Third Amendment

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The poor Third Amendment. The other amendments of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights inspire public attention and volumes of legal research. Meanwhile, the Third Amendment suffers in comparative oblivion. The minor attention that it does receive usually fails to serve it well. Lawyers twist it to fit absurd claims, the popular press subjects it to ridicule, and academics limit it to footnotes. The reality is that the Third Amendment guarantees that the army cannot force homeowners to give them room and board.

A few scholars have, to their credit, recognized the important and dramatic role that the Third Amendment and its predecessors played in British and American history, but even these accounts overlook crucial aspects of the Third Amendment's story. The Third Amendment has especially suffered from a lack of serious and sustained legal analysis. Numerous novice Constitution students are naïve to the fiery nature of the relationship between the quartering of soldiers and the beginning stages of the American Revolution.

The threat of quartering that seemed so immediate to the Founders seems remote to us now. But one should not therefore reject the Third Amendment as a charming relic from more dangerous times. It can speak volumes--if we even care to listen. Tracing the Third Amendment's deep roots in English law reveals the origins of our legal heritage. Its bloodline winds through early American history, outlining the causes of the Revolution and culminating in the struggle to determine the final content of the Constitution's Bill of Rights. Although the Third Amendment has seldom been litigated, it still raises interesting questions about states' powers under federalism and rights to property and privacy.

Fortunately, the Third Amendment is not yet gone. Now perhaps it will not remain forgotten. If the Third Amendment is forgotten, one can only hope that we will never again need its protection. In that case, complacency would merely...
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