• Exploring American History

3rd Amendment protects against forceful quartering of troops

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

This amendment is intended to protect the rights of citizens to the ownership and use of their property without intrusion by the government – such as demanding the citizen to tolerate the quartering of soldiers in their homes with no right to object.

In 1769, Parliament passed the first Quartering Act on the colonies. The text stated it was the financial responsibility of the colonists to provide for the British troops sent to protect the colonies. It went on to say the troops were free to use the colonists’ inns, alehouses, stables and barns for lodging.

In 1774, the second Quartering Act replaced the first. This one was much more intrusive. With this act, British troops were free to stay wherever they chose – including the colonists’ homes. The colonists were understandably outraged with what they deemed a major invasion of privacy. To make matters worse, not only could the British troops force the colonists to house them, they had to feed them as well.

The British added the text of the second Quartering Act to the Coercive Acts, renamed the Intolerable Acts by the colonists. Patrick Henry was heard to say that the quartering of soldiers “was one of the principal reasons for dissolving the connection with Great Britain.”

The 3rd Amendment is referred to as the “runt piglet” by the American Bar Association, due to being the least litigated of the “Big 10”. Though the quartering of troops is normally not a threat today, the 3rd Amendment is still relevant. It is the one place in the Constitution where the relationship between the military and the country’s citizens is discussed.

Two times in the stated accusations listed in the Declaration of Independence, the quartering of troops without the consent of the home/business owner is addressed. In addition, while drafting their own constitutions, numerous states included text to protect their citizens against the danger of standing armies in peacetime. For example, Delaware’s Declaration of Rights, written in 1776, stated: . . . no soldiers ought to be quartered in any house in time of peace without the consent of the owner, and in time of war in such manner only as the legislature shall direct.

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