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"A Most Grievous and Insupportable Vexation": Billeting in Early Seventeenth Century England


"A Most Grievous and Insupportable Vexation":

Billeting in Early Seventeenth Century England

One of the great controversies in England during the 1620s was the practice of billeting soldiers by order of the royal government in private homes without the consent of the householder. This practice caused considerable distress for the billeters and was one of the initial causes of the English dislike of Charles I and a major contributor to the political turmoil of the 1620s. Billeting was also one of the roots of the Petition of Right, passed by Parliament and given the King's assent in 1628. This Petition became an important part of the English constitutional system over the centuries and had echoes in the American Constitution. The Dissertation explores the origins of the practice of billeting troops in private quarters and the resulting controversies in the changes in military practice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and in Charles I's attempts to participate in the Thirty Years' War. The Dissertation's principle subject is the billeting operations in England during the 1620s. It describes the problems these operations created, together with the complaints of the local governments and people of England, caused by the royal government when it forced billeting burdens on to the localities. The argument of the Dissertation is that the root cause of the billeting problems was the inability of the royal government to raise the money to support its war effort. There is evidence that, as long as the royal government paid for billeting the soldiers, the localities were willing to billet the troops, but when the money ceased to come from London problems soon arose. This failure created, in a domino like effect, other problems with and for the soldiers, which in turn became the problems most mentioned in the documents of the era. The crimes, mutinies and riots by the soldiers are discussed, as well as the problems the soldiers encountered in securing food and lodging. The Dissertation also discusses the closely associated controversy over the use of military law in place of the common law in the context of billeting operations, which engendered the use of military law as a practical way of protecting the people in the areas where the government billeted troops.

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