This book is the first full account in more than 20 years of two significant, but relatively understudied, laws passed during the Civil War. The Confiscation Acts (1861–62) were designed to sanction slave holding states by authorizing the Federal Government to seize rebel properties (including land and other assets held in Northern and border states) and grant freedom to slaves who fought with or worked for the Confederate military. Abraham Lincoln objected to the Acts for fear they might push border states, particularly Missouri and Kentucky, into secession. The Acts were eventually rendered moot by the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment. John Syrett examines the political contexts of the Acts, especially the debates in Congress, and demonstrates how the failure of the confiscation acts during the war presaged the political and structural shortcomings of Reconstruction after the war.
Syrett's used of archival and other sources allows him to give a very complete account of the political climate that surrounded the passage of the Confiscation Acts as well as military confiscation and enforcement of the acts by the courts. His discussion contains new insights into Northern thinking about winning the war, how the Union should be restored, and what course should be taken in reconstructing the South.
—Civil War History
The Civil War Confiscation Acts scrutinizes the political context of these controversial laws, the debate about them, and how their ultimate failure heralded the problems and shortcomings that would afflict the Reconstruction after the war. Highly recommended. . .
—The Midwest Book Review