Johnny Bull is in Your Barn: Unfunded Mandates and Property Rights

On June 2, 1774, the Quartering Act became law. A royal governor, if Britain’s North American colonies would not provide and pay for barracks, could now house British soldiers in any colonial “uninhabited houses, out-houses, barns, or other buildings” without consent of the legislature, township, or any American. The sun would not set on a billetless British soldier.

This wasn’t quite ordering every American to put up a redcoat in his bed and feed him in his kitchen. The redcoat would be in the barn, hopefully munching on government-issued beef rather than stealing a chicken from his hosts—British soldiers were young men who tended to a free and easy attitude toward loose livestock, toward mobile property of any kind. But it was a violation of property, privacy, and self-rule—and not even with the excuse of wartime. And it applied to every North American colony, not just outraging, outrageous Massachusetts.

If ever there were a measure designed to make a rebel of every householder in America, it was this.

Americans no longer worry about having soldiers quartered on them. Our government is rich enough to afford barracks. But the principle of the Quartering Act was an unfunded mandate that violated rights of property, privacy, and self-rule. Of that, we have plenty.

If the Environmental Protection Agency finds an endangered snail darter on your land or an overflowing creek creates a “wetland,” you must do what the feds tell you to do with your property.

If you’re a farmer, the Agriculture Department can tell you what to grow and what not to grow.

If you have land by the Mexican border, the Border Patrol gives a right-of-way over your land to the coyote cartels wholesaling illegal aliens into America.

If you own a building, you must pay to make it “accessible,” as defined by the government and by lawsuits.

If you’re a landlord with a Section 8 tenant, the government will not pay the rent and will not let you evict—this is the closest to the original Quartering Act, having someone on your property whom you can’t get rid of.

We have the Third Amendment to protect us from another Quartering Act, but the Necessary and Proper Clause has been the high road to a host of impositions that would have been considered equally intolerable in 1774.

I’d trade and billet a soldier in my basement if we could end every unfunded mandate.

Quartering Act

This law’s a Johnny in our barn;
That law’s a Johnny in our home;
T’other law will share our grave
When we get settled in the loam,

We thought we’d thrown that Johnny out—
We yelled, we cheered, we cried, hooraw!
But ruddy Johnny stares at us
In every mandate of the law.

Art by Beck & Stone


One thought on “Johnny Bull is in Your Barn: Unfunded Mandates and Property Rights”

  1. “If you’re a landlord with a Section 8 tenant, the government will not pay the rent and will not let you evict—this is the closest to the original Quartering Act, having someone on your property whom you can’t get rid of.”

    That’s not supposed to happen — in theory the only reason why the government isn’t paying its share of the rent is because necessary repairs haven’t been made. And in most states, it’s the repairs not being made that is the defense to the eviction, that prevents the tenant from being evicted. Granted, the stuff is often broken because the tenant’s boyfriend de jour broke it and the issue of single mothers and their boyfriends de jour is a much larger issue including what it is doing to the children, but I digress.

    The advantage of the Section 8 program is that the landlord can count on getting a check (or direct deposit) for most of the rent on or about the first of every month and the check won’t bounce. That’s not true of a lot of other tenants, and don’t get me going about the totally unconstitutional rent moratorium.

    At least this is how the system is supposed to work — the same system is also supposed to preclude throwing political opponents in prison and we clearly have some problems with the system. A lot of the local housing authorities are both incompetent and corrupt, which should not be surprising because in most cases they are divisions of equally incompetent and corrupt city or county governments. It’s the same people who run the public schools, need I really say more?

    Actually there is more to say — much as the schools have school boards that people can run for, most of these housing authorities also have boards that people can run for as well. And even if your background is in 17th Century French Poetry or Atomic Physics, I encourage people to run because one person asking questions really can make a big difference. Give up an evening every month — for God, for Country, and you can put it on your CV…

    Now there is more to the Quartering Act as well — and it needs to be viewed in the different perspectives toward both the recently ended French & Indian wars and the concept of a standing army versus a militia.

    Starting with Miles Standish in 1621, the Colonists had always had a militia that may have been trained and led by professional soldiers (e.g. Standish) but consisted of all the physically fit men in the community. They drilled Sunday afternoons after church, and then went home, taking their rifles with them. This differed vastly from the European approach of having a standing army living in barracks.

    While the larger “French and Indian Wars” ran between 1688 and 1763, corresponding with various wars that England and France were fighting, The French and Indian War was between 1754 and 1763, corresponding with the European Seven Years War. It had been largely fought by militias — George Washington had fought in it, first a Major and then a Colonel, in the Virginia Militia.

    Hence at war’s end there are two different perspectives — King George looking at the expense of having defended the colonies from the French and their Indian allies (and seeking reimbursement) while the colonies viewed it as having defended England against it’s enemy and having fought in a war that would never have happened had the European powers managed to leave each other alone.

    And what made this even more offensive was that King George now wanted them to provide for a standing army, i.e. build barracks for it. What was wrong with their own militia? And with the French defeated and largely vanquished, whom were the “regulars” going to be shooting???

    It goes without saying that the local militias took their weapons home with them — the 1775 march through Arlington, Lexington, and Concord was largely an attempt to disarm the militia, and they did find a brass cannon in Concord. Hence the Quartering Act needs to be viewed not only in the sense that Dr. Randall presents it, but also the larger context of a standing army now being imposed on the colonies.

    Remember that while Congress has the power to “provide and maintain a navy” it only has the power to “raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years” The intent was that we would not have a standing army, let alone a FBI, DEA, ATF, etc.

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