No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, only in time of a war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Our occasional series on constitutional amendments has now brought us to the Third. Much less controversial in our present day than either of the previous, its principles seem almost quaint by comparison. If memory serves, the law was passed in reaction to the “quartering” practices of the our nation’s former British overlords. It’s that simple.
Though not regularly discussed today, the Third Amendment like its two earlier counterparts helps codify the importance of personal boundaries and freedom inviolable by any authority. No longer could any government–especially the Americans’ brand new one–run roughshod over the personal property of United States citizens.
The Third Amendment restores a Lockean sense of “property” as one of our fundamental rights after it had been rhetorically elided by Thomas Jefferson in his peaean to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. We mostly take this right for granted in modern America, yet have this amendment and its freedom-based thinking to thank for it. Though like all amendments it has faced various levels of interpretation over time, this seems to to the basis for requiring search warrants and even standing on the porch with a shotgun yelling “get off my property!”
And, of course, there’s nothing more truly American than that.