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The Civil War Confiscation ActsFailing to Reconstruct the South$
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John Syrett

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780823224890

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823224890.001.0001

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Confiscation and the Courts: Jurisdiction and Procedures

Confiscation and the Courts: Jurisdiction and Procedures

(p.155) 10 Confiscation and the Courts: Jurisdiction and Procedures
The Civil War Confiscation Acts

John Syrett

Fordham University Press

The Supreme Court liberally interpreted the First and Second Confiscation Acts. It granted Congress the benefit of the doubt on jurisdictional and procedural questions and accepted the constitutional argument for confiscation, thereby permitting the acts as broad a scope as their advocates could have desired. These interpretations failed to increase the effectiveness of the two acts, since all but a few were decided after President Andrew Johnson and Attorney General James Speed had ceased enforcing the acts. The court concluded that Congress intended “prize and capture” to have the same meaning as “seizure” in the Second Confiscation Act, demonstrating its willingness to accept the broad aims of both acts. The courts permitted a wide jurisdiction for in rem proceedings against all types of property seized and, for the most part, generously interpreted Congress's intent even when its language had not been clear or appropriate to the task.

Keywords:   Confiscation Acts, Congress, Andrew Johnson, Attorney General James Speed, prize and capture, seizure, in rem proceedings

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