The Third Amendment—Private Property Rights
“Freedom can exist only in the society of knowledge. Without learning, men are incapable of knowing their rights.” ~ Benjamin Rush
Greetings my fellow Americans!
“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.”
Let’s quickly dispense with the popularly obtuse notion that this amendment is very temporal and periodic, and that it only applies to the conduct of those classified as “soldier” in any given situation. For those who require tomes of meticulously explicit legislation to prescribe whether something is within the purview or jurisdiction of the public vice private sector (which seems to be most everyone of the executive, legislative and/or judicial persuasions today), the language of this amendment (as well as much of the Constitution) appears woefully inadequate as “the supreme law of the land.”
Because our Constitution is as much philosophical as it is legal—and, as such, relies on implicit or inferential precedent outside of human law, namely, faith in a Creator—it does not spell out, nor was it deemed necessary to at the time of our founding, that prohibition of quartering soldiers in private residences, under any conditions, implied that one’s right to own property without infringement or encumbrance by government. That the Founders did explicitly include “nor in time of war” also clearly implied, as the United States of America was being duly constituted, that even in the most extreme, urgent, dire or emergent situations that any such action by government was strictly forbidden.
Insofar as “in a manner prescribed by law” was also included, it is also clear that the Founders recognized that there may be circumstances under which, with due process and careful deliberation through the legislative process prescribed in the main body of the Constitution (and other amendments yet to be unpacked here), this wall may need to be somewhat compromised for the sake of “domestic tranquility.” However, and again bearing in mind the philosophical underpinnings of our Constitution that government powers were limited and enumerated (more on this with Amendment 10), such exceptions were to be rare and likewise constrained.
What I would consider a clear, direct and awful breach of this amendment is what has been classified as “eminent domain.” At the risk of bleeding into the Fifth Amendment at this time, I believe we have done our “supreme law” a great disservice by focusing on singular clauses without context, and, again, without maintaining the philosophy of limited government. Yes, Amendment 5 does specify that “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” As previously noted, Amendment 3 does imply that laws may be subsequently enacted to provide for such taking. Sadly, the Founders did not explicitly state in Five that taking “private property for public use” was subject to the context of Three, nor that exercise of such power should be measured against the extremity and urgency implied by explicitly prohibiting such action “in time of war” in the Amendment third.
For those old enough to remember the phrase “sounding like a broken record,” I’ll state that I hate to keep doing so before I reiterate that the general ignorance of, and/or malaise toward, the rights with which we have been endowed by our Creator has both enabled those who have been granted the power to safeguard those rights for us to ignore those rights and abuse their privilege, by picking and choosing which parts of our Constitution they will abide by at any given time, and disabled our collective ability to hold them accountable for the abrogation of the responsibility to preserve, protect and defend the entirety of that Constitution, at all times and in all situations. Those with the power will do what they do, because they are fallen humans, if left unchecked. We the People are the check and balance against that fallenness, and we need to wake up before it’s too late.
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