What is The 3rd Amendment? - Definition & Court Cases

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  • 0:01 Defining the 3rd Amendment
  • 1:03 A Brief History of the…
  • 1:45 Court Cases
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Benz

Stephen has taught history, journalism, sociology, and political science courses at multiple levels, including the middle school, high school and college levels.

The Third Amendment was part of the Bill of Rights. It ensures that the government cannot force citizens to house soldiers in times of peace. Very few cases have been tried based on the Third Amendment.

Defining the 3rd Amendment

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and being told you have to share your house with a soldier. If you like your privacy as much as most Americans, such an idea probably doesn't sound too pleasing.

The Third Amendment to the Constitution protects us from this very situation. It was included as part of the Bill of Rights to assure citizens of the limits of the new federal government. The amendment reads:

'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 was passed as part of the Bill of Rights.
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This amendment essentially states that if the United States is not at war, then it can't make people house soldiers. If the United States is at war, it can only make people house soldiers in the way that the government has already established. More importantly, the Third Amendment demonstrates an important principle the Founders wanted to establish - that the military is not above the civilian population.

A Brief History of the 3rd Amendment

The historical roots of the Third Amendment trace back to the Quartering Acts, passed in 1765 and 1774. The Act allowed British soldiers to take shelter in colonial homes whenever they ordered it. Oftentimes, British soldiers would welcome themselves into colonists' homes, exploiting the law. The action was so offensive to American colonists that Benjamin Franklin included it as one of the many complaints against the British crown in the Declaration of Independence.

After the States gained independence, several states, including Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, included in their state bill of rights a provision banning soldiers from living with civilians.

Court Cases

The United States has never had major issues arise from the Third Amendment. This is because there really has not been war on the mainland of the United States, with exception of the Civil War. And since the Civil War was mostly fought in rural battlefields, the U.S. and Confederate armies did not house soldiers in citizens' houses, but rather in makeshift tents.

In Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court used the Third Amendment to show that the Framers believed in a fundamental right of citizens to privacy. In this case, the Supreme Court considered a Connecticut law that banned all forms of birth control. The Court ruled that the Connecticut law violated the right to privacy in a person's home implied by most of the first ten amendments, including the Third Amendment.

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