Introduction to 3rd Amendment
The United States Constitution and the first ten amendments were drawn up when British military force and administrative behavior were fresh in the founding fathers’ minds.
Each of these early amendments deals with a different problem that faced the fledgling nation. The 3rd Amendment, which forms part of the Bill of Rights ratified on December 15, 1791, and is also known as the Quartering Soldiers Amendment, is a good example of this.
The Origins of the 3rd Amendment
Before the Revolutionary War, the government of Great Britain saw the British military presence in the American colonies as providing protection.
Accordingly, they saw nothing wrong in forcing the populace of the colonies to accommodate British soldiers in private citizens’ homes through the Quartering Act of 1774.
This process of billeting British troops on the civilian population was extremely unpopular in the colonies.
While the British government was happy for the colonists to accommodate soldiers, mostly at their own expense, the hosts differed in their view.
Most Americans saw it as an imposition and a challenge to their right to privacy and the right to freedom to carry on with their lives unhindered.
This billeting of soldiers and troops in private homes was one of the sparks that set the American Revolution exploding.
What’s the 3rd Amendment?
When the United States Constitution was being drawn up, it was felt that provisions should be made to prevent the new federal government from using similar tactics with the army. The result was the 3rd Amendment, which states:
“No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in times of war, but a manner prescribed by law.”
This means that soldiers could only be billeted with the house owner’s express permission. If billeting is needed in wartime, then appropriate laws must be passed to permit it.
As time passed, the terms of the 3rd Amendment became less relevant. The expansion of the United States westwards saw forts and barracks being built to accommodate soldiers.
Therefore, the 3rd Amendment rights have often been described as archaic and irrelevant.
In 2020, the terms of the 3rd Amendment came back into public discussion.
The civil unrest that followed George Floyd’s death and other black African-Americans brought a speedy response from President Trump.
On June 1st, he invoked the Insurrection Act 1807. National Guard Troops were deployed across America to those cities where protests had been loudest.
It has been estimated that some 75,000 National Guardsmen had been sent to “protect life and preserve property, peace, and public safety.”
3rd Amendment in the 21st Century?
A few commentators have discussed the possibility of billeting National Guardsmen and police officers, given the numbers involved.
In particular, Washington DC was seen at risk of billeting as around 4,500 were on duty in the city.
No billeting has taken place at the time of writing and is unlikely to do so, but the risk has brought the 3rd Amendment back into the public eye.