BILLETING, the quartering of military troops at public expense, was a British practice that infuriated American colonists and fueled calls for revolution. Billeting became a contentious issue, particularly in New York and Philadelphia, as Great Britain sent more and more soldiers to fight the French during the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). To offset the cost of maintaining a modern army in North America, the British parliament passed the Mutiny Act of 1765, more commonly known as the Quartering Act. This new act required colonial governments to billet troops in taverns, barns, and uninhabited houses and to furnish them with provisions when barracks were not available. As "a common resort of arbitrary princes," billeting aroused resistance in Charleston in 1764, New York in 1766, and Boston in 1768, largely owing to aversion to higher taxes and to anger over the British military's willingness to enforce the act. This resistance fed on the traditional British opposition to standing armies. The colonies eventually agreed to quarter the British army. Billeting aggravated tensions between American colonists and British soldiers, however, and led directly to the Boston Massacre in 1770. Although Parliament passed the Quartering Act of 1774 to permit billeting within Boston, this new legislation did little to stem the tide of revolution in North America. Billeting not only sparked calls for independence but also conditioned how Americans would view standing armies. As a result of Parliament's attempt to force the American colonies to quarter British troops, Congress prohibited billeting in the Third Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
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J. A. Cannon