Defend the Third Amendment!

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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.”

Third Amendment, United States Constitution (1791)

Well, why not?
There are any number of organizations, both political and strictly
educational, promoting the right to free speech (First Amendment),
and the right to keep and bear arms (Second Amendment), so I figure
it’s high time someone started defending the Third Amendment. Why,
you ask? Again: Why not? Government has violated, and continues
to violate ever more egregiously, the other nine amendments in the
U.S. Bill of Rights, so why not head them off at the pass before
they get started on this one?

There are those
who have argued — quite persuasively in some cases — that, since
a plethora of military bases already exist, both here in the U.S.
and abroad, which are in turn supported via the odious institution
of taxation (i.e. government theft), that in essence, unless We
the People unanimously consent to soldiers being quartered there,
our supposed guarantees under Amendment 3 have already been brushed
aside without ceremony.

This line of
reasoning is not without some merit. To be sure, from any Anarchist
perspective, all such bases should be closed and remanded to private
interests forthwith. But let’s look through the other end of the
telescope and assume that Original Intent is to be taken at face
value; that the drafters of the Third Amendment meant, and only
meant, what this amendment states in plain English. If we accept
this interpretation, then to the best of my knowledge (and there
may be one or more cases outside of my knowledge to make what follows
false), not a single American (at the very least in modern times)
has had his or her Third Amendment guarantees violated.

But back to
the skip in the record: Why not start defending Amendment 3 now?
Given its unending penchant for stripping us of all of our rights,
it must only be a matter of time before government gets around to
deep-sixing this one, as well. In fact, it’s that loophole at the
end which gives me the greatest cause for concern: “…nor in
time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

Well, there’s
no shortage of war these days, is there? Even if Congress never
officially declared it in Afghanistan, or Iraq, which just goes
to show what total absence of law government operates under when
it means fulfilling its sole ostensible purpose, to defend and maintain
the peoples’ liberty. We need look no further than what the recent
Kelo ruling did to the eminent domain clause in Amendment
5. Why should Amendment 3 receive any different treatment from such
a perverse body as the U.S. Supreme Court, or any of the lower courts?

So all it’s
going to take is either myself, or someone reading this to get the
ball rolling. We could start with a website — say,,
or something to that effect. We could begin educating the masses
about the very real and credible danger of Green Berets or marine
platoons knocking on the door late some evening, brandishing machine
guns and demanding to be put up for the night. We could begin flooding
Congress and the White House with phone calls, faxes, and e-mails
— demanding that no military personnel be permitted to stay in our
homes without our express permission. When these Pols balk, shake
their heads and laugh, and ensure us that there is no danger; that
no such plans exist and are not even in the works we could simply
press that much harder. Then, perhaps with enough of us shouting
our heads off, the Pols, in an effort to quiet us down, will introduce
something like The Third Amendment Protection Act of 2008 (an election
year would be a good bet for such a bill to get handed down). From
there, things will get interesting.

The Pols will
debate the bill, both House and Senate versions, back and forth.
Most will see no need for its passage, but will also want to keep
constituents happy (remember, it’ll be an election year). In the
end, it will come to a final vote, and may get a slim majority in
one house of Congress, but surely not both. After all, what’s the
need? Congress cannot afford to pander to alarmists. As usual, there
will be many more important things the government needs to be doing,
such as balancing the budget, reforming social security, altering
the immigration laws, and fighting the War On Terror. How can its
members be expected to tarry with some moldy old outdated constitutional
amendment from 1791?

Hence, time
will pass, and the push to ensure the Third Amendment’s validity
will fade from the picture. New causes and crusades will arrive,
and in turn be either adopted (in whole or in part) or rejected
by government, depending upon whether its scope of influence is
enhanced or not. On and on this will go, as always, until one day
when a lone renegade or terrorist cell (whether real or government-contrived)
decides to blow something up. Then the president and Congress will
yell wildly for more surveillance than such provisions as the USA
PATRIOT Act and the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping now affords. Draconian
proposals of every imaginable tack will be bandied about — one of
which might involve planting undercover agents or military strike
forces inside civilian neighborhoods. Inside civilian homes. All
the better to watch for dangerous activity to keep us all “safe.”
But wait, some will say: Wasn’t all that talk about protecting the
Third Amendment a while back to ensure that such actions by government
never come to pass? Yes, but that was then and this is now, these
Pols will argue, and the present reality dictates that we not let
pesky provisions of the Constitution stand in the way of the fight
against terrorism. And besides, in this new law we are proposing,
they will add, it states that such activity will only be engaged
in “when the Secretary of Defense deems it necessary,” or some such.
There will be the “manner to be prescribed by law,” and the courts
will, of course, rigidly uphold it as constitutional. Thus, will
the final nail be driven home in the Bill of Rights’ casket.

just perhaps, I have awoken everyone who reads this to the need
for us to pound the final nails into government’s casket, before
it’s too late.

29, 2006

R. Knight III [send
him mail
] is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction,
and fantasy tales. He is also former Communications Director for
the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire He now lives and writes in
rural southern Vermont, and looks forward to living in a governmentless
society of liberty. Visit his

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