Posted in

The constitutional right to privacy likely stems from the Third Amendment

The Third Amendment arose from American colonists’ grievances against the British Crown for forcing them to draft soldiers.


  • Paul G. Summers, an attorney, is a former appellate and senior judge, district attorney general and attorney general of Tennessee.

Editor’s Note: This is a regular feature on issues related to the Constitution and citizenship education, written by Paul G. Summers, retired judge and attorney general.

The U.S. Constitution is America’s supreme law. Amendments are part of the Constitution. The first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, were presented to state legislatures in September 1789. The Bill of Rights was ratified in December 1791.

Our Constitution created three separate and equal branches of government. The legislative and executive powers are political; the judiciary does not. Judges must be independent and adhere to the rule of law. Judges act as checks and balances against abuse of power by other branches.

The Supreme Court ultimately decides whether a law or activity of any of the three branches of government complies with the Constitution. The Court ultimately decides on constitutionality. The independence of the third branch is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic.

American colonists complained about the mandate to house soldiers

Amendment III of the U.S. Constitution restricts the “quartering” of soldiers in people’s homes without the owner’s consent. This applies in peacetime. Congress can prescribe by law how soldiers may be quartered in wartime.

The Third Amendment says 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 such manner as the law shall direct.”

The British Parliament once passed the Quartering Acts. American colonies had to pay the costs of British soldiers serving in the colonies. If the barracks did not have sufficient room or space, the colonists had to house their troops in livery stables, inns, and similar places. The Quartering Act of 1774 required colonists to house soldiers where necessary, including private homes.

This mandate of billeting soldiers was one of many grievances allegedly perpetrated by the King of Great Britain. As stated in the Declaration of Independence of 1776, these alleged violations were intolerable.

The Third Amendment may seem minimal today, but it is not

The Third Amendment has minimal significance in modern times. Nevertheless, it clearly has implications and must be viewed historically. Arguably, few, if any, Supreme Court decisions specifically address this issue.

It is argued that this amendment is at the forefront of an individual’s right to domestic privacy. The people are protected from government intrusion into their homes and places in times of peace and war, subject to certain conditions.

Please note that these are arguments and not court decisions. The billeting of soldiers was a complaint or complaint by colonists that underlay our Declaration of Independence against Great Britain. It was a matter of great importance to colonists in 1776.

The Constitution and its amendments are of utmost importance. Our Constitution supersedes state constitutions and statutes, even federal statutes and laws. The judiciary, led by the U.S. Supreme Court, is the independent branch of our federal government. Judges decide controversies based on the rule of law. They act as checks and balances in case of abuse of power by any of the branches, either through action or action. They interpret what our Constitution says. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of a case or controversy is final, as it should be.

We will continue our study of the Fourth Amendment. Constitutional research does time well spent. Interpretations are those of the author. We always encourage comments from readers.

Paul G. Summers, an attorney, is a former appellate and senior judge, district attorney general and attorney general of Tennessee. Judge Summers grew up in Fayette County and lives in Nashville and Holladay.