Samuel Adams Heritage Society

Article in the Boston Gazette – October 1768

Article written in the Boston Gazette by Samuel Adams protesting the imposition of the Quartering Act in which residents were obliged to provide billeting to the King’s troops. Sam makes the point that military power undermines civil government and that they are not governed by the same law.

17 Oct. 1768Writings 1:251--53

"Where Law ends, (says Mr. Locke) TYRANNY begins, if the Law be transgress'd to anothers harm": No one I believe will deny the truth of the observation, and therefore I again appeal to common sense, whether the act which provides for the quartering and billeting the King's troops, was not TRANSGRESS'D, when the barracks at the Castle WHICH ARE SUFFICIENT TO CONTAIN MORE than the whole number of soldiers now in this town, were ABSOLUTELY REFUS'D: This I presume cannot be contested. Should any one say that the law is not transgres'd "to anothers harm," the assertion I dare say would contradict the feelings of every sober householder in the town. 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 power is 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 the power of the sword! Such instances are not uncommon in history, and they always will happen when troops are put under the direction of an ambitious or a covetous governor! And if there is any reason for fear that this may be the consequence of a transgression of the act of parliament, it is a transgression not "to the harm" of individuals only, but of THE PUBLICK. It behoves the publick then to be aware of the danger, and like sober men to avail themselves of the remedy of the law, while it is in their power. It is always safe to ADHERE TO THE LAW, and to keep every man of every denomination and character WITHIN ITS BOUNDS--Not to do this would be in the highest degree IMPRUDENT: Whenever it becomes a question in prudence, whether we shall make use of legal and constitutional methods to prevent the incroachments of ANY KIND OF POWER, what will it be but to depart from the straight line, to give up the LAW and the CONSTITUTION, which is fixed and stable, and is the collected and long digested sentiment OF THE WHOLE, and to substitute in its room the opinion of individuals, than which nothing can be more uncertain: The sentiments of men in such a case would in all likelihood be as various as their sentiments in religion or anything else; and as there would then be no settled rule for the publick to advert to, the safety of the people would probably be at an end.

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