Yet another method

A person could volunteer the use of their property to the state militia to prevent it from being confiscated by local authorities.

The property would go on a list with hundreds of other properties. Once the property was on that list no one could confiscate it for any purpose. Even if the city wanted the property for a new town hall they could not pry it from the militia.

The militia did this only as a service for home owners. They did not even try to fool anyone. As such they often made a complete show of the whole thing. The militia might gather once or twice on that persons property to establish themselves and to impress the local government officials. Then if those officials so much as made a squeak about it they would look like a Tory loving sons of etcetera.

There were so many properties that New York militia would only use the property once or twice if at all. That is unless the owner actually wanted the militia to use it and the property was in a great location.

The list was real and so was the need for encampment locations. The army needed them a days march apart or about every 12 miles. The property usually needed to be on the outskirts of a fair size town. The nearness to a town was to make available fresh food and supplies for the troops and lodging for the higher officers (and the troops in foul weather).

Property had to be lawfully available in numerous locations for use by the military. A list of many properties meant there was no need for the militia to need to encamp on any other property. That list alone prevented the need for the Army to take over private property...like the army of England often did. Those take over's by the English were usually made simply because they had no other place to stay. Those take overs outraged everyone and were what made Amendment III of the Constitution necessary:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

The rights to use their property was usually given freely by those who might be threatened, or had been threatened, by local government officials

New York may have records of these properties. Since the English had a penchant for invading that state the New York militia ended up with access to lots of properties spread out across the state. The militia loved it since it gave them lots of options for places to encamp while they were traveling and when in a remote location to use for gunnery practice. The townspeople loved it but more often shopkeepers did since the troops brought in money and often husbands for their daughters since local available men were, as they are now, in short supply in many towns and cities.

The Connecticut militia did this often. I know because I used to review the lists of property for irregularities and for other reasons. Those records may still be around.

Any of the states militias could do this.

I think you could protect your home ownership by renting a closet for storing gear to the local ROTC for a dollar a year. Ideally you would have leased it out for at least five years. Your property would then be exempt from confiscation by any local or even the state government.

I do recall another method that was used. It was also both simple and legal. The owner of land would make a contract with the navy to grow a stand of trees for ship construction. To be sold to them when the trees matured. This was probably a 25 year contract and the local government could not touch the property while the trees were growing. Of course the man could make a second contract for more trees in the mean time.

I later found out that this was usually a ruse. The navy almost always rejected the trees as being of poor quality.

Buying things by the military was usually reserved for the higher ranks. They only entrusted money to the officers. However, making contracts for stands of trees (with no money involved) was a completely different matter. In the Baltimore area that responsibility was literally handed over to a certain common seaman who would give you a tree contract if you got him drunk.

Yes, a pint of whiskey and you were safe for 25 years.

I vaguely remember a few other methods. The next one must be the most unusual method anyone ever used to prevent a local government from taking over a man's home. A highly decorated retired Navy captain had built a magnificent house over looking the bay of one of our harbors. It may have been Charleston but I don't know for sure so please don't quote me on that point.

In any case it was an incredible house and every one thought so including the mayor who decided that he was going to confiscate the house and live in it himself.*

So the retired captain made a unique arrangement with all the American warships before sailing. He did this right before they left the harbor for their cruises which were up to 8 months long.

This all took place during a war or a heightened state of emergency. It was either during the Revolutionary War or in the late 1790's when at least one of our warships disappeared.**

When a war ship sailed during war they had loaded guns and all these ships did. Then when they returned to their harbor (or any other harbor) it was standard practice to fire off all their cannons. This was specifically done to prevent a captured American ship from being sailed into a harbor by an enemy crew who would then let loose with a broadside before they took out of there really fast. This was a standard hit and run tactic of the day.

So by firing all the cannons and not reloading them the ship was considered safe. Since the cannons only fired one shot all you had to do was watch the puffs of smoke come out of each of the cannons to know that you were safe.

The returning crew always preferred to use their final shot for target practice and they actually liked to shoot at something rather than just shoot their cannons into the air to empty them.

So the owner of the property arranged that if certain flags or pennants were not run up the flagpole over his house when the war ships returned their captains, who were his close friends, could use it for target practice. He had actually rented his house to the navy to be used as a target if he moved. It was all very legal and to make certain he had the best attorney in the colonies, Thomas Jefferson, wrote up that particular contract. That contract specifically exempted him from responsibly for death and injury caused to members of any (unknown) third parties by the US Navy. I swear that I can remember all the details of that damn contract and I could probably write another one today that is just as legal.

Then he told the mayor that he was moving out his house and the mayor could move in. He also told the mayor that he would not tell him which flags to fly over his new house in order to stay alive.

The mayor left him alone after that. Everyone chided him for backing down. Because of this incident I think that mayor was 'laughed out of office' which was slang meaning that every one lost respect for him and he lost the next reelection.

 

* Since the man had built his home recently there had been no estimate made of it's value for tax purposes or otherwise. The city was going to decide it's value and they were going to peg it at about 10% of its real value. Then the city was going to force him to sell his house to them for literally 10-15 cents on the dollar. Then the mayor's intention was to have the city lease the house back to him for 30 years at that low valuation. He was going to live in that house and pay only 10-15% of the going rate for 30 years.

The reason for these tricky actions including the long term lease was probably to get around a state law if this took place before the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791. Since the city intended to maintain ownership of the property and it was only to be leased to the mayor they could not be accused of selling the property to him. Hence their actions did not violate the 5th Amendment as it was understood (until 4 years ago).

** We think it was the French with their huge man of war ships. They sank one of our 30 gun warships with all hands on board. Or something sank one of our war ships and if it did not sink in a storm then the French were the only ones that could have done it and also gotten away with it. Yes, it is true that the British could have sank it but we would have learned about it, so it wasn't them. Do you realize that I have explained this at least 50 times. I have it completely memorized. However, this is the first time I have explained it in over 200 years. I still get emotional about it.

 

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