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confiscation acts of 1861 and 1862

The act of August 6, 1861 and the act of July 17, 1862. Made in exercise of the war powers of the Government. The right to make such laws exists alike in civil and foreign war. Congress determines what property shall be taken. Miller v. United States, . The proceedings are justified as an exercise of belligerent rights against a public enemy, and are not a punishment for treason. Hence, the pardon of an act of treason will not restore rights of property previously condemned. Semmes v. United States, 91 U.S. 27 (1875). The act of 1862, as explained by a resolution of the same date, provided that forfeiture of realty should not extend beyond the life of the offender. Passing this act was an exercise of war powers, not a criminal proceeding. Bigelow v. Forrest, . It's design was to strengthen the Government and to enfeeble the enemy by taking from the adherents of that enemy the power to use their property in aid of the hostile cause. It provided for the seizue and condemnation of the life-estate, with the fee left in the heirs. Wallach v. Van Riswich, 92 U.S. 207 (1875). The act of 1861 made property a lawful subject of capture and prize. The objkect of the act of 1862 was to confiscate the property of traitors by way of punishment for countenancing the rebellion. Kirk v. Lynd, 106 U.S. 319 (1882). The act of 1862, generally known as the Confiscation Act, and the joint resolution of the same day explanatory thereof, must be considered together. In a sale of property thereunder, all that could be sold was a right to the property seized, terminating with the life of the offender. Such sale does not effect the rights of a mortgagee in favor of a third person. The property goes to the Government or to the purchaser cum onere.

Source : William C. Anderson, A Dictionary of Law (1893)

Language : English


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