This article has been written by Ayush Tiwari, a student of Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. This article elaborates on what is the Third Amendment to the US Constitution, how it originated and the judicial history attached to it. 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.


When it comes to the Bill of Rights, the Third Amendment is regarded as an ostrich’s wings: an antique relic and a relic of ancestry with little significance today. The additional amendments to the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution stimulate public admiration and volumes of legal investigation. Meanwhile, the Third Amendment languishes in a state of relative insignificance. The minimal attention it does receive tends to be insufficient to serve it properly.

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To their credit, a few academics have acknowledged the Third Amendment and its predecessors’ significant and dramatic importance in British and American history. However, even these explanations leave out important portions of the Third Amendment’s history. A lack of significant and persistent legal examination has undermined the Third Amendment in particular. However, these points of view indicate a very restrictive approach to constitutional interpretation: courts and scholars see the Constitution, and especially the Bill of Rights, as “broken up into discrete blocks of text, with each segment examined in isolation.” This approach is flawed.” A closer examination of the Bill of Rights shows structural principles that are intricately linked. By studying all of the amendments in a collective or holistic manner, one can have a better understanding of each one. 

The United States Supreme Court has never had cause to apply or interpret the Third Amendment, and only a handful of times have the federal courts explicitly considered a Third Amendment challenge on the merits.

The restriction on quartering contained in the Third Amendment recalls the colonists’ and antiquity’s fear of a standing army imposing military power on the people or citizens. The framers, through this amendment, wanted to prevent the extension of military authority into the residence of common people during peacetime by forbidding quartering in order to safeguard both property and privacy.

Since the United States military has a vast network of facilities and ships across the world to house its soldiers, the requirement to physically quarter troops in private residences is mostly obsolete. Modern technology, on the other hand, allows the military to watch civilian life and enforce regulations, which raises a concern about privacy that is virtually similar to actual troop quartering.

But the Third Amendment is a powerful form of protection for American citizens, one that has been enshrined in our Constitution since 1791. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what the Third Amendment is, the origins of the Third Amendment, its practical application, and some important court cases that have dealt with the Third Amendment.

What is the Third Amendment

The Third Amendment of the United States Constitution 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 to be prescribed by law.” This Amendment was added to the Bill of Rights in 1791 and has been a part of the Constitution ever since.

Essentially, the Third Amendment is a protection for citizens against the government quartering soldiers in their homes without their permission. This was a common practice in Europe at the time and one which the American colonists were keen to avoid. The Third Amendment is a recognition of the right to privacy of the citizens and protection from the government.

The Bill of Rights Primer

The Bill of Rights is a set of ten amendments to the United States Constitution which were added in 1791. These amendments are meant to provide citizens with protection from the government and to ensure that the government does not overstep its bounds.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, press, and of religion; the Fourth Amendment forbids arbitrary search and seizure; the Fifth Amendment guarantees citizens due process; the Eighth Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment; and the Tenth Amendment reserves powers not delegated to the federal government nor prohibited to the states for the states or the people. These all are included in the Bill of Rights.

The Third Amendment is an important part of the Bill of Rights, as it provides citizens with protection from the government’s power to step into and reside in their household premises. In other words, this Amendment ensures that the government cannot force citizens to quarter soldiers in their homes and provides citizens with an important form of protection from the government.

What does the Third Amendment prohibit

The Third Amendment prohibits the government from quartering soldiers in any house without the consent of the owner. This means that the government cannot force citizens to house soldiers in their homes, either in times of peace or in times of war.

The Third Amendment also prohibits the government from making laws that would force citizens to quarter soldiers in their homes. In other words, the government cannot pass laws that would require citizens to provide housing for soldiers.

Origins of the Third Amendment (European Origins, American Origins)

The Third Amendment has its roots in European practices. In Europe, it was common for governments to quarter soldiers in private homes in times of war. This was a way to save money, as the government would not have to pay for housing and would also be able to keep a closer eye on the civilian population.

When the American colonists arrived in the New World, they were keen to avoid this practice. The Third Amendment was a way to ensure that the government could not force citizens to quarter soldiers in their homes, something which was seen as a violation of their rights as citizens.

