The Intruders: Unreasonable Searches and Seizures from King John to John Ashcroft

By Samuel Dash | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
A Flame of Fire

If the king of Great Britain in person were encamped on Boston Common at the head of
twenty thousand men, with all his navy on our coast he would not be able to execute
these laws. They would be resisted or eluded
.

James Otis, in arguing in the Council Chamber of the Old Town House in Boston,
against the writs of assistance,
February 1761

The Treaty of Paris gave England control over Canada, which, together with the British colonies in America, offered the mother country a unique opportunity for monopolistic trade. George III was determined to take advantage of this opportunity and to enforce his trade laws strictly. The colonists were not hostile to these trade laws, as such, because they recognized their obligation, as English subjects, to assist t-heir country economically. However, they refused to tolerate the enforcement of the trade laws through writs of assistance and the imposition by Parliament of excise taxes on specific products, such as cider, to be enforced by writs of assistance.

A writ of assistance was the broadest and vaguest of all general warrants. The holder of such a writ had unlimited authority to enter any home, shop, ship, or warehouse, at his discretion, to search broadly for contraband or evidence of violation of the tax laws. Worse yet, the writ of assistance gave the holder the right to command the assistance of others to provide the manpower for sweeping dragnet searches.1

-36-

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The Intruders: Unreasonable Searches and Seizures from King John to John Ashcroft
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Contents viii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Legend of the Magna Carta 11
  • Chapter 2 - Wilkes and Liberty 26
  • Chapter 3 - A Flame of Fire 36
  • Chapter 4 - The Plate-Glass Duty Fraud Case 46
  • Chapter 5 - The Exclusionary Rule 57
  • Chapter 6 - The Case of the [Whispering Wires] 72
  • Chapter 7 - Dolly Mapp 93
  • Chapter 8 - Smothering the Flame 105
  • Chapter 9 - War on Terror: Security and Liberty 132
  • Notes 153
  • Index 165
  • About the Author 173
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