Did you know that the 3rd amendment holds a key to your freedom? That’s right, the same amendment that prohibits soldiers from being quartered in your home, the amendment that you never hear about because it has not been a problem since the Revolutionary War.
If you look closely, you will find an essential right and an associated policy that the framers of the U.S. Constitution understood and implemented to protect this right. This basic human right has to do with the word ‘consent’, and the policy is found in Article 1, Section 1, Clause 1 of the Constitution – the very first sentence, after the preamble. There’s a good chance you could quote it, but if not, feel free to look it up.
So, what does this clause have to do with the 3rd amendment? You may be surprised by the answer. We know that this amendment came about because of English kings housing soldiers in the homes of their subjects to save money and to maintain control over them. This was a serious problem in the colonial era and ended up being one of the grievances against the king in the Declaration of Independence. The Founders wanted to make certain that this practice did not ever happen again, hence the third amendment. Since this issue has never been a problem, this amendment has largely been ignored.
So, let’s take a closer look at amendment 3. It states that:
“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.”
Because we have a right to life, and to those things we acquire as we pursue happiness (i.e., our property), it follows that no one can take our property from us without our consent. Thus, no soldier can be quartered in our house in time of peace without our consent.
This is a basic principle that all people should understand on an individual level. But how does this principle of consent work in society? What happens if there is an urgent need to house soldiers in time of war to preserve our society? We all hope this would never happen, but if it did, then it must be done “... in a manner to be prescribed by law.” This is the connecting link between amendment 3 and the first clause in the Constitution. Article 1, Section 1, Clause 1, clearly states that:
“All legislative Power herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”
The framers of the Constitution had to figure out how to preserve our right of consent on a societal level. The policy they established was to have two senators represent each state and the people would elect representatives according to population to represent them in the House. These two lawmaking bodies would constitute a Congress of the United States and would work together to make laws that would most fairly represent the mind of the majority. The understanding was that they, alone, could make laws for the people because they were directly accountable to them. (Since the 17th amendment, Senators are chosen by the people as well, but that’s a story for another day.)
Unfortunately, the word “all” has seemingly been redefined since the founding era and apparently is interpreted today as “most”, or “some”. This is a significant problem as we will discuss in a minute. You may recall having a conversation similar to the following with your kids? You would ask them to clean their room and when they came back sooner than expected you would ask, “Did you clean all of it”? To which they would reply, “I cleaned most of it”. You would then point to their room and reply “All means all!”.
It is a sad fact that there are now more laws coming out of Washington D. C. that don’t go through Congress than do. Sometimes this is under emphasized as not being that big of a deal, but here’s the problem. When laws are passed that don’t go through our elected representatives, we lose our consent in society.
Some examples of this are government agencies that Congress or the President have created and then set free to make laws and regulations. Some of these include the USDA, OSHA, and Homeland Security, just to name a few. How many of these agencies are there? According to a report by Forbes on July 5, 2017, “No one can even say with certainty anymore how many federal agencies exist; yet they make most of the laws now rather than our elected Congress.” WOW!!! See the problem?
We have little recourse if laws are passed by one of these agencies because they are accountable to virtually no one. We have essentially lost our consent to the laws we must abide by. Our elected representatives in Congress are largely responsible for creating this problem because we have not been vigilant in holding their feet to the fire. Thus, they have delegated tasks that were specifically given to them, and no one else. The only remedy now is to do what we should have been doing all along.
The founders wisely set up a system of representative government to make sure the voices of the people would always be heard. The structure of amendment 3 is a great example of how laws should be made so that our lives and property are protected. It is now our responsibility to maintain, repair and improve the system according to constitutional law.
So, grab a copy of the Constitution. Learn about it, and share what you learn with others. Most importantly, make sure you contact your representatives about issues that are important to you. Together we can make a difference!