The First Confiscation Act, passed in August 1861, enabled court proceedings for the seizure of any Confederate property falling under Union control. This property would encompass slaves, but the Act did not specify that the slaves would then be freed, rather, they remained property, but in the custody of the federal government. Actual test cases began to occur: the Union General David Hunter actually issued an order freeing all slaves in areas under his command, only for it to be countermanded by President Lincoln. The Second Confiscation Act, passed on 11 July 1862, set out to clarify policy, but produced bitter divisions. Radical Republicans sought the confiscation of all rebel property; moderates, including Lincoln himself, saw this as a violation of the Constitution, with great potential for abuse. The eventual Act compromised, but provide for court proceedings for the seizure of property of ‘disloyal citizens’ and the emancipation of slaves that came under Union control.
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