Monday, October 17, 2011

Quartering: A Forbidden M&M in the Bowl of Rights

My most recent paper, “Property” in the Constitution: The View from the Third Amendment, 20 William & Mary Bill of Rights J. __ (2012) (forthcoming), explains how one of the most obscure provisions in the Constitution can help to clarify one of its most important terms. I may have more to say about that more general point later. Here, I want to highlight a connection between the 3rd Amendment’s restrictions on the quartering of troops in private homes and the rock band famous for such hits as Running with the Devil, Panama, and Jump.

In the grand struggle to protect individual rights against government trespass, the Third Amendment plays a role akin to the provision, in Van Halen’s standard performance contract, requiring a bowl of M&Ms in band’s hospitality room with all the brown ones removed. Though sometimes touted as an example of rock star excess, the clause in fact served to test whether the band’s contractual partner, providing the concert venue, had read the terms of their agreement. Finding brown M&Ms backstage warned Van Halen to look out for more serious breaches, such as in the contract’s provisions on wiring, security, and ticketing.

Quartering serves as a forbidden M&M in the Constitution’s bowl of rights and violations of the Third Amendment signal more serious problems. Consider that the Third Amendment saw violation during the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, a 1979 New York prison guard strike, and Hurricane Katrina. Consider, and worry.

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