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Monday, March 24, 2014


Colonials didn't like this:

[I]n case there shall not be sufficient room for the officers and soldiers in such barracks, inns, victualling and other publick alehouses, that in such and no other case, and upon no other account, it shall and may be lawful ...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, to quarter therein the residue of such officers and soldiers for whom there should not be rooms in such barracks and publick houses as aforesaid, and to put and quarter the residue of such officer and soldiers therein.
[T]his act and every thing herein contained, shall continue and be in force in all his Majesty’s dominions in America, from the twenty fourth day of March, in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty five, until the twenty fourth day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and sixty seven.

But this was not really what Jefferson referred to in the Declaration.  That was the 1774 act amending the 1765 act (itself was an amendment to the original Mutiny Acts that required annual renewal), which was part of the Intolerable Acts responding to the Boston Tea Party.  Yeah, a bit convoluted, but all that represented a long history of grievances that eventually boiled over in the American colonies.

Anyway, Samuel Adams wrote in the Boston Gazette, October 17, 1768:

No man can pretend to say that the peace and good order of the community is so secure with soldiers quartered in the body of a city as without them. Besides, where military poweris introduced, military maxims are propagated and adopted, which are inconsistent with and must soon eradicate every idea of civil government.

Do we not already find some persons weak enough to believe, that an officer is oblig'd to obey the orders of his superior, tho' it be even AGAINST the law! And let any one consider whether this doctrine does not directly lead even to the setting up that superior officer, whoever he may be, as a tyrant. It is morever to be observ'd that military government and civil, are so different from each other, if not opposite, that they cannot long subsist together. Soldiers are not govern'd properly by the laws of their country, but by a law made for them only: 

This may in time make them look upon themselves as a body of men different from the rest of the people; and as they and they only have the sword in their hands, they may sooner or later begin to look upon themselves as the LORDS and not the SERVANTS of the people: Instead of enforcing the execution of law, which by the way is far from being the original intent of soldiers, they may refuse to obey it themselves: Nay, they may even make laws for themselves, and enforce them by thepower of the sword!

And during the Virginia Ratification Convention, Patrick Henry said on June 16, 1788:

[Congress] are not only to raise, but to support, armies; and this support is to go to the utmost abilities of the United States. If Congress shall say that the general welfare requires it, they may keep armies continually on foot. There is no control on Congress in raising or stationing them. They may billet them on the people at pleasure. This unlimited authority is a most dangerous power: its principles are despotic. If it be unbounded, it must lead to despotism; for the power of a people in a free government is supposed to be paramount to the existing power...

One of our first complaints, under the former government, was the quartering of troops upon us. This was one of the principal reasons for dissolving the connection with Great Britain. Here we may have troops in time of peace. They may be billeted in any manner — to tyrannize, oppress, and crush us.

This and other similar arguments eventually gave us the Third Amendment, which I love so.  Still relevant today.  

I will note that James Madison responded to Henry:

He says that one ground of complaint, at the beginning of the revolution, was, that a standing army was quartered upon us. This was not the whole complaint. We complained because it was done without the local authority of this country —without the consent of the people of America.

There it is, that 'consent' thing again.  Standing armies can be bad.  Taxes can be bad.  But we consent to them with limits sometimes out of necessity.  It ain't always tyranny.  Unless we're talking about providing healthcare to all Americans.  That's truly despotic evil.


March 24, 2014 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink


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