Passed by Congress September 25, 1789. Ratified December 15, 1791. The first 10 amendments form the Bill of Rights.
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.
The Third Amendment is intended to protect citizens’ rights to the ownership and use of their property without intrusion by the government. The drafters of the Constitution, like many other colonists, were resentful of laws, in place before the Revolutionary War, that allowed British soldiers to take over private homes for their own use. Thus, the amendment bars the government from forcing individuals to provide lodging to soldiers in their homes, except during war when the interest of national security may override an individual’s right of private property.
Rarely discussed in detail in Supreme Court decisions, the Third Amendment has more commonly been held up as evidence that the framers meant the Constitution to protect individuals from government intrusion into their homes, family lives and personal affairs.
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Contemporary Americans pay little heed to the Third Amendment, yet it was near and dear to the hearts of their ancestors. Colonial Americans had chafed at being forced to provide room and board for British soldiers, and they made sure the new Constitution protected them from such a practice. In fact, more states included this provision in proposed amendments to the Constitution than freedom of speech. But the Supreme Court has never specifically ruled on the meaning of the Third Amendment, although the Court has cited it as support for a constitutional right of privacy.
Linda R. Monk, J.D., is a constitutional scholar, journalist, and nationally award-winning author. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she twice received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, its highest honor for law-related media. Her books include The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution, Ordinary Americans: U.S. History Through the Eyes of Everyday People, and The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide. For more than 25 years, Dr. Monk has written commentary for newspapers nationwide, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and Huffington Post. In addition, she has appeared on MSNBC, C-SPAN, and NPR.