What is the Third Amendment of the US Constitution?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
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  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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During the American Revolutionary War, colonists were frequently asked to give houseroom to soldiers. Even before the war, the British government passed two acts called the Quartering Acts, one of them part of a group of laws called the Intolerable Acts, which were considered great violations of privacy on the part of the colonists. Since British soldiers didn’t necessarily have bases across the colonies, they needed places to stay at night. Under the Quartering Acts, any soldier could demand quarter, or a place to stay especially in uninhabited houses, barns or the like from people who ran inns, bars, or stables. It is under the Quartering Acts and the seizure of property of colonists by British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War, that the climate for the Third Amendment to the US Constitution must be understood.

The third Amendment, introduced by James Madison, reads as follows: “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 described by law.” Essentially, the Third Amendment forbids any soldier from demanding a place to stay, though a soldier of the US government could ask for a place to stay, and during war time, might have rights to briefly occupy property. However, in peacetime, the rights of lawful property owners were greater than the rights of the military, and property owners had the right to refuse quartering if they chose.


Americans did quarter soldiers, especially up until the American Civil War. Thereafter, the Third Amendment has been applied on an extremely rare basis. A few lawsuits have been aimed at more specific definitions of “soldiers,” or what is considered “ownership” of property. So for example, renters are considered to be property owners and have the same rights as do people who have purchased their property.

The Third Amendment and Fourth Amendment both touch on the right to privacy. The Fourth Amendment touches on some of the things that occurred when colonists were forced to quarter British forces, like illegal searches, and soldiers demanding goods from people. The Third Amendment protects the privacy of each American by giving them the right to refuse access of soldiers to their property (rented or owned) in peacetime. While the Fourth Amendment remains relevant and is discussed regularly, the Third Amendment is frequently forgotten since warfare on American soil after the Civil War has not been an issue.


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Post 4

@Sailorjerry: The constitution, when written, was the most radical new form of government ever created. It is based on keeping government power in check and making sure individual rights are recognized. It is far from being archaic. What is archaic is power being concentrated to the very few, which eventually results in tyranny.

Post 3

@jholcolm: You are 1000 percent on the money. Ideology from people like SailorJerry is what creates the foundation of failure of a nation. The Third amendment was extremely important at the time, and still is today. the Bill of Rights has not been changed since it was written, and is the reason the Third amendment seems antiquated.

If changes had been made to eliminate the 3rd amendment, say just after the civil war, SailorJerry may be singing a different tune today. This holds true for the proposed changes to the Second amendment as well. There is a reason this country is great. If those amendments were not written properly when they were, we would not be the greatest free nation on the planet.

Post 2

@SailorJerry - I don't necessarily disagree with you that the United States Constitution was written in a very different time. But to me, that doesn't mean it's not still important. Without the Constitution, what's to stop the government from sprinkling soldiers throughout the country? And maybe citizens don't need armor-piercing cop killer bullets, but if only the government has guns, its power is almost unlimited.

It's easy to think that nothing bad can happen in America. But history is full of fallen nations that thought they could never fall. Behind every coup, every revolution, every genocide, stood a bunch of regular people who thought "That can't happen here." Let's not start dismissing important rights just because they seem old-fashioned!

Post 1

To me, the third amendment's text is a reminder of how old-fashioned the Constitution is. It was written in a very, very different world than today! I think it puts the second amendment in a whole different context. The idea of the right to bear arms dates back to a time when people had to worry about soldiers showing up at their door demanding bedroom and dinner. Maybe it's time to admit that a lot of the Constitution has become archaic.

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