ADMINISTRATION OF THE SEQUESTRATION ACT IN
THE CONFEDERATE DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS, 1862-1865
T. R. HAVINs
The seizure of property in time of war by belligerent powers
is a common practice. It is usually justified on the grounds of
public safety. During the late Civil War in this country both
governments passed confiscation laws. The United States jus-
tified its statute on the plea of public necessity, maintaining that
the measure was for the purpose of preserving the integrity of
the Union. In addition, the Federal leaders desired to make
"the rebels" pay the expense of the war, thus to them the measure
was also punitive in its nature. The Confederate Government
made no such claims for its Confiscation Act. The Confederate
statute was altogether different from any other act, anticipating
similar results, passed by a law-making body in this country.
It was for this reason that the act was unique, and its adminis-
tration an interesting departure in American jurisprudence.
Sequestration in its broadest sense is defined as "the sep-
aration or removal of property from a person in possession thereof
in order that property or proceeds thereof may be dealt with in
Court or as other competent authority may direct." If sequestra-
tion is used in time of war, international law recognizes it as
"the seizure of the property to the use of the government."' Since
the Confederate law was a war measure and did not conform to
the definition of sequestration under international law, it is, there-
fore, the more unusual. In the first place the law was a retaliatory
measure, and secondly, property seized under it was held by the
government for the benefit of certain individual Confederate
citizens and not for the general government.2
SOUTHERN DEMAND FOR THE LAW
Southern leaders in midsummer 1861 agreed that the need
for such a law had become necessary as the result of a series of
1Corpus Juris, LVIII, 182.
2The War of the Rebellion, A compilation of the Official Records of the
Union and Confederate Armies, Fourth Series, I, 586, Washington, 1895.
Hereafter cited as Official Records.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 43, July 1939 - April, 1940. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101111/. Accessed May 26, 2015.