The Third Amendment is not the most popular amendment, in fact it is not often spoken about. However, its history and its reason for being included in the Bill of Rights is just as important as all the others.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hey, Connor.
Connor: You know, we’ve gone through, at this point almost all of the Bill of Rights. we’ve done the First Amendment, the second, the fourth, the fifth, I think the 10th. we still have a few left. So today I want to talk about what might be one of the Stranger Amendments in the Bill of Rights, mostly because it’s not one, thankfully, that we have to deal with much today. And, you know, as we talked about with the First Amendment right to free speech and the Second Amendment right to bears or, you know, have firearms for self-defense and the Fourth and fifth Amendment rights to you know, property and privacy. These are all still issues that we deal with all the time as a society today. But the third one is a little bit different. Why is that, Britney?
Brittany: Yeah. So remember, all these amendments were ratified in 1791. So the framers, and that’s what we call the founding farmers, who were farmers as farmers, fathers who were directly involved in the shaping the Constitution. So the founders were the ones who like signed the declaration. The framers were the ones who were writing the Constitution, and they were obviously very influenced by all the bad things that the British crown was doing to them. So what happened to them during the, before, and during their American Revolution impacted them. And one of those things was called the quartering of soldiers. So that was basically, you had to let British soldiers like live in your house. So that is what the Third Amendment outlaws, and we don’t really deal with that today. But let me read you the text. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but no soldier shall, shall in time of peace be courted in. Wait. I think it’s peace in war. I’m gonna read that one more time. No soldier shall in time of peace. Nope. Be courted in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner prescribed by the law. So, Connor, this is pretty simple, pretty self-explanatory, but what does this mean?
Connor: You know, it is pretty straightforward. The government can force individuals to house soldiers unless they first give their permission or can’t force individuals, in today’s terms. You know, saying this might seem odd since I don’t think this is one of the issues that we still hear argued about in the Supreme Court today.
Brittany: No, not today.
Connor: We’re not really being compelled to host soldiers for, you know, tea and cookies and you know, roll out a cot in the guest room for them. But like all the other amendments, I still think it’s important and, you know, that we understand the history behind it and why the framers of the Constitution thought it was so necessary to include in the Bill of Rights. So let’s talk about the history just a little bit. Brittany, do you wanna maybe tell us about how this amendment, came to be in the first place?
Brittany: Yeah. So in past episodes, we’ve talked about, again, all the terrible things that the British Crown did to the American colonists. You know that is why the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed in the first place. And one of those horrible things was the Quartering Soldiers Act. And like you said, that gave British soldiers the right to occupy or live in the Colonist’s homes before and during the Revolutionary War.
Connor: And I imagine this would’ve been bad enough, you know, before the war when the tension, which is another word for the struggle between, you know, colonists and British soldiers, when this tension was growing, the colonists were sick of being, you know, taken advantage of and being mistreated by the Crown, the English government. Then they were forced to house and feed the King’s army, these occupiers. I mean, yeah, I, could, I was gonna share another example, like think of the Middle East, you know, or Yeah, the federal government is over there, and to make it worse that they, you know, tell people in Libya or Afghanistan or whatever, like, Hey, you need to feed us too, you know, but, how much worse would that have been after the war began? Yeah. And most of our listeners, I think, are too young to see the movie The Patriot. there’s a cool service called Vi Angel. You can actually filter out, you know, some of the bad parts and make it more appropriate for families. But in this war movie, you know, for the parents who’ve seen this, you know, you’ve seen a little bit of this, British soldiers would come onto Colonist’s property and take their resources and even take over their homes and you’d feel violated, right? There’s a concept called the Castle Doctrine. Yep. I mean, you, you’re familiar with this, Britney, like, love it. A man’s home is his castle. And the idea here is that like, it’s your property, it’s your castle. Like you should be able to control it and do what you want with it. but that wasn’t really the case when it came to, the colonies. And you know, this issue actually began before the Americans rebelled. So by the time the Revolutionary War era came around, this was the practice the colonists had been actually dealing with, you know, for a number of years. And that’s something that not a lot of people know.