The Third Amendment was first introduced as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791. It was a way to ensure that the government could not impose such a practice on the citizens and to provide them with protection against the government’s power.

English Origin

Throughout the Middle Ages, it was common for English military chiefs to house and feed their men by quartering them in civilian houses. This approach was despised by English people, unsurprisingly. As a result, anti-quartering rules were regularly incorporated in city charters in England. Henry I’s London Charter of 1130, for example, stated that “no one be billeted within the walls of the city, either of my household, or by force of anyone else.” A lot of rules came in Henry II’s London Charter of 1155 and John’s Ipswich Charter of 1200, which were similar to the Charter of 1130, both of which clearly banned troops being quartered in private dwellings without their permission. While such legal restrictions on involuntary quartering were only applicable in their respective jurisdictions, popular opposition to quartering ultimately led to the Magna Carta of 1215, which essentially included the anti-quartering clauses from the city charters for all of England by reaffirming “the ‘ancient liberties and free customs’ of England’s cities, towns, and boroughs.”

Despite such explicit resistance to the practice of quartering, the English government repeatedly disregarded the legal restrictions against it. This was due to the fact that as armies got larger and more modernized, the expense of housing and feeding soldiers rose as well. As a result, the House of Commons struggled to “provide the revenue required to pay for adequate barracks or billet soldiers in inns.”

With insufficient funding from the government for accommodation, soldiers in the field sometimes had “no choice but to seek quarters in private homes.” Quartering grievances were so common that they were identified as one of the reasons for the English Civil War. By the early seventeenth century, the monarch no longer safeguarded people from quartering but rather caused the problem. It was left to Parliament to fix the legal gap and safeguard citizens against quartering. The outrage over quartering reached a boiling point in 1628, when Parliament presented Charles I with the Petition of Right. The “Petition of Rights” outlined a detailed list of freedoms that they considered the monarch and his troops could not violate. The English specifically “identified ‘the problem of quartered troops as a grievance with a legal identity of its own.’”

When the English army continued to quarter its soldiers in private homes despite such a popular declaration of liberty, Parliament issued the Anti-Quartering Act in 1679. The Anti-Quartering Act outright barred the quartering of soldiers in private residences during both war and peace.

Despite this, the English monarch, James II, continued to quarter his soldiers among the citizens. This monarchical disregard for the public sparked outrage, which contributed to James II’s removal in 1689, known as the “Glorious Revolution.” Soon after, Parliament established the English Bill of Rights, which outlined the people’s rights under the new monarch. The English Bill of Rights expressly stated that quartering troops was “contrary to law.” Soon after, Parliament passed the Mutiny Act, which prohibited soldiers from quartering in private residences without the approval of the owners. However, the Mutiny Act did not apply to dwellings in English colonies. While the misery of the English people was coming to an end, it was only starting for their colonial American subjects.


The first and most interesting of these French charters was granted to Rouen by Henry II in 1151 or 1152. It had numerous clauses that are similar to those found in previous English charters. The Rouen charter, in particular, exempts the city from any billeting except that directed by the marshal of Rouen. This is a weakened form of Henry I’s 1131 exemption from billeting (which forbade any forced billeting, whether commanded by London’s marshal or not). Based on these and other coincidences, Ballard concluded that the Rouen charter, which came twenty years after the London charter of 1131, was heavily influenced by it. Following French charters, they addressed forced billeting as well. According to charters issued around the end of the twelfth century, “the burgesses of Bourges and Dun-le-Roi were exempted from the exactio culcitrarum, which appears to have been a right on the part of the lord to obtain a loan of his tenant’s bedding on his visit to the town.” The charter of Laon in 1128 went the opposite way, requiring the town’s burgesses to furnish the King with either three nights’ food and lodging or twenty livres. However, the burgesses avoided this responsibility under their 1189 charter by purchasing the King’s right for 200 livres.

Were the protections against billeting provisions of the charters of Bourges, Dun-le-Roi, and Laon inspired by Rouen’s charter? We can only speculate that they emerged following Rouen’s billeting provision and that Rouen’s charter was widely copied. Even if English precedents did not inspire the billeting prohibitions that emerged in the charters of Bourges, Dun-le-Roi, and Laon via Rouen, we might be certain that the chain of causation did not go the other way. The Third Amendment did not emerge on French soil. It appears that outside of Britain, protections against forced quartering were scarce and inadequate and were either attributed to that country’s ameliorative effect or destined to bloom and wither in isolation.

