assistance, writ of

assistance, writ of

General search warrant used by the British in the American colonies. The warrants authorized customhouse officers, with the assistance of a sheriff, to search any house or ship for smuggled goods, without requiring them to specify the place or the goods. The legality of the writs was challenged by the colonists in the 1760s, and they became a major grievance in the years leading up to the American Revolution. See also James Otis.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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