|The First Confiscation Act
U.S. Statutes at Large
|The First Confiscation Act
CHAP. LX.â€“An Act to confiscate Property used for Insurrectionary Purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress
assembled, That if, during the present or any future insurrection against the Government of the United
States, after the President of the United States shall have declared, by proclamation, that the laws of the
United States are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, by combinations too powerful to be
suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the power vested in the marshals by
law, any person or persons, his, her, or their agent, attorney, or employÃ©, shall purchase or acquire,
sell or give, any property of whatsoever kind or description, with intent to use or employ the same, or
suffer the same to be used or employed, in aiding, abetting, or promoting such insurrection or resistance
to the laws, or any person or persons engaged therein; or if any person or persons, being the owner or
owners of any such property, shall knowingly use or employ, or consent to the use or employment of the
same as aforesaid, all such property is hereby declared to be lawful subject of prize and capture
wherever found; and it shall be the duty of the President of the United States to cause the same to be
seized, confiscated, and condemned.
SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That such prizes and capture shall be condemned in the district or
circuit court of the United States having jurisdiction of the amount, or in admiralty in any district in which
the same may be seized, or into which they may be taken and proceedings first instituted.
SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That the Attorney-General, or any district attorney of the United
States in which said property may at the time be, may institute the proceedings of condemnation, and in
such case they shall be wholly for the benefit of the United States; or any person may file an information
with such attorney, in which case the proceedings shall be for the use of such informer and the United
States in equal parts.
SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That whenever hereafter, during the present insurrection against the
Government of the United States, any person claimed to be held to labor or service under the law of any
State, shall be required or permitted by the person to whom such labor or service is claimed to be due,
or by the lawful agent of such person, to take up arms against the United States, or shall be required or
permitted by the person to whom such labor or service is claimed to be due, or his lawful agent, to work
or to be employed in or upon any fort, navy yard, dock, armory, ship, entrenchment, or in any military or
naval service whatsoever, against the Government and lawful authority of the United States, then, and in
every such case, the person to whom such labor or service is claimed to be due shall forfeit his claim to
such labor, any law of the State or of the United States to the contrary notwithstanding. And whenever
thereafter the person claiming such labor or service shall seek to enforce his claim, it shall be a full and
sufficient answer to such claim that the person whose service or labor is claimed had been employed in
hostile service against the Government of the United States, contrary to the provisions of this act.
APPROVED, August 6, 1861.
U.S., Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States of America, vol. 12
(Boston, 1863), p. 319.
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Basically this statute frees any slave required to work for the Confederates on any fort, etc. They become
in Butler's terms contraband of war.