Colonial America

The military demands of Colonial America were similar to those of Saxon England: geographic isolation and the lack of a desire to deploy military force made a militia system suitable for defense. The most pressing military concern at the time was war with Native Americans, to which the militia system was adapted. Furthermore, the dominant political thought of English Whigs and Classical Republicans held that a militia system was essential to a free society. During King Phillip’s War in 1675, the American colonists had their first encounter with British troops quartered in their dwellings. Unsurprisingly, the colonists, like the Englishmen of their ancestors, were outraged by the practice and went on to outlaw it through their own regional enactments. “In 1683, the New York Assembly passed a ‘Charter of Liberties and Privileges’ providing that a ‘freeman’ could not be compelled against his will to quarter a soldier in his residence in peacetime.” Despite these efforts, quartering continued through the seventeenth century and became a serious concern for colonists in the second part of the 1700s, and the issue resurfaced whenever the British military presence in the new world increased.

During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), which sent thousands of British regulars to North America, soldier quartering became a serious issue for the colonists. General Edward Braddock’s pleas for rooms and food were frequently rebuffed by American colonists. In 1756, his successor, John Campbell, Earl of Londoun, claimed that Americans used the expression “Rights and Privileges” to oppose his attempts at practically every step. Even the most ardent protests, however, were unable to prevent the British from imposing troops on residents. Colonial governments sought to prohibit the practice once more, but their efforts were disregarded and resisted, often flagrantly. For example, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed a resolution in 1755 declaring its colonists’ “undoubted right not to be burdened with the sojourning of soldiers against their will,” but British General Edward Braddock quartered his troops in private homes anyway, boasting “that he would ‘take care to burden those colonies the most, that show the least loyalty to his Majesty.” 

Following the conclusion of Pontiac’s War in 1763 and despite its victory, the French and Indian War placed England in such debt that it nearly bankrupted the empire. England wanted the colonists to pay for the war and the expenses of maintaining the vast border. Though British soldiers were allegedly stationed in North America to defend colonists from Native Americans on the border, English commanders wanted to prevent further westward advancement. They feared that colonial encroachment would jeopardize the lucrative fur trade with Native Americans. The colonists opposed the stifling of the westward movement, considering the stationing of the permanent army a means of control rather than protection. The Quartering Act, approved by Parliament in 1765, required colonists to provide supplies for the soldiers stationed in the colonies and even the barracks for stationing them. If these barracks were insufficient, the Act required troops to be quartered in inns, livery stables, and ale houses. If this also falls short, the troops could end up being accommodated in other private buildings. This last option allowed for limitless abuse and developed significant resentment among the colonies. 

To make the situation worse, Parliament implemented the Stamp Act of 1765 in order to extract the income necessary to meet the Quartering Act’s demands from the colonies. “As a result, the issues surrounding soldier quartering became entwined with the volatile political issue of ‘taxation without representation.'” The costs of quartering British troops rose and extended over North America. When New York failed to completely implement the Quartering Act’s conditions, Parliament suspended its Assembly until that body chose to support the royal troops stationed in New York. The governor of Massachusetts quartered troops at the statehouse in October 1768 when the people of Boston refused to furnish them with suitable lodgings. Parliament approved five statutes in reaction to the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. A new Quartering Act, adopted in June 1774, was one of them. It allowed troops to be quartered in private residences (rather than private buildings), colonists considered this Quartering Act to be even more objectionable than its 1765 predecessor, and it was dubbed as one of the “Intolerable Acts.”

The response of Parliament to the Boston Tea Party sparked a series of political pronouncements addressing the quartering problem, culminating in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. According to Paragraph 15 of the Declaration of Independence, George III had “united with others to bind us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and not recognized by our laws; giving his Assent to these acts of pretended legislation: For quartering huge numbers of armed troops among us,” which was the justification given for severing the “political bands” that had held the colonists to England. Even after the long struggle for independence and oppressive British rule was over, several states took care to include anti-quartering provisions in their own legislation. “Between 1776 and 1787,” when states were still loosely federated under the Articles of Confederation, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, and New York all declared the right to be free “from forced peacetime quartering and arbitrary wartime quartering” as one of the fundamental rights enjoyed by their citizens. Similarly, “Massachusetts and Pennsylvania put anti-quartering provisions in their state constitutions.” When the Articles of Confederation were judged too weak, the states sent delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to construct a new national government under the U.S. Constitution; many had particular concerns regarding soldier quartering.

