sugar and molasses, gave customs officials the right to searchrnvessels and warehouses on mere suspicion, and the infamousrnCider Act of 1763 permitted inspection even of private homes.rnIt may have been the Cider Act that inspired William Pitt’srncelebrated eulogy of the Englishman’s home:rnThe poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to allrnthe forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof mayrnshake; the wind may blow through it; the storms mayrnenter, the rain may enter,—but the King of Englandrncannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the thresholdrnof the ruined tenement.rnWith a few lamentable exceptions, the elder Pitt opposed thernCrown’s invasions of privacy throughout his career, notably inrnthe prosecution of John Wilkes—the dirty-minded scoundrelrnwhose papers were seized without proper warrant. But it wasrnduring the Stamp Act crisis that Pitt became an American herornin repudiating Parliament’s right to tax the colonies and applaudingrnthe Americans’ determined resistance.rnFrom a distance of more than two centuries the excise issuesrnthat led to the American Revolution may seem like paltry affairs,rnand even James Otis—the leading spirit of New England’srntax rebellion—only reluctantly signed the protest against thernStamp Act. For Otis, the question was not Parliament’s rightrnto tax but the Common Law rights of Englishmen in therncolonies. Otis became a rebel when he defended Boston merchantsrnagainst the customs officials who had seized their propertyrnunder general “writs of assistance.” Arguing that no parliamentaryrnaction could overrule the Common Law, Otisrndeclared the writs to be invalid, describing them in 1761 as “thernworst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive ofrnEnglish liberty and fundamental principles of the constitutionrnthat ever was found in an English law book.” John Adams, whornwas present when Otis made his case against renewing thernwrits, remembered the event all his life. In 1817 he wrote thatrn”every man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away,rnas I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance. Then andrnthere was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitraryrnclaims of Great Britain.”rnIt was the invasion of property as much as the taxes and confiscationsrnthemselves that annoyed the Americans and preparedrnthem to resist the Stamp Act of 1765, in which Pariiament forrnthe first time reached into the colonies to tax their documentsrnand journals. If enforced, the act would have empoweredrnBritish agents to search property, seize unstamped documents,rnand try—without benefit of jury—offenders in an admiraltyrncourt. For one backwoods Southern lawyer, it was too much,rnand Patrick Henry, in his first speech in the Virginia assembly,rnoutlined what would become the Virginia resolves. Working uprnto his peroration, Henry threatened, “Caesar had his Brutus,rnCharles I his Cromwell, Ceorge III…” At the mention of thernking’s name, the hall rang with cries of treason, and despiternwhat you may have read in a textbook, Henry probably did gornon to say—with some irony—”If this be treason, then make thernmost of it.”rnIt was not, as Sam Johnson and George Grenville supposed,rna question of stinginess or ingratitude. There had been disturbancesrneven in England, when excise officers went snoopingrnin cellars to find untaxed cider. If a man cannot be secure inrnhis home, he cannot be comfortable in his mind, and it is outrnof such discomfort that treason and rebellion are hatched.rnArbitrary taxation and the invasion of private property werernjoined together, in the minds of the colonists, to form a monsterrnthat was no myth.rnThe memory of abuse was still fresh during the debates onrnthe new Constitution. In a contribution to the pressrnwar, the sister of James Otis, Mercy Otis Warren, demanded arnbill of rights “to save us from such a detestable instrument ofrnarbitrary power, to subject ourselves to the insolence of any pettyrnrevenue officer to enter our houses, search, insult, and seizernat pleasure.” Both New York and Virginia demanded inclusionrnof what would become the Fourth Amendment, guaranteeingrn”the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,rnpapers, and effects, against unreasonable searches andrnseizures.”rnThere are law-and-order conservatives who have grown torndislike the Fourth Amendment, because it has been used tornshield criminals. But it is important to remember, first, that thernamendment was never meant to apply to the states, and second,rnthat it was primarily intended to protect property againstrnthe irruptions of tax collectors and other federal snoopers. Itrnwas never meant to interfere with policemen pursuing murderers,rnrapists, and robbers. It was not really even designed tornprotect persons. On the contrary, the main purpose was to bolsterrnthe security of the household against government agentsrnwanting to look at your papers.rnThis ancient liberty of the castle is now sadly run down.rnZoning laws everywhere restrict the homeowner, denying himrnthe right to renovate or add on to his house and outbuildingsrnas he sees fit. Similar requirements are attached to mortgagesrnauthorized through FHA or VA. Through the power of eminentrndomain, a man’s ancestral property might be confiscatedrnand not just for the purpose of national defense. Under thernTennessee Valley Authority, land was taken from families whosernancestors had settled there more than a century before, and forrnwhat? Cheap power for industrialists and resort lakes forrntourists. The reductio ad absurdum was reached 30 years ago,rnwhen the working-class residents of Chavez Ravine—Mexican-rnAmericans, if I remember right—were driven from their homesrnin order to build a stadium for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I rememberrnmy father—a minor-league baseball team owner andrnmanager himself—remarking that we no longer lived in a freerncountry if a man’s home could be confiscated for a mere game.rnToday, the moral equivalent of eminent domain is exercisedrnby environmentalists, in and out of government, who canrnprevent an owner from building on his land and refuse torncompensate him for his losses. In one notorious case, a manrnwas forbidden to clean up a dump site, because that wouldrnmean eliminating a “wetland.”rnBut far worse than these confiscations and quasi-confiscationsrnare the flagrant violations of the Fourth Amendmentrnthat Americans have grown to tolerate—much as the Englishrnlearned to tolerate general warrants. State troopers routinely setrnup roadblocks, not to search for felons when a crime has beenrncommitted, but merely to check out identity documents—rn”May I see your license and registration?” In a free country, thernanswer should be “What for?”rnIn legal areas where crime has been demonized, e.g., wifebeating,rnchild abuse, drugs, and firearms, government agentsrnproceed on the theory of guilty until proved innocent. Federalrnagents may search a home, automobile, or boat on thernslightest pretext, and the owner may lose his property if the cor-rnJANUARY 1994/13rnrnrn