A Clearer Bill of Rights- Amendment III

“How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!” -Samuel Adams

When it comes to big government, progressive Statism, words are merely a nuisance that obstruct the growth of government power. When those words have meanings that seek to limit the scheming of Statists abroad, how often do we see them ignore the planing meaning of those words? The Constitution is the penultimate definition of a restraining order on tyranny, but Statists have no problem twisting its words to mean things that no rational person could ever imagine.

Now let’s give at least one caveat here. Some of the language of the Constitution can be a bit confusing. The document was written over 225 years ago, so there are more than a few differences in writings style and word choices. However, these nuances do not nullify the meaning of those words. It simply means that we have to look at the words, and their background, more carefully than Statists would approve.

Unfortunately, 21st century America does not have much more of an attention span than a squirrel; so looking at the words for more than a few seconds does not appear to be an option. What a shame this is; if only we had the ability to read carefully, and think even more carefully, it might not be so difficult to understand what the Constitution is actually saying.

In light of this, I’m going to clarify one of the most important aspects of the Constitution: the Bill of Rights. I will include the original language of each amendment, and below I will give a modern translation that can be clearly understood, leaving no room for Statist misinterpretations.

Amendment III- 1791

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.

Amendment III- 2015

No federal military or otherwise armed federal force shall be quartered on any private property without consent of the owner, nor shall any federal troops or armed forces have any legal jurisdiction within the United States. 

The Third Amendment has had little relevance since the American Revolution. Through 2015, there has not been one case before the Supreme Court where the Amendment had been the primary basis of a decision. However, this certainly does not mean that there have been no cases related to it.

In 2013, a Nevada man brought a lawsuit against a police department on a claim of violating the Third Amendment.

Courthouse News Service- Henderson police arrested a family for refusing to let officers use their homes as lookouts for a domestic violence investigation of their neighbors, the family claims in court.

Wall Street Journal- Henderson resident Anthony Mitchell claims that Henderson police officers violated his Third Amendment rights when they “conspired among themselves to force [him] out of his residence and to occupy his home for their own use.”

Responding to a domestic violence call at a neighbor’s residence in July 2011, officers told Mr. Mitchell that they needed to come into his home to gain a “tactical advantage,”according to the suit, which the Volokh Conspiracy wrote about here.

When Mr. Mitchell refused, police officers came to his home, banged on his door, and then smashed it open with a metal ram, he alleges.

He claims they then aimed their weapons, commanding him to lie down on the floor and crawl toward them. When he didn’t move, they allegedly fired pepper-spray balls at him, striking him three times at close range and causing him to “experience uncontrollable coughing and difficulty breathing,” the suit says.

Such a case is highly rare, but nonetheless the Third Amendment is a part of our Constitution. Why was it included? Well I’m glad you asked.

During the years preceding the American Revolution, a great deal of activity from the English motherland came to the American colonies. Many new taxes and regulations were placed on the colonies, mostly as a means to pay for the French and Indian War, which ended in 1763.

The Quartering Act of 1765 was an act of Parliament which authorized British soldiers to be stationed in unoccupied houses, for them to receive amenities from the owners of inns, among other purposes. Part of the text of the Act reads:

That the officers and soldiers so quartered and billeted as aforesaid (except such as shall be quartered in the barracks, and hired uninhabited houses, or other buildings as aforesaid) shall be received and furnished with diet, and small beer, cyder, or rum mixed with water, by the owners of the inns, livery stables, alehouses, victuallinghouses, and other houses in which they are allowed to be quartered and billeted by this act; paying and allowing for the same the several rates herein after mentioned to be payable, out of the subsistence money, for diet and small beer, cyder, or rum mixed with water.

The issue at stake here is that Parliament authorized their troops to violate the right of property by forcing owners to house soldiers stationed in the colonies. It was in reaction to this that the Third Amendment was ratified.

However, in the modern translation proposed above, more content has been added: that no federal troops or otherwise armed force of the federal government would have any jurisdiction within the boundaries of the United States.

Some may believe that this is absolutely unnecessary, but history does not lie, and it tells a truth about the use of federal troops in the homeland.

In 1957, President Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard, and sent in the 101st Airborne Division in order to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision on segregation of public schools. Good intentions? Perhaps, but a dangerous precedent was set. A state military force was taken over by the federal governemnt and used to override an area of policy that is reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. The federal government used military force on United States soil. That alone should send a chill down your spine, regardless of your thoughts on the correctness of the Court’s decision.

In 2013, an armed division of the EPA descended onto a small Alaska mining town, raising awareness to the issue of armed federal agencies. Upon further research, it was discovered that 70 federal agencies has armed workers, many of them with fully armed divisions; and several of them are not associated with either law enforcement or military activity. Some of those agencies include the EPA, FDA, Federal Reserve Board, the Post Office, and Department of Agriculture. In essence, these agencies are quasi-military in nature, and are exceeding the scope of their already stretched authority.

By including the clause that no armed federal force shall have jurisdiction within the United States, it removes all ability of those agencies to create these armed divisions, and to employ them (if they decide to ignore the rule of law). Police powers within the States are reserved to the States and the people, while the military forces are left to the control of the federal government. That division must be secured and upheld as an essential separation of powers.

This concludes part three of the “Clearer Bill of Rights” series. Next, we will look at an Amendment which civil libertarians love, and neoconservatives hate. An Amendment the some have claimed to avidly support, but have stopped doing so when one of their own is violating it. An Amendment that was ratified due to the events that were the spark of the fight for independence: the Fourth Amendment.

Follow Seth on Twitter: @sconnell1776

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