Path towards ratification

While the Constitution clearly authorized Congress the right “to raise and support Armies,” there was no Bill of Rights and no provision for anti-quartering at the time. Therefore, quartering was technically allowed. This angered the anti-quartering AntiFederalists, who refused to endorse any draft of the Constitution that did not include an anti-quartering provision. The “Federal Farmer,” an Anti-Federalist writing under a pseudonym, publicly approached the states not to ratify the Constitution for the reason that “there was no provision to prevent the quartering of soldiers.”

Similar sentiments emanated from the states’ ratifying conventions. The states ratified the Constitution, regardless of the concerns of Anti-federalists. However, the Anti-Federalists’ clamor for a Bill of Rights never subsided. Eight states conducted conferences to suggest provisions for a Bill of Rights between the adoption of the original Constitution and the insertion of the Bill of Rights. The anti-quartering legislation was supported by five of the eight states.

Amendment to quartering

In delivering the Bill of Rights to the First Congress, James Madison took the lead. He distilled his Bill of Rights proposal from the best and most popular amendments proposed by state conventions. He knew that deviating from their criteria would put the project at risk: “Two or three contentious additions would even now prostrate the entire project.” His quartering amendment, however, varied from the states’ plans. Even though Madison drew influence from outside sources, he gave quartering a special touch. There was nothing like it in state constitutions, political remarks, or English laws. Madison proposed a quartering amendment in his address to the house, which said, “No soldiers shall be quartered in any house in time of peace without the consent of the owner; nor at any time, but in a manner warranted by law.” Contrary to Madison’s proposal, the states also provided two alternative proposals. The first version prohibited quartering without consent during times of peace but was silent at other times. This version was included in Maryland’s and New Hampshire’s proposals. The second version also prohibited forced quartering during peacetime but also subjected wartime quartering to legal restrictions. This version was included in the Virginia, New York, and North Carolina proposals. This second version was finally incorporated into the Third Amendment.

The First proposed draft

The first draft of the states’ suggested amendments mentioned nothing about dealing with quartering when the country is no longer at peace. To identify the constitutional constraints on quartering at such times, one would have to turn elsewhere, most likely to the other amendments in the Bill of Rights and to Articles I and II of the Constitution. Subsection B discussed similar constitutional interpretation issues in relation to the second version of the states’ proposed quartering amendments. For the time being, it is fair to ask why Maryland and New Hampshire, the states submitting the first draft, made no mention of quartering outside of times of peace. This is especially puzzling considering that their own constitutions allow the legislature’s authority over wartime quartering (the same strategy followed by the states proposing the second version).

The answer to this enigma may be found in the current political atmosphere. Maryland and New Hampshire approved their separate constitutions in 1776 and 1784. Their suggested amendments were published in 1788, some years later. In the meantime, the Anti-Federalists emerged on the political landscape. Perhaps a schism developed between those who liked the quartering laws in state constitutions and those who desired stricter prohibitions on quartering. Such political differences may have prevented the Maryland and New Hampshire conventions from agreeing on a more detailed quartering amendment.

The Second draft

The second version of the states’ proposed quartering reforms, like the first, forbade the compulsory quartering of troops during peacetime. In contrast to the previous version, the second version went on to state that during times of war, troops should be quartered “only as the laws direct.” This new provision reduces the burden of constitutional interpretation. There appears to be little question that it was intended to give Congress control of wartime quartering. Nonetheless, the second version of the states’ proposed quartering modifications poses an interpretive problem. While it adequately addresses the issues of quartering in times of peace and war, it fails to expressly address the gray region between these two extremes. This is a wide category of unrest, which includes rebellion, low-level conflicts, and the period between the emergence of a danger to national security and the formal declaration of war.

