The Writs of Assistance Case 1761
George II (1683–1760), James Otis Jr. (1725–1783)
Americans were protesting to the British government’s seemingly unlimited ability to inspect private property via writs of assistance more than thirty years before the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution barred arbitrary searches and seizures. The Revolutionary War was sparked by opposition to such writs.
Following the French and Indian War—the Seven Years’ War’s North American theater—Britain became worried about the colonies’ commercial trade with foreign countries. The British used writs of assistance, which are similar to general warrants, to combat smuggling.