Congress and Confiscation

The following men were key figures in the development of congressional confiscation policy, which emerged during the 37th Congress (1861-63) as the initial way that Republicans on Capitol Hill had hoped to emancipate slaves.  The First Confiscation Act (August 6, 1861) allowed Union army officials to seize slaves employed by the Confederate army.  The Second Confiscation Act (July 17, 1862) authorized the army to treat any slaves owned by Confederates as “captives of war” and specifically declared them to be “forever free” as punishment for treason.  President Lincoln signed both acts but decided by autumn 1862 that he had to take over emancipation policy using his authority as Commander in Chief.


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