Guarding Against the Eyes and Ears of Government

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

When
King Charles I of England signed the Petition of Right in 1628,
he acknowledged a series of abuses committed under his reign, some
of which were the customary rights of Englishmen dating back to
Magna Carta. Charles proved that even governments long established
and supposedly restrained by custom and law still needed reminding
of their place in the cosmos.

Under
Charles I, the English government had violated habeas corpus, trial
procedures, and due process rights. Taxes had been extracted without
consulting Parliament and the quartering of troops in private homes
was forced upon the people of England. Charles incited civil war,
lost the fight, and was beheaded in 1649.

Students
of American history should recognize the abuses cited in the Petition
of Right. Thomas Jefferson reiterated many of them in the Declaration
of Independence because the crown had ignored history and the common
law. All would be codified in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Under
Article I, the authority over the purse is granted to Congress.
The authority to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,
exclusive to Congress, is conditional. The right to a fair and public
trial is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Due process is protected
by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Restriction on the quartering
of troops is established by the Third Amendment.

The
Third Amendment states that "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." Like
much in the Bill of Rights, the Third Amendment's inclusion is grounded
in the experiences of the American colonists.

A
provision in the Intolerable Acts of 1774 required that British
troops be billeted in occupied dwellings. Prior quartering acts
required unoccupied dwellings and abandoned buildings be used as
soldiers' housing. Sometimes the colonists would have to construct
barracks. Understandably, quartering of troops became a prime catalyst
for the American Revolution.

The
only time in American history that the Third Amendment has been
directly violated by government was the period 1861–77. Abraham
Lincoln sent hordes of conscripts and foreign mercenaries into the
Confederates States of America to burn, pillage, plunder, and, in
the timeless words of Jefferson, to "compleat the Works of
Death, Desolation, and Tyranny." The Reconstruction period
in the South would have more resembled the oppressive conditions
prevalent in England under Charles I, than the environment of prosperity
and freedom created by the Founders.

Big
Government historians and Lincoln sycophants, the vast majority
of the historical profession, characterize the numerous Constitutional
abuses of this period as necessary given the circumstances. As Lincoln
apologist and statist historian James G. Randall said in Constitutional
Problems Under Lincoln
, if "the government under Lincoln
erred in these respects, it erred under great provocation with the
best of motives; and its policy may not be justly criticized without
a full understanding of the alarming situation which confronted
the nation."

It
would appear, then, that the Third Amendment would be even more
an eighteenth-century anachronism than the oft-cited Second Amendment.
Ignoring the abuses committed during the War of Northern Aggression,
there would be no time in American history when the Third Amendment's
protections became a matter of concern for the American people.
Although one might be quick to write off the Third Amendment as
obsolete, its importance as a safeguard of freedom stands astride
that of the Second Amendment.

The
Third Amendment recognizes the English custom that "a man's
home is his castle." Quartering of troops was especially heinous
to the colonists because it effectively put property owners under
house arrest. Soldiers placed in the homes of colonists essentially
became the "eyes and ears" of the English government.
Once permitted to roam among the people at will and to enter homes
on a whim, soldiers silence dissent and opposition to government.

As
written, the Third Amendment guarantees that soldiers would never
be quartered in any man's home. A citizenry jealous of threats
to liberty would not be foolish enough to permit the forces of government
to partake of its hearth and home in peacetime, nor would it permit
the legislature, even in time of war, to proscribe laws requiring
the opening of homes to troops.

No
level of scare tactics by elected officials would have succeeded
at initiating such a legislative coup. Those attempting such a subversion
of the people's liberty would have rightfully ended their days on
earth on the receiving end of a musket ball or at the end of a noose.

But
that was a different era. Contemporary Americans, more concerned
with feeling secure than being free, overwhelmingly welcome the
types of abuses the Third Amendment is supposed to protect against.
To them, it is more important that government possesses an arsenal
of unconstitutional powers that violate the rights of all individuals
so that the proportionate few in a population of millions who commit
crimes might be caught. Under these conditions, the Third
Amendment can no longer be considered obscure.

The
Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 forbids the use of the military in domestic
law enforcement. Yet the military is often sent "among the
people" to provide surveillance and reconnaissance in the search
for fugitives and other elusive criminal elements, such as the DC-area
snipers of a few years ago. Soldiers regularly engage in covert
drug interdiction along the border with Mexico. They have once again
become the "eyes and ears" of the government.

It
is doubtful most Americans see it this way. After all, bad guys
are bad and so are drugs, so whatever government does to stop both
is okay. This ignorance is only to become bloated in an exaggerated
age of terrorism. Rather than give in to demands to expand the law-enforcement
capabilities of government, we should consider broadening what is
defined as a "soldier" to restore the letter of the Third
Amendment to its Constitutional intent.

According
to one entry in the American Heritage Dictionary, a "soldier"
is defined as "an active, loyal, and militant follower."
Therein describes nearly all employees of every agency of the executive
branch of our government. As argued on Ray’s
Realm
, "Quartering of soldiers (or other government enforcement),
should include extensions of their senses, secretly intruding their
presence. Wiretaps, bugs, audio lasers and the like are all extensions
of the senses . . . thus thwarting the spirit of the intent while
seemingly not violating the letter of the law." Therefore,
local police, State police, FBI, CIA, BATF, FCC, SEC, all should
be considered soldiers in the sense of the Third Amendment.

The
protections guaranteed by the Third Amendment and the rest of the
Bill of Rights were never intended to be abridged by government
judges so that government agents (cops, soldiers, tax collectors,
regulators) could do their jobs easier. In "conflicts"
between the rights of the individual and the supposed needs of government
to enforce the law, the individual should win – always. Otherwise,
the Petition of Right, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, are nothing
more than worthless parchment.

March
2, 2004

Harry
Goslin [send him mail]
lives in the Arizona high country.


        
        

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare