|Colonial Minutemen stand ready on Lexington Common for British redcoats ~ Painting by Don Troiani|
When was the last time you actually pulled out a copy of the Constitution of the United States and read the first 10 amendments to it, commonly called the Bill of Rights? Or, for that matter, just pulled it up on your computer screen or smartphone and read each and every amendment?
I thought so. Me either.
I was perusing the Bill of Rights for a previous column on the First Amendment, and couldn’t help but notice there is one tucked neatly inside the first 10, right after the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms, and before the Fourth, which is supposed to keep the government from unlawful search and seizure of property.
The Third Amendment to the Constitution is one we likely will never use or hear of, but it was placed rather highly among the Bill of Rights for a reason, and it must have been more than just a passing fancy for our Founding Fathers and American colonists.
“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.”
That’s what it says, and it seems odd to us today it would be in our basic rights as citizens to say such, and so boldly and in terse words.
In 1775, both pre and post, British soldiers — soldiers from a foreign country, albeit England as our mother country — were quartered amongst the population of America.
And boy, did it rankle our forefathers.
In researching the amendment, I found that the roots come to us directly from England, and became a contradictory wedge that eventually helped bring about the American Revolution and our split with England.
The British people, from whom the 13 Colonies sprang, saw standing armies as anathema, from having had a long history of standing armies throughout the history of Great Britain.
In the days prior to 1775 and the outbreak of revolution here in America, the British people both feared and loathed a standing army.
And from the National Constitution Center comes this explanation for that feeling transferring to America:
“During the Seven Years War between Britain and France, which also was called the French and Indian War, American colonists who had inherited the traditional English fear of standing armies resented having to billet British redcoats. Americans preferred to rely for their protection on local militia, not on professional soldiers.
Although the peace treaty of 1763 ended the war and ousted France from the North American continent, the British government believed it still needed tens of thousands of soldiers in America in order to police the newly acquired territories. Since the earlier English Quartering Act did not extend to the colonies, Parliament in 1765 passed a Quartering Act that set down the regulations for housing soldiers in the American colonies during time of peace.”
The colonists, most who had either come directly to America from the British Isles, or who were descended from British citizens, were required to provide barracks for the soldiers, and if they were not available, the troops were to be billeted in inns, stables and ale houses.
And, if these were insufficient, the governors and councils of the colonies were authorized to use uninhabited houses, barns and other buildings to lodge the soldiers.
And it went even further, saying the colonists were required to furnish provisions and necessaries for the troops, including firewood, bedding and beer.
OK, now you can see where this all was headed.
Once again, British Parliament was making American colonists do something that was not allowed in England — the billeting of soldiers in times of peace.
Today, we have a strong central government that more than has the resources to house, train and maintain our vast armed forces.
I mean, right here in Garfield County, the federal government maintains an Air Force training base that nestles along the southern border of Enid’s city limits, and has peacefully co-existed with Garfield Countians since its inception 75 years ago.
But take your mind back to 1775.
Because the French and Indian War had cost the British government an enormous debt having to raise, supply and fund an army on foreign soil (yes America was foreign soil back in 1775 to England), they expected the colonists to shoulder some of the financial burden.
Just a few of the acts of taxation on the colonies included the Sugar Act, Stamp Act and Townshend Acts — highly unpopular taxation.
So, when the Quartering Act was passed, it heaped one more perceived injustice on colonists — who had no say in the matter and no representation in Parliament.
And, in 1775, the Shot Heard Round the World at Lexington Common and Concord Green gave us revolution — and the Third Amendment.
Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle.