During the Civil War, both the Union Congress and the Confederate Congress introduced sweeping confiscation programs designed to seize the private property of enemy citizens on a massive scale. In August 1861, the Union Congress quickly passed the First Confiscation Act authorizing the federal government to seize the property of those participating directly in the rebellion. The Confederate Congress retaliated by passing the Sequestration Act. In July 1862, the U.S. Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act. After the war, the power of the legislature to confiscate was hacked away by the Supreme Court. By 1870, confiscation had lost its status as a foundational component of sovereignty and was fast moving to the margins of legitimate political and legal argument. Union confiscation and Confederate sequestration belong within the context of landmark debates in the United States over property. Together, they represent a significant moment in the transformation of property ideology in the nineteenth century, and in the constitutional understanding of individual property rights.
Keywords: Civil War, property rights, United States, private property, sovereignty, confiscation, Congress, sequestration, property ideology