Brittany: Yeah. And so there’s a war. We don’t talk about the other wars. That’s funny because the Revolutionary War is so important to our founding. But there was another one, the French and Indian War, which was a fight over the control of the Ohio River Valley. And that happened between 1754 and 1763. So that’s nearly two decades. So, you know, it was before the declaration was ever even written, but at that time, Britain sent tens of thousands of soldiers to America. And you have to remember that prior to this time, even though the king was still collecting taxes, the American colonists were kind of left alone for a while. Like they were just off doing their thing. Yeah. Then all of a sudden they get bombarded with all these soldiers that they’re not their countrymen. Right. They don’t know British life. All these people were born in the American colonies. So when the war ended, that’s the French and Indian War ended, the British Parliament passed the Quartering Acts laws that basically said, and this is 1769 that said that the colonists had to pay for the soldier’s living needs. And then in 1775, they passed a second one, and that mandated that the colonists had to continue housing them, feeding them. And it also said that private businesses, like if there were no more homes that like inns had to keep them or even like barns and stables, but part of this was because so many soldiers just ended up staying in America. Like that’s why this happened.
Connor: Well, yeah. And you’ll notice this was passed in 1775, right? As things were heating up. Right? This is just one year before the Declaration and the Quartering Act that you just described. This was one of the things that the colonists called the Coercive Acts. or the intolerable Acts. In other words, an act is like a bill or a law passed by Parliament or today, by Congress. So that’s what an act is. And so a coercive act is an act of coercion or aggression, right? An intolerable act is something you can’t tolerate. So these were kinda the nicknames they gave to some of these things that Parliament was doing. And for a lot of people, this was the final straw, right? They were done. I mean, they were fed up with the abuse. And this was one of the final nails in the coffin that for a lot of people made the revolution, seem unavoidable. And it’s interesting cuz a lot of these people considered themselves Englishmen, right? like they didn’t think that this was another country. Like they felt this allegiance and this loyalty and this shared identity. And yet they’re like, you can’t keep doing this to us. This is not okay. And, you know, when you combine the Quartering acts with these privacy violations we’ve mentioned before, like the Ritz of Assistance where British red coats could search someone’s home whenever they wanted, kind of for any reason. And, it was some of these issues that ultimately led to the Boston Massacre, which was one of the turning points in the conflict. And really was one of the biggest reasons why a lot of people finally were okay with separating or breaking up from Britain. And in the Declaration, you know, when Thomas Jefferson was working on the draft, you know, writing, where it says, among us in times of Peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislatures and Quarter is also saays Quartering, large bodies of armed troops among us. Of course, this is the part of the declaration where they’re listing the grievances. Yep. Right? The reasons why they were declaring their independence to the most powerful country in the entire world. And they’re saying, see you later. Like, you’re not, you’re not in charge of us anymore, even though like you’ve been supporting us and protecting us, and all these kinds of things we’re done with you. And so, and you know, and the declaration, it’s like, look, when you, I’m simplifying it, but the Declaration basically says, look, when when you take an action like this, it’s very important that you make the reasons known why you’re doing this, right. you shouldn’t do this for light and transient causes. Yes. In other words, like if it’s no big deal, you shouldn’t like, break up from the government, but if it is, then you should. And so then he says in the declaration so that everyone can be, you know, convinced and understands exactly why we’re doing this here. Now we’re going to list out the reasons. And so as we just said, you know, one of the complaints was quartering or housing large bodies of armed troops on Myas. This was one of the things that they couldn’t stand. They felt it was a violation. And it, so it led to the Declaration of Independence.
Brittany: Which is pretty much the greatest breakup letter of all time, is how I like to think about it. But let’s back up a little because you mentioned the Boston Massacre, and I think that’s something important to mention, which is also something, and we’ll put some links in the show notes. It’s just fascinating with John Adams as involved, very fascinating backstory. We won’t get into it here, but the Boston massacre happened in between the first and second quartering acts. So this is why it’s so important. The colonists were already mad. They were, they already didn’t want the soldiers here. And then what happened is, there was a bunch of rowdy colonists, and they were kind of, what’s the word? Provoking British soldiers. they were like poking fun at ’em. There was, I think somebody threw like a stone at ’em, and they ended up, the British soldiers ended up firing into the crowd, and they killed five people. And then just a few years later, the colonists are still so mad about this, they’re still mad about the massacre. And, you know, some of their friends and countrymen died. Then they passed the other law strengthening the old law. So they were saying like, oh, now we’re really gonna make you house these soldiers. So, I mean, imagine Connor being forced by the government to live with someone who had just killed your brother or your friend and forced to feed them. I, don’t know about you, but I think even a peaceful person, which I consider myself a pretty peaceful person, this would bring me to a breaking point. And, Patrick Henry, who’s a founding father, we honestly could do a whole episode about, he said he called the Quartering Acts. He said it was one of the principle reasons for dissolving the connection with Great Britain. So that’s how important this was.