The only way to avoid the challenges of interpreting within this discrepancy is to squeeze “unrest” into either “peace” or “war.” But could the founders have overlooked a unique state of unrest? One would not expect lawyers and philosophers to speak in such casual terms, but the founders were essentially statesmen. In creating the Bill of Rights, they may have sometimes prioritized flair over clarity. In any event, limiting oneself to “peace” and “war” does not completely contradict conventional use. If the founders had limited themselves to “peace” or “war,” where would they have placed unrest? The founders would have officially identified unrest as a form of peace. The Constitution treats war in a restricted and technical manner, rendering it less vulnerable to broad interpretation. “Peace” refers to any period in which no official declaration of war is in force. Such an approach may have appealed to the founders. It broadens homeowners’ peacetime rights to instances of unrest, maximizing protection from quartering. It also pushes Congress to think carefully before declaring war since it adds quartering to the list of potential consequences.

But didn’t the founders consider unrest separate from peace and war? There are compelling reasons to assume they did. The drafters of the states’ proposed quartering amendments included war, revolt, insurgency, and invasion in documents they sent to Congress, but only in specified contexts. This suggests that they considered these words to be legal terms with distinct meanings and that they did not exchange them casually. The Constitution employs these terms carefully as well, granting Congress the authority to declare war at one place and the authority to “call forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections, and repel Invasions” at another. The usage of this specific terminology to describe conditions of unrest halfway between peace and war appears to be congruent with the mode of thought attributed to the founders by military historians. 

The differences also corresponded to the military policies of the time. The founders were well acquainted with civil unrest short of war. They had not only used it to cause trouble for Britain, but they had also seen it threaten their own nation’s cohesiveness. As a result, Alexander Hamilton complained about “the revolt of a part of the State of North Carolina, the late menacing disturbances in Pennsylvania, and the actual insurrections and rebellions in Massachusetts.” Backcountry unrest remained a continuous issue for the new country, as seen by the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791-1794, following separatist movements and low-level Indian conflicts that plagued the boundaries on a regular basis. In each of these cases, the government used direct military action to contain the uprising rather than formally declaring war.

If the creators of the second quartering amendment proposal acknowledged a state of unrest distinct from peace and war, why didn’t they directly address it? There are a few possible explanations. It’s possible that they simply drafted the amendment hastily or carelessly. Alternatively, political conflicts may have forced them to keep the wording vague, just as it may have influenced the first version. Another possibility is that the drafters wanted to leave room for the executive branch to control quartering during periods of unrest, as discussed in the rejection of Madison’s proposed amendment.

Assuming that the recognition of a distinct state of unrest existed, what rights would homeowners have had under the second version of the proposed quartering amendments by the states? Homeowners would likely argue that the government’s power to quarter troops during wartime should not undermine their retained right to refuse quartering during times of unrest. The states proposing the second version of the quartering amendments seemed to invite such claims, as each one asked Congress to protect retained rights similar to those eventually safeguarded in the Ninth Amendment. However, there is a compelling objection to this argument: something that has never existed cannot be retained. Most state constitutions during that period had not yet prohibited forced quartering during peacetime, let alone explicitly extended the right to times of unrest. Homeowners had not enjoyed a de facto right to be free from quartering during periods of unrest, which explains their demand for the protection of a quartering amendment.

The founders would have had several reasons to oppose homeowners’ attempts to retain their peacetime rights during periods of unrest. Quartering would likely be most necessary during such times. Unrest often emerges unexpectedly, far from centers of power where barracks might not be readily available. Once war is declared, the need for forced billeting diminishes because there is more time to prepare military housing, and public support for the war effort increases. Modern experience has shown that civilians willingly consent to quartering when faced with a common enemy. However, residents in a rebellious area are much less likely to welcome troops into their homes, necessitating the State to impose quartering upon them. This also serves the purpose of monitoring and suppressing further rebellion. These strong policy arguments are likely to outweigh homeowners’ claims for extending their peacetime rights to times of unrest. In that case, which branch of government should have control over quartering during unrest—the Executive or the Legislature?

