Originally Posted by SHIV:THE OTHER WHITE MEAT
This case still burns at me. That this could happen is absolutely frustrating and infuriating. Whatever happened to a man's home being his castle? Justice cannot come swiftly enough.
It is a good question. Most have heard the expression, "An Englishman's home is his castle." The elder William Pitt, the future Lord Chatham, provided the most indelible utterance during the course of a major debate in the House of Commons on March 27, 1763. As he stated, "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain my enter,--but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement." The debate pivoted around the excise bill which was promoted by Lord Bute, the Prime Minister, and George Grenville, First Lord of the Admiralty and days away from replacing Bute as Prime Minister. Grenville and Pitt were brothers-in-law and for the great majority of their political careers strong allies but following Grenville's nervous choice to defy his party and align with and join Bute's ministry, their long-held political alliance was dissolved.
As the Excise Bill of 1763 was commonly referred to as the Cider Act due to it levying a tax on cider, the debate raged. Crown agents had to be able to search suspected premises in order to provide the act with any teeth. Previous excise statutes, such as ones formed to search for molasses and sugar had established considerable precedent for such searches which ostensibly violated Common Law prohibitions on the clout of royal agents to enter a man's property without the man allowing the entry. The Cider Act, however, was more egregious for it sanctioned inspection of private homes wherein a cider merchant or farmer may be possessing their own product. This coupled to the issuing of general writs of assistance permitted revenue agents to enter shops, homes, farms and other properties without the necessity of obtaining a particular warrant specifying the proprietor's name. A number of riotous protests and even simple riots broke out on the streets due to the passage of the Cider Act; MPs who ran on opposing the act were voted in, and Lord Bute found himself politically isolated and compelled to resign. Prime Minister Grenville followed Bute and while the act was considered infamous by the vast majority of people he held to it.
Great Britain was thriving economically in many realms but the Seven Years' War--known as the French and Indian War in the American colonies--had drained the treasury rather grievously and so the government resorted to these acts. Sir Robert Walpole almost completely bankrupted the government in the effort to preserve Britain's colonial possessions both in North America and India, with the war with the French being especially damaging to the monetary health of the government. The acts engendered widespread bitterness among New England merchants and shopkeepers, whose businesses were protected by the British Navy and British troops, but who found the costs of that protection excessive. It took three years but the Cider Act tax was repealed; Grenville opted to replenish the government's coffers with the revenue to be procured through the Stamp Act, which he devised. Imposing an excise tax on all official documents including contracts and wills the Stamp Act was generally quite unpopular, for it interfered with the everyday business of innumerable merchants and store owners. The anger of American colonialists was especially deep with an active, bristling defiance from a host of merchants and business owners. Paul Revere repurposed an English cartoon which mercilessly mocked the Cider Act and replaced it with something specifically targeting the Stamp Act so that it would befit the escalating colonial crisis in America. James Otis of course stated that "taxation without representation is tyranny," in straightforwardly direct opposition to the Stamp Act. What spurred Otis on was not the issue of Parliament possessing or not possessing the right or power to tax, nor the particular rights of Americans but rather the Common Law protections Englishmen everywhere knew.
Holding to the thought process that Parliament could not overrule the fundamental crux of Common Law Otis declared that the writs were completely invalid. In the early 1760s he stated that writs such as these were "the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and fundamental principles of the constitution that ever was found in an English law book." In 1817 John Adams, who was present at the time Otis passionately argued against the writs, wrote, "...every man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain."
As this was ensuing William Pitt rose to viciously attack his brother-in-law's Stamp Act. He convincingly argued that it was an act which directly and unmistakably countermanded English Common Law and the history of same. Charleston, South Carolina merchants heard of the orator's speeches condemning the Stamp Act, as did many others in the colonies, and in that town dedicated some of their own money to the creation of a bronze statue (one of the continent's first, in fact) in the likeness of William Pitt. As Adams's notes, written as he looked back on the time and the actors of the political drama of that time, confirm, what became the American secession from the British Empire and revolution against the empire was not the rebellion hinging on taxation that many persist in believing it to be, but ultimately built upon the long-held assertion and demand that the people are to be left unmolested, unharmed and untroubled by the state and its agents, from both private criminals and government spies and law enforcement officers.
The proverb of, "A man's home is his castle," is like a rippling tide of water in its meaning from the Middle Ages, a time in which barons, lords and knights could bar the doors of the castle, pull the drawbridge skyward and dare the enemies he had made to try to invade his property. Even the crown could be defied in such a manner and sometimes was. By the time the Middle Ages drew to a close this simple concept was exponentially enlarged, applying to every house dotting England. As Sir Edward Coke wrote in the early seventeenth century, "The house of every one is to him, his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence as for his repose." For generations this outlook persisted. The crown's officers were forbidden from invading a home due to some ambiguous or unimportant motivation. Were they to do so they were subsequently prosecuted. There is a reason why a voluminous number of nineteenth century English novels include a debtor avoiding a bailiff and having to live the life of a hermit in his own home: a man may have accumulated a sizable debt, yet were he to remain within the confines of his own home, he was legally safe from punishment.
The anger you feel is shared by many, including the person writing these words now. When observing this case and its unfolding particulars it may be important to remember that the anger rising in our beings has been bequeathed to us, and it would be wrong to not allow it to burn.