On March 24, 1765, the British Parliament passed the Quartering Act, one of a series of measures primarily aimed at raising revenue from the British colonies in America. Although the Quartering Act did not provoke the immediate and sometimes violent protests that opposed the Stamp Act, it did prove to be a source of contention between some colonies and Great Britain during the years leading up to the Revolution.
During the Seven Years (or French and Indian) War, British military commanders in North America often found it difficult to persuade the assemblies of some uncooperative colonies to pay for the costs of housing and provisioning the soldiers sent over to fight the French. Once the war had ended, the king’s advisors decided that some British troops should remain in North America, in theory to defend the colonies. Since the war had left Britain with a large national debt, it also was especially important that the colonies should pay their share of the costs of keeping these men in America.
Contrary to popular belief, the Quartering Act of 1765 did not require that colonists bivouac soldiers in their private homes. The act did require colonial governments to provide and pay for feeding and sheltering any troops stationed in their colony. If enough barracks were not made available, then soldiers could be housed in inns, stables, outbuildings, uninhabited houses, or private homes that sold wine or alcohol. The act did not provoke widespread or violent opposition, partly because significant numbers of British troops were stationed in only a few colonies and also because most colonies managed to evade fully complying with its provisions. To a certain extent the act was overshadowed by the response to the Stamp Act, also passed in 1765.
Nevertheless many American colonists saw the Quartering Act as one more way Parliament was attempting to tax them without their consent. Others suspected that the real purpose of keeping a small standing army in America – stationed in coastal cities, not on the frontier – was not for defense, but to enforce new British policies and taxes. The Quartering Act did become a divisive issue in 1766, however, after 1,500 British soldiers disembarked at New York City. The New York Provincial Assembly refused to provide funds to cover the costs of feeding and housing these men as required by the law. In response, the British Parliament voted to suspend the Provincial Assembly until it complied with the act. As it turned out, the suspension was never put into effect since the New York Assembly later agreed to allocate revenue to cover some of the costs of quartering these troops. The Quartering Act of 1765 was largely circumvented by most colonies during the years before the Revolution.
American colonists resented and opposed the Quartering Act of 1765, not because it meant they had to house British soldiers in their homes, but because they were being taxed to pay for provisions and barracks for the army – a standing army that they thought was unnecessary during peacetime and an army that they feared might be used against them.