Warrants, though commonly used today with regard to property search and seizure, have historically represented a variety of legal purposes and functions, including payment authorization for civil or military functions. During the second half of the eighteenth century, the British forces in North America used two main types of warrants: subsistence warrants and warrants for extraordinary expenses.
Subsistence warrants were used to disburse Parliament-approved funding for soldiers' pay and rations (including clothing, medical care, and pensions), and were usually created on behalf of individual regiments. As commander-in-chief of His Majesty's forces on the continent, Thomas Gage (1721-1787) controlled disbursement by issuing warrants to the deputy paymaster general in North America, who would then transfer the funds to individual regiments' paymasters. Each warrant was copied in triplicate for use by the warrant issuer, the War Office in London, and the recipient of the relevant funds.
Warrants for extraordinary expenses covered other expenditures incurred by the army, including frontier expeditions, building costs for fortifications or barracks, transportation, and payments to local Native American tribes. Because these funds were approved by Parliament after they had been spent, they were first issued by the Paymaster General in London through various private (civilian) merchants. These middlemen would directly pay the contractors supplying the necessary equipment or labor, submitting the receipts to Gage. Gage would then issue a warrant for the relevant amount, sending the original to London and retaining a copy for his own records.
Various other financial documents, including vouchers, receipts, and accounts, were also generated during these processes, which relied more heavily on the issuing of credit than on actual monetary transactions.