We The People, Our Bill of Rights, and Why we Should Care: Part 3

Amendment III
What it says:

“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.” (1).

What it means:

Broadly speaking, the Third Amendment was designed to protect the dwelling of Americans from soldiers in times of peace, and in times of war, ensure the dwellings are protected by due process.

Where it came from:

Although in moderns times the Third Amendment is widely overlooked in constitutional studies (2), it’s history is based on very real dangers. Shortly after the French and Indian War, British authorities decided to keep a permanent supply of soldiers in the Americas in order to quell future uprisings. In order to facilitate the housing of soldiers in the Colonies, British Parliament passed the Quartering Act of 1765. (3). It required that British military personnel be housed in public inns and other buildings should the need arise. Ultimately resulting only in riots New York (4), the Act was allowed to lapse in 1770 and was replaced by the Second Quartering Act in 1774. This new Act gave colonial Royal governors the right to house soldiers on private property. (5). So profound was the effect of the Quartering Acts, Thomas Jefferson reproached the Crown “…for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.” (6). That idea then influenced the Framers who wanted a guarantee that their homes would be protected from abuse by their new government.

Why it’s important today:

It is probably safe to assume homeowners do not want to be forced to offer up their homes to the United States military. Thankfully, we have the Third Amendment to keep us safe from that. However, with new roles played by law enforcement, like militarization and engaging in “wars” on drugs, it is important that Americans take a second look at the Third Amendment and re-evaluate what is protected. What constitutes a “Soldier” or “house”? These may seem like simple questions, but with the term “house” being extended to “lawful occupation…with a legal right to exclude others” (7), there is a perpetual question about what the Third Amendment actually protects. It may not be the most controversial or interesting topic, but it certainly deserves a place in constitutional jurisprudence. A conversation must take place in order to ensure that the Third Amendment can continue to “…assure a fundamental right to privacy.” (8).

(1) U.S. Constitution, amend. 3

(2) Amendment III: The Quartering Amendment, The Rutherford Institute(2017), https://www.rutherford.org/constitutional_corner/amendment_iii_the_quartering_amendment (last visited Jul 8, 2017). (See paragraph three)

(3) Great Britain : Parliament – The Quartering Act; May 15, 1765, Avalon Project – Great Britain : Parliament – The Quartering Act; May 15, 1765(2008), http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/quartering_act_165.asp (last visited Jul 8, 2017).

(4) Account of the New York Tenant Riots (July 14, 1766). Hofstadter and Wallace, eds., pp. 116-17. From the July 14, 1766. American Violence: A Documentary History, Boston Gazetteer or Country Journal

(5) Third Amendment, Revolutionary War and Beyond (2008), http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/third-amendment.html (last visited Jul 8, 2017).

(6) Declaration of Independence (US 1776)

(7) Engblom v. Carey, 677 F.2d 957 (1982)

(8) Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479 (1965)


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