The Limits of SovereigntyProperty Confiscation in the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War

The Limits of SovereigntyProperty Confiscation in the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War

Daniel W. Hamilton

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226314822

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Americans take for granted that government does not have the right to permanently seize private property without just compensation. Yet for much of American history, such a view constituted the weaker side of an ongoing argument about government sovereignty and individual rights. What brought about this drastic shift in legal and political thought? This book locates that change in the crucible of the Civil War. In the early days of the war, Congress passed the First and Second Confiscation Acts, authorizing the Union to seize private property in the rebellious states of the Confederacy, and the Confederate Congress responded with the broader Sequestration Act. The competing acts fueled a fierce, sustained debate among legislators and lawyers about the principles underlying alternative ideas of private property and state power, one that by 1870 was increasingly dominated by today's view of more limited government power.