The Constitution of the United States – Part 7
“If there are to be limits to the reach of the burgeoning administrative state, they will be political limits imposed by the people in the ordinary course of partisan politics. The advent of the administrative state poses the greatest challenge to limited government, because it elevates the welfare of the community – whether real or imagined – over the rights and liberties of individuals. The task today is to confine the federal government to its delegated powers.” (Edward Erler, Imprimis, Vol. 40, No. 9 –Hillsdale College)
The Third Amendment
No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war except in a manner prescribed by law.
This amendment, introduced by James Madison, was important to the Founders because of the callous way the British troops would confiscate and trash personal residences during the Revolutionary war through Britain’s Quartering Acts. They would pick the nicest house around, throw the owners out, and proceed to use and abuse anything they found on the premises. Remember that during this time, food was hard to come by, horses even harder and the British would take the best of both. Often when they were moving on, they’d burn the house and barn to the ground to prevent the Americans from using any of the resources like food or hay – or from sharing any of it with the Patriots. That left the homeowner with nothing – no place to live, no clothes to wear, no precious heirlooms saved over generations, no treasure to rebuild from. Hence, the Founders hastened to write an amendment to protect their property and homes from the military.
This complaint to King George was among the issues listed in the Declaration of Independence as homeowners were required at the time to provide the enemy troops with fire, candles, vinegar and salt, bedding, utensils, etc. without ever receiving any kind of payment for anything used. This had been a common element of war in Europe and quartering of troops there was considered worse than a plague, because the soldiers were notorious for ravishing the women, destroying the furniture and abusing the owners. Then they often would destroy or take the crops when they departed to keep them out of the hands of the other side, which left the homeowners destitute. (The Making of America by W. Cleon Skousen)
Americans continued to house American troops through the Civil War, but it was a voluntary choice. This Amendment has not come into play in many decades, but it’s there to protect our privacy and our right to our own personal effects.
This Amendment has been the least litigated amendment in the Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court has never heard a case regarding it, but it is the only part of the Constitution that deals directly with the relationship between the rights of individuals and the military – both in peace and in war.
The Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable search and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and persons or things to be seized..
This piggybacks on the Third Amendment, so you can see how indignant the Founders were about the whole issue and get a sense of the damage done by haughty British troops.
Unfortunately, we can all see the invasive disregard for this amendment as our government takes broader and broader liberties through agencies such as the IRS, OSHA, etc. as they look for tax revenues or safety violations. The collection of direct taxes – through invasion of homes, businesses and bank accounts – is impossible without virtually wiping out the guarantees set forth in the Fourth Amendment.
There have been many recent cases where one of the alphabet-agencies of the Federal government, particularly the BLM, USFS, etc., have confiscated ranches, homes, water rights. mining and other income-generating enterprises with no legal basis to do so, so this one will be coming to a head in the near future if Patriots stand up and stand together, but first we have to understand the enumerated rights we have through our Constitution.
Again, you can see how important protecting individual rights were to the Founders. The entire Constitution’s focus is in controlling the power of the federal government and protecting the rights and freedoms of each American individual. Remember that they came from an environment where the Crown used offensive devices like writs of assistance which were general warrants allowing fishing expeditions to discover evidence against a person or business.
The biggest challenge and battle ahead for the Fourth Amendment is how to protect individual rights and privacy in the age of the Internet and computers. What limits does the Fourth Amendment impose on the government getting access to your personal information through Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Google, etc. How do you see this playing out? What about the NSA which monitors your phone conversations and emails? Isn’t that a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights?
Ahh~the famous Fifth Amendment!
No person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself . . No person shall be subject to double jeopardy for the same offense . . . No person shall be required to answer to a capital crime unless charges have been formally stated resulting in an indictment by a grand jury (the only exception is in the case of a military court-martial) . . . . . No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
This Amendment continues the common theme which was critically important to the Founders based on their knowledge of history and their current encounters with the British – it’s all about the protection of the individual and personal property, folks.
All of these provisions protect the accused from reckless accusations by someone intent on damaging a reputation or freely confiscating personal property. It forces the “letter of the law” to screen the facts and compel prosecutors to pinpoint the charges against an individual and demonstrate that there is sufficient evidence to move forward with a warrant and court proceeding.