Confiscation Acts

Confiscation Acts

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The Confiscation Acts were laws passed by the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Congress during the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 with the intention of freeing the slaves still held by the Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 forces in the South.

The First Confiscation Act of 1861 authorized the confiscation of any Confederate property by Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 forces ("property" included slaves). This meant that all slaves that fought or worked for the Confederate military were freed whenever they were "confiscated" by Union troops. The bill passed in the House
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 60-48 and in the Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 24-11. The act was signed into law by President Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 on August 6, 1861.
The Second Confiscation Act was passed on July 17, 1862. It stated that any Confederate official, military or civilian, who did not surrender within 60 days of the act's passage would have their slaves freed. However, this act was only applicable to Confederate areas that had already been occupied by the Union Army. All slaves that took refuge in Union areas were "captives of war" and would be set free.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln opposed these acts, believing that they would push the border states
Border states (Civil War)
In the context of the American Civil War, the border states were slave states that did not declare their secession from the United States before April 1861...

 towards siding with the Confederacy, he nonetheless signed them to make them law. The growing movement towards emancipation was aided by these acts, which eventually led to the Emancipation Proclamation
Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation is an executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War using his war powers. It proclaimed the freedom of 3.1 million of the nation's 4 million slaves, and immediately freed 50,000 of them, with nearly...

 in 1863.