Quartering of Troops

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

The Third Amendment combines a straightforward ban on nonconsensual, peacetime quartering of soldiers in citizens' houses with a requirement that wartime quartering be done by means approved by the legislature. The brief congressional debates on the text make clear that the amendment reflects an effort to balance private property rights and the potential wartime need for military quarters.

The Anti-Federalists used the absence of a ban on quartering as an argument against ratification. Once the concept of a Bill of Rights was agreed upon, however, there was little controversy over the inclusion of a ban on quartering. Six of the original thirteen states also adopted constitutional provisions banning the quartering of soldiers.

The British practice of quartering soldiers in America grew out of the lack of regular army bases, unclear legislative authority for British army quartering in America, and the need to move large bodies of troops about the country during conflicts with the French and Indians. Although there were numerous conflicts over quartering in both Britain and America before the 1770s, the most significant episodes concerned the British quartering of soldiers in private homes to punish the people of Boston under the Intolerable Acts of 1774.

Because of its clear text, there have been few court opinions discussing the Third Amendment. The quartering problem has largely been solved today by paying communities to host military bases. When the Supreme Court has cited the Third Amendment, it has been as part of nonoriginalist interpretations that list it as one of the sources of "penumbras, formed by emanations" that create a zone of privacy in no specific clause of the Constitution. For example, the Court cited it in the name of marital privacy as support for constitutional restrictions on state governments' abilities to regulate the sale of contraceptives in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965).

Andrew P. Morriss
D. Paul Jones, Jr. & Charlene Angelich Jones Chairholder of Law
University of Alabama School of Law