CONFISCATION ACTS. On 6 August 1861, early in the Civil War, Congress passed the First Confiscation Act, which was designed to confiscate property used to aid the Confederacy—primarily slaves—and there by weaken the insurrection. Proposed by Senator Lyman Trumbull, a Republican from Illinois, the act reflected concern over the fugitive slaves entering Union lines, anger at a Confederate law to confiscate Northerners' debts, and a desire to punish Confederates. However, the act failed to free any slaves or confiscate much property.
Interest in a stronger confiscation measure increased by late 1861. Many in the North wanted a more vigorous attack upon the Confederacy, its leaders, and slavery. In December Trumbull proposed the Second Confiscation Act, which became law in July 1862 following lengthy debates, many compromises, and the lack of military success. This act authorized the president to confiscate and sell the property of six classes of Confederate supporters. Advocates claimed it would help finance the Union's war effort, punish the leading traitors, abolish slavery, and begin the reconstruction of the South. Opponents, including Lincoln, believed the law was too punitive. Fearing a presidential veto, Congress agreed to a resolution prohibiting the confiscation of property beyond the life of the owner. Lincoln said this prevented the law from being a bill of attainder, which is prohibited in the Constitution's first article. Many supporters believed this compromise was unwarranted and predicted that it would obstruct the distribution of confiscated property to ex-slaves and poor whites, there by preventing a real reconstruction of the South.
Lincoln and Attorney General Bates of Missouri implemented the Second Confiscation Act conservatively. It too was a complicated, difficult law to administer because prosecutions could occur only in areas secure enough for the courts to function. In the end, the Second Confiscation Act realized little revenue for the North and had very little impact upon the South, despite the fears of many. Radicals, who had lost enthusiasm for confiscation as the war progressed, bore much of the responsibility for its failure. Lincoln and Johnson also pardoned many under the act's authority, which allowed former rebels to regain their confiscated land soon after the war ended.
Belz, Herman. A New Birth of Freedom: The Republican Party and Freedmen's Rights, 1861–1866. New York: Fordham University Press, 2000.
Lucie, Patricia Allan. Freedom and Federalism: Congress and the Courts 1861–1866. New York: Garland Publishing, 1986.
Randall, James G. Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln. Revised Edition. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1964.
"Confiscation Acts." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 17, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/confiscation-acts
"Confiscation Acts." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved January 17, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/confiscation-acts
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.