Advocates of executive control could argue that during times of unrest, the Executive must have the freedom to act swiftly and decisively without waiting for Congressional approval. Early American responses to unrest support this claim. They could further contend that the second version of the proposed quartering amendments grants power over wartime quartering to lawmakers because that is the only time when the legislature can effectively direct quartering. At all other times, the power to quarter troops must be wielded by the Commander in Chief to be carried out effectively. However, despite these policy arguments, those who supported executive control over quartering during times of unrest would have found it challenging to defend their position in constitutional terms. On the one hand, they could rely on the clause granting executive powers to the president. For instance, Hamilton argued that this power was subject only to the exceptions and qualifications explicitly expressed in the Constitution. Less controversially, they could point to the executive’s designation as commander in chief. However, neither of these arguments convinced the Youngstown court that the Executive possesses broad “inherent” powers.

Constitutional arguments favoring legislative control over quartering during unrest carry more weight. The Constitution acknowledges the authority of Congress to act during times of unrest by granting it the power to call forth the militia to enforce federal laws, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions. Congress also possesses the power to raise and support armies, establish rules for the government, and regulate land and naval forces. These powers are fully applicable during times of unrest and appear broad enough to encompass the quartering of troops. The Constitution’s allocation of authority to Congress in these areas also reflects a long-standing fear of the Executive’s military strength. This makes it unclear if the second draft of the proposed quartering amendments’ drafters really meant to give the Executive the power to set the parameters of quartering amid disturbances or unrest.

Madison’s draft

Madison proposed a quartering amendment that differed from the versions put forth by the states. While all versions prohibited forced billeting during times of peace, Madison’s amendment went further by forbidding quartering “at any time, but in a manner warranted by law.” This departure from the state proposals explicitly granted Congress the power to regulate quartering whenever the nation was not at peace. Madison likely revised the state proposals to address the potential interpretative issues caused by their failure to address the gap between peace and war. By extending legislative control to “any time” outside of peace, Madison avoided these problems, eliminating the possibility of the Executive asserting power over quartering. In this framework, the homeowner has control during peacetime, and Congress has jurisdiction during all other times.

Despite the perceived superiority of Madison’s quartering amendment, the select committee that reviewed his proposed amendments rejected it in favor of an alternative that closely resembled the second version proposed by the states and the final version of the Third Amendment. However, it would be hasty to conclude that Madison’s plans were thwarted by the committee. It is possible that he anticipated counterproposals that would give the Executive unqualified control over quartering during times of unrest or deny citizens the right to refuse troops altogether. In light of the possibility of weaker amendments, Madison may have strategically proposed his amendment as a middle ground that would survive the committee’s compromises. While Madison’s reaction is unknown, the committee’s decision raises questions. Why did they reject Madison’s well-crafted amendment in favor of an alternative that seemed to disregard quartering during times of unrest? Unfortunately, there is no record of the committee’s discussions. However, considering the intentions behind the second version of the state proposals provides three potential reasons for rejecting Madison’s amendment: failure to recognize an intermediary state between war and peace, negligence, or intentional silence.

Based on the founders’ views on war, peace, and unrest discussed earlier, it seems unlikely that the committee failed to recognize the intermediate state. It is also improbable that the committee negligently overlooked the unique aspects of Madison’s amendment, especially considering Madison’s presence on the committee to explain and defend his proposal. Could it be that the committee rejected Madison’s amendment to maintain silence on the issue of who should control quartering during times of unrest? There are a lot of reasons why it may have been done. The committee may have been unable or unwilling to resolve the issue, or perhaps they preferred the status quo, fearing that revised quartering amendments would be rejected by the states. However, the most intriguing possibility is that the committee intended to grant the Executive power over quartering during times of unrest, or at the very least, not to eliminate that option. This explanation finds support in policy considerations, political dynamics, and historical practice.

Due to policy reasons discussed earlier, the committee may have believed that the Executive was best suited to oversee quartering during border conflicts, invasions, and rebellions. However, explicitly granting the Executive such authority would have sparked political controversy. Instead of a Bill of Powers, the states requested a Bill of Rights. The Third Amendment, as written, was a perfect option if the committee wanted to discreetly allow the Executive to take control of quartering during times of unrest. If that was the committee’s intent, they would have likely been satisfied with the actual practice of quartering during the Civil War, as we will explore in the next section.

