higher standard of military law if stationed in the colonies. Coupled to the Administration of Justice Act (another of the Intolerable Acts), British soldiers accused of committing crimes would be sent to England to stand trial – a measure designed to prevent the potential abuse of power by officers while stationed in the colonies.
The Quartering Act of 1774 – The Aftermath
The overall purpose of the Quartering Act of 1774 was to punish Massachusetts for its participation in the Boston Tea Party, and, along with the other Intolerable Acts, to provide a deterrent for other potential colonial rebels. The act was largely a failure, however, in that it did not stop other colonists from taking up the cause against Britain, and, in point of fact, may have actually helped convince neutral colonists to side with those seeking independence.