What Is the Purpose of the Third Amendment?

​One of the most straightforward and therefore least talked-about amendments, the Third Amendment states that a person cannot be forced to house soldiers in their home. Although it's unlikely the federal government would ask this of anyone in the modern-day, the Third Amendment does provide some insight into other issues.

What the Third Amendment Says

“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.”

What It Means

The Third Amendment directly addresses an issue on a lot of people's minds in 18th century England and America: standing armies. The English strongly objected to being compelled to allow soldiers to stay in their homes. English colonists relied on local militias rather than professional soldiers. But, when British Parliament passed the Quartering Act in 1765 those in the American colonies were required to provide housing for British soldiers – even in times of peace. They also were expected to provide food, firewood, and even beer. Anger over this requirement contributed to the tensions that were rising between colonists and the British government. These tensions came to a head with the Boston Massacre in 1770, where panicked British soldiers fired on a crowd of civilians, killing five.

When the United States declared independence from Britain in 1776, housing soldiers was among the grievances listed against the king:

“He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures…quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.”

To avoid this problem moving forward, the Founders included the Third Amendment in the Bill of Rights passed in 1789.

The Supreme Court has never decided a case based on the Third Amendment, making it the least-litigated section of the Bill of Rights. However, legal scholars have suggested that the Third Amendment remains important because it addresses the relationship between individuals and the military. They argue that the Third Amendment creates an individual right of domestic privacy that could also apply to government responses to terror attacks and natural disasters.

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