The Third Amendment in Practice and Theory

The Third Amendment has been an important part of American law since its inception. In practice, the Amendment has been used to protect citizens from the government’s power. This was the case in Engblom v. Carey (1982), where the Supreme Court found that the government had violated the Third Amendment by quartering National Guard troops in a private home without the owner’s consent.

In theory, the Third Amendment has also been used as a justification for a wide range of rights. For example, the Supreme Court has cited the Third Amendment in cases involving the right to privacy, the right to be free from government intrusion, and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Case Laws

Engblom v. Carey

Engblom v. Carey was a 1982 Supreme Court case that involved the Third Amendment. In this case, the Supreme Court found that the National Guard had violated the Third Amendment by quartering troops in a private home without the owner’s consent. The Supreme Court held that the National Guard had violated the owner’s right to be free from the government’s power and that the Third Amendment provided the owner with protection from such government intrusion.

The case was important for several reasons. It was the first time that the Supreme Court had interpreted the Third Amendment on its own merits, and it established the principle that the government cannot quarter troops in private homes without the owner’s consent. This case has also been cited in subsequent cases involving the right to privacy and the right to be free from government intrusion.

Engblom v. Carey marked the first instance where the Third Amendment’s limitations on quartering were subjected to judicial interpretation. The case revolved around the question of whether New York State violated the Third Amendment by quartering National Guard troops in the residential quarters of striking correctional officers. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals determined that there were factual uncertainties regarding the officers’ possessory interests in their residences, which raised the issue of potential infringement of their Third Amendment rights. While the court’s findings significantly impacted the extent of liability under the Third Amendment, the defendants ultimately emerged victorious, and thus the court did not establish a remedy for Third Amendment violations.

The residences in question were dorm-style accommodations owned by the State of New York and situated within the grounds of the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility for the use of its employees at their discretion. The relevant documents governing the use of these residences explicitly outline a standard landlord-tenant relationship between the state and the occupying officers. During a statewide strike organized by the AFL-CIO on April 18, 1979, the correctional officers at Mid-Orange participated, prompting Governor Hugh L. Carey to activate the National Guard. As a result, the superintendent of Mid-Orange barred the plaintiff officers from accessing the facility grounds, consequently denying them access to their on-site residences. The state then housed National Guard troops in the officers’ rooms for the duration of the strike. Upon the officers’ return, they alleged that their rooms had been vandalized and personal property destroyed or missing.

These factors led the plaintiffs to claim that the State of New York had violated their rights under the Third Amendment by quartering troops in their houses during times of peace. The plaintiffs lacked a substantial possessory interest in their homes, the district court said, excluding them from Third Amendment protections. The suit was dismissed through summary judgment. The Court of Appeals overturned this choice and remanded the matter for additional consideration. In doing so, the Engblom court made three significant findings that would have significant, albeit unexplored, implications for future litigation involving the Third Amendment.

Two of these findings held particular significance in terms of the states’ handling of quartering issues. Firstly, the court of appeals agreed with the trial court’s assertion that National Guard troops qualified as “soldiers” within the meaning of the Third Amendment. Secondly, the Engblom court explicitly extended the application of the Third Amendment to the states by incorporating it into the Fourteenth Amendment. The court’s third finding pertaining to the Third Amendment had broader implications. The Engblom court stated that, in reference to the Third Amendment’s usage by the Supreme Court in Griswold, “The Third Amendment was drafted in order to guarantee the fundamental right to privacy.” The Supreme Court dismissed rigid definitions of “ownership” in a manner akin to the safeguards provided by the Fourth Amendment against unnecessary and unreasonable search and seizure. In the case of Engblom, this analysis was applied to the Third Amendment, concluding that “property-based privacy interests protected by the Third Amendment… encompass those recognized and permitted by society, based on lawful occupation or possession with a legal right to exclude others.” Consequently, after Engblom, the Third Amendment applied not only to fee simple owners but also to leasehold owners.

Griswold v. Connecticut

Griswold v. Connecticut was a 1965 Supreme Court case that involved the Third Amendment. In 1879, Connecticut enacted a law that prohibited the use of contraceptives and imposed penalties on those involved in providing contraception. The enforcement of this law intensified as the government sought to uphold Protestant moral values, with many religious leaders opposing abortion and birth control. Anyone found guilty of violating the Connecticut law could face fines or imprisonment for up to a year.

