Amendment Three – 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.
This one, at least, seems to be rather a moot point. We don’t generally have the Marines knocking on our doors looking for a billet. But this was one of the chief complaints of the colonists to the Crown back in 1776:
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world…
I have bolded the phrase and included the context in order to make it more plain why, exactly, this was a big deal to the colonists, and would be to us if it were happening now – this “pretended Legistlation” would obviously be of no import, a dead letter, if it were not enforced. To that end, the armies of King George were called in, and were not only putting punishment behind the hated Acts, but also hindering open trade via their navy, and all while shielded from accountability under the law.
The colonists rightly hated this, so much so that the United States seriously debated whether they should have a standing army at all, or merely that well-regulated Militia to call upon at need.
Further than that, however, remember the thesis that we’ve been developing so far – these Amendments are laid out as a story, building upon one another, setting a scene and then raising the stakes, leading us through complications to a resolution. You can worship as you like, say what you please, not only criticize your elected officials but also gather to protest them, to haul them before the law if need be. If they ignore this, then you have the right to defend yourself and your rights with armed force if you must.
The government, of course, while nominally respecting these rights, can render them a dead letter in much the same way George III did long ago, by having soldiers forever in amongst the people. How can you organize to speak out or defend yourselves with the state’s armed informants sitting at your dining room table and blockading your ports and roads? The witness of dissidents in communist regimes should tell you all you need to know about how that generally works out – silenced, disarmed, herded into work camps, unable from fear to reach out to anyone else, no matter how trustworthy, because you might be overheard.
So, what might a cunning and devious would-be tyrant try next?