“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.”
~ 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, www.thirdamendment.com, 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.
And 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.
August 29, 2006