The Quartering Act was an act passed by British Parliament to ensure that British soldiers would be properly billeted and fed during their times of service in the North American Colonies. In fact, Parliament passed two separate acts, one in 1765 and another in 1774, and both became serious bones of contention among the Colonists. In fact, the act found so offensive that specific references were made to it in the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution.
The 1765 Quartering Act was passed in response to concerns that British soldiers were not being properly cared for in the Colonies. It directed governors and other authorities to ensure that soldiers were provided with adequate food and housing. In the event that barracks and public houses were not sufficient, authorities were directed to billet soldiers in commercial property such as warehouses, or in empty homes, buildings, and barns. Contrary to popular belief in the United States, the law did not allow troops to be quartered in private homes.
In addition to providing housing for troops, communities were also required to provide food and drink, and they would not be compensated. In communities where supplies were limited, this was a major source of friction, as people resented being forced to turn these necessities over to soldiers. Some communities, notably in New York, refused to abide by the terms of the act. The law expired in 1767.
With growing unrest in the Colonies and concerns that the Colonial public was getting out of control, a second Quartering Act was passed in 1774. This act only addressed the issue of housing, not including mandates to provide food and drink. Some Colonists viewed this as an invitation to open insurrection, classifying it among the "Intolerable Acts" passed by the British government in retribution for Colonial protests and uprisings.
While it would be a stretch to say that these acts spurred the American Colonists into revolution, they certainly provided an impetus, and combined with other actions taken by the British government, they proved to be explosive. The Colonists used these acts as an example of their oppression under Britain, arguing that they abridged their personal freedoms and rights. To this day, the rights of Americans to refuse to quarter soldiers are enshrined in the Bill of Rights, which states that only in wartime can soldiers be quartered in "any house," and only "in a manner to be prescribed by law."