Confiscation Acts

The Confiscation Acts were laws passed by the United States Congress during the Civil War with the intention of freeing the slaves still held by the Confederate forces in the South.

The First Confiscation Act of 1861 authorized the confiscation of any Confederate property by Union forces ("property" included slaves). This meant that all slaves that fought or worked for the Confederate military were confiscated whenever court proceedings "condemned" them as property used to support the rebellion. The bill passed in the United States House of Representatives 60-48 and in the Senate 24-11. The act was signed into law by President Lincoln on August 6, 1861.

The Second Confiscation Act was passed on July 17, 1862. It stated that any Confederate official, military or civilian, who did not surrender within 60 days of the act's passage would have their slaves freed in criminal proceedings. However, this act was only applicable to Confederate areas that had already been occupied by the Union Army.

Though U.S. President Abraham Lincoln opposed these acts, believing that they would push the border states towards siding with the Confederacy, he nonetheless signed them to make them law. The growing movement towards emancipation was aided by these acts, which eventually led to the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

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