Connor: Well, to your point, it’s like salt in the wound right? It’s like, here are these people that you consider occupiers and, aggressors, and they’re doing you wrong, and now you have to let them in your home. I mean, it would feel so, oh, I don’t know what the word is, you’d feel violated.
Brittany: It is variated.
Connor: Yeah. That’s just the best word I can think of. But, let’s get back to how all of this impacted the Third Amendment in the Bill of Rights. So we’ve talked a little bit about the context, the history, and, so after the war when the framers of the Constitution were trying to figure out, you know, what the new laws would be, either drafting the Constitution, there was a lot of debating and arguing about whether or not we should have, the country should have a standing army. And a standing army just means a permanent army. one of the coolest aspects I think of the Revolutionary War was that it was largely a decentralized effort. In other words, it wasn’t a standing army, it was a bunch of people just signing up to help defend their homes. And, you know, joining the military as, as kind of like a temporary measure, they weren’t professional soldiers, a lot of them. And that’s I think why the English were a bit arrogant, right? And they assumed that, oh, these farmers, right? Like, they’re not gonna be able to fight our professional soldiers or the Hessians, which were mercenaries Oh yeah, These were professional soldiers that the British government hired to help subdue the colonies. And so in the beginning, you know, it wasn’t the American army. I mean, some of the first battles were fought by local militia. These were small groups of people, usually from the same town who took up arms and were ready to defend their homes and their families. Sometimes they were nicknamed the Minute men because they were ready at a minute’s notice to go grab their guns and defend their liberty. these weren’t trained, as I said, you know, organized armies. These were people who were really just trying to defend their property, their families, and their lives from these people who were invading their towns and their homes.
Brittany: I think we’ve discussed this before, and if not, we’ll do a whole episode, but there were the Anti-Federalists and the Federalists while the Constitution was being formed. And we’ll put some links down so that you can understand a little bit more about that. But, so James Madison, when we think about the Federalists, we think of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. And they argued in the Federalist Papers that America should have a standing army. And they ultimately won this debate. However, Radley Balko, who’s another just incredible journalist, he once said that this was an act of necessary evil. That it was something that like they didn’t really want to happen and it probably had some negative consequences, but that was the compromise they came to. But because everyone was still pretty bitter about how terrible the quartering acts were, Madison, who’s actually known as the father of the Constitution, was very passionate about including the Third Amendment. So here’s where we get to the Third Amendment, which obviously forbids the quartering of soldiers from ever happening in the US but just like other amendments, this has actually also been violent related sins. So even, even the one that’s not tagged about a lot still has gotten ignored.
Connor: Yeah, I mean, it was during the Civil War or the war between the states. I, think it was, also the war of 1812, when the federal government did quarter Soldiers in private homes, which is crazy to me cuz the Bill of riots was ratified in 1791. so this is only like 21 years later and they’re already violating the Constitution that they just ratified.
Brittany: It’s not surprising, but it’s crazy. But it hasn’t been a huge problem since, it was though, it did come up, in fact, well, lemme back up. It’s actually one of the least cited Supreme Court-like amendments. So they really don’t fight over this often. But this I find really fascinating during the Korean War, Harry Truman, who was the president at the time, tried to seize private steel mills cuz they were on strike to make equipment for the war, right? He needed more, more weapons. and they argued in the Supreme Court that that was a violation of the Third Amendment because they were like quarterly, like taking their stuff as quartering soldiers and the court actually agreed with them. So I’ll link that too, you know, in the show notes. But this is not an issue obviously, like as hot as the first or Second Amendment, we don’t see a lot of blogs or the Third Amendment Center like we have the 10th Amendment Center. So it’s not, of those big issues today.
Connor: I agree, but you know, and I think you’ll agree with me, that doesn’t make it any less important, right? That the reasons behind the Third Amendment are really valid. There’s some really interesting history behind it, and it has really real reasons for existing. And frankly, we never know what will happen in the future. Maybe even though they didn’t quite follow it, you know, in the years following, maybe today it would be worse if, you know, we didn’t have the third Amendment. But at a minimum, I think it’s important to have safeguards like this in the place. Thomas Jefferson often talked about binding people down, binding politicians down with the chains of the Constitution. That was his quote. And so the idea is here we need to restrict the government, otherwise, they’ll do what they want. And as we pointed out in this episode, and others, sometimes they still just do what they want. even though, you know, there’s this piece of paper over here that says that they shouldn’t. but at a minimum, it’s important to understand what it is, what it says, and what the history is behind it. So, Brittany, as you said, we will put some show notes together at Tuttletwins.com/podcast if you guys would like to check out those resources. Until next time, Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.