Connecticut and Massachusetts were the only states that completely banned the use of birth control. Planned Parenthood, an organization advocating for reproductive freedom, led the opposition against these restrictions. Led by white middle-class women, Planned Parenthood aimed to challenge the law’s constitutionality. Estelle Griswold, the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Connecticut, knowingly violated the Connecticut law by providing medical advice and prescribing contraceptives to married women. She believed that the law unjustly criminalized women and their doctors. Although her clinic operated for only ten days in 1961, Griswold was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting contraceptive use. The trial court found her guilty and imposed a fine of one hundred dollars, equivalent to $797.56 in 2018.

In her appeal, Griswold was assisted by civil rights lawyer Catherine Roraback. Roraback claimed that the law went against the equal protection and substantive due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, no one may be deprived of their life, liberty, or property without undergoing due process, and everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law. Roraback contended that laws against contraception disproportionately affected poorer women’s access to healthcare, making equal protection a crucial aspect of her argument. The state of Connecticut defended the ban, claiming that it discouraged illicit sexual relationships and upheld the belief that the purpose of sex was procreation. The case aimed to determine the constitutionality of birth control. By the time Griswold v. Connecticut reached the Supreme Court in 1965, over one million American women were using some form of birth control.

In this case, the Court utilized the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to apply the protections of the Bill of Rights to the states. As a result, it deemed the Connecticut law unconstitutional because it violated the right to privacy within marriage, which is a right explicitly listed in the Constitution but one upon which various other rights, such as expression and association, depend. The Court argued that the right to privacy was implicit in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments. The Bill of Rights established “zones of privacy” that the government could not intrude upon. According to the Court, the First Amendment has a penumbra where privacy is safeguarded against governmental encroachment. Despite being specifically mentioned in the First Amendment, its existence is required for the stated guarantees to have their intended effect. The Third Amendment’s ban on quartering soldiers without the owner’s permission, the Fourth Amendment’s defense against arbitrary searches and seizures, the Fifth Amendment’s ban on self-incrimination, and the Ninth Amendment’s safeguarding of unenumerated rights were also highlighted by the Court. Ultimately, the Court concluded that privacy within marriage constituted a personal zone off-limits to government interference.

The case was important for several reasons. It established the principle that the Third Amendment provides citizens with a right to privacy and that this right can be violated by the government. This case has since been cited in numerous cases involving the right to privacy and the right to be free from government intrusion. It established the right to privacy, which was later applied in Roe v. Wade (1973), which secured a woman’s right to an abortion after proper consultation with a doctor. Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which extended the constitutional right to participate in same-sex relationships, also emphasized the right to privacy. 

The case was also a watershed moment for reproductive liberty. However, Griswold only established the constitutionality of married couples’ access to contraception. Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) overturned laws prohibiting unmarried people from using contraception, granting them the same rights as married people. 


The Third Amendment is an important part of the Bill of Rights, as it provides citizens with protection from the government’s power. This Amendment prohibits the government from quartering soldiers in any house without the consent of the owner and provides citizens with an important form of protection from the government. However, the Third Amendment should not be dismissed as a quaint remnant from a more dangerous period. If one takes the time to listen, it may speak volumes. The deep roots of the Third Amendment in English law indicate the foundations of our legal history. Its lifeline runs through early American history, describing the causes of the Revolution and culminating in the fight to decide the ultimate substance of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Although the Third Amendment has seldom been contested, it nonetheless poses important theoretical problems regarding the authority of states under federalism, property and privacy rights, and the interaction of multiple constitutional protections.

The Third Amendment has been the subject of several important court cases, including Engblom v. Carey and Griswold v. Connecticut. These cases have established the principle that the Third Amendment provides citizens with a right to privacy and that this right cannot be violated by the government.

If you’re looking for protection from the government’s power, the Third Amendment is an important part of the Bill of Rights to consider. It provides citizens with an important form of protection from the government and has been used to justify a wide range of rights. So if you’re looking for protection from the government, make sure to consider the Third Amendment.


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