During the American Revolutionary War, colonists were frequently asked to give houseroom to soldiers. Even before the war, the British government passed two acts called the Quartering Acts, one of them part of a group of laws called the Intolerable Acts, which were considered great violations of privacy on the part of the colonists. Since British soldiers didn’t necessarily have bases across the colonies, they needed places to stay at night. Under the Quartering Acts, any soldier could demand quarter, or a place to stay especially in uninhabited houses, barns or the like from people who ran inns, bars, or stables. It is under the Quartering Acts and the seizure of property of colonists by British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War, that the climate for the Third Amendment to the US Constitution must be understood.
The third Amendment, introduced by James Madison, 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 described by law.” Essentially, the Third Amendment forbids any soldier from demanding a place to stay, though a soldier of the US government could ask for a place to stay, and during war time, might have rights to briefly occupy property. However, in peacetime, the rights of lawful property owners were greater than the rights of the military, and property owners had the right to refuse quartering if they chose.
Americans did quarter soldiers, especially up until the American Civil War. Thereafter, the Third Amendment has been applied on an extremely rare basis. A few lawsuits have been aimed at more specific definitions of “soldiers,” or what is considered “ownership” of property. So for example, renters are considered to be property owners and have the same rights as do people who have purchased their property.
The Third Amendment and Fourth Amendment both touch on the right to privacy. The Fourth Amendment touches on some of the things that occurred when colonists were forced to quarter British forces, like illegal searches, and soldiers demanding goods from people. The Third Amendment protects the privacy of each American by giving them the right to refuse access of soldiers to their property (rented or owned) in peacetime. While the Fourth Amendment remains relevant and is discussed regularly, the Third Amendment is frequently forgotten since warfare on American soil after the Civil War has not been an issue.