Although the Third Amendment is hardly controversial — the Pentagon does not house service members in private homes, and it is hard to imagine the circumstances in which it might – yet the amendment is nonetheless highly relevant. It was a reminder of the tyranny the Founders had fought to win our independence.
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.
After the Boston Tea Party (1773), the British crown imposed heavy penalties on the colonies. The colonials referred to these strictures as the Intolerable Acts. One, the Quartering Act of 1774, stipulated that the colonials had to pay for the quarters of British troops. Further, if the local barracks didn’t have enough space, the townsmen had to provide the troops with lodgings, even in private homes.
The Quartering Act helped push the colonials to revolution. The quartering of troops was cited in the Declaration of Independence as one of the Founders’ chief grievances with the Crown. As the great patriot Patrick Henry said, “One of our first complaints, under the former government, was the quartering of troops among us. This was one of the principal reasons for dissolving the connection with Great Britain.”
While the Third Amendment has never been a central focus of a United States Supreme Court decision, it shows the framers of the Constitution meant to limit the powers of the executive, even during wartime. And indeed, it’s a reminder of how our forefathers fought a tyranny that sought to impose its will on communities and even families. Protecting the individual rights of Americans is a guiding principle in the fight for freedom.