The Limits of Sovereignty: Property Confiscation in the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War

By Daniel W. Hamilton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
The Confederate Sequestration Act

On October 11, 1861, the Richmond Enquirer reported that a Confederate court had confiscated Monticello. Weeks before, the Confederate Congress had passed the Sequestration Act, authorizing the seizure of Northern property in direct retaliation for the First Confiscation Act. A captain in the U.S. Navy, Uriah P. Levy of Pennsylvania, owned Thomas Jefferson's former estate. Two Virginians, George Carr and Joel Wheeler of Charlottesville, managed Monticello as Levy's agents. As a U.S. citizen, Levy had been designated an “alien enemy.” Consequently, under the terms of the act, all of his property located within the borders of the Confederacy was subject to permanent, uncompensated seizure and sale for the benefit of Confederate citizens who had lost property to the Union.

The Confederate courts charged with administration of the law quickly seized the Monticello estate, “comprising 360 acres of land … assessed at $20 per acre,” along with “a house and other improvements assessed at $2,500.” In addition to Monticello, the courts confiscated other property Levy owned in Albemarle County, including 960 acres of land as well as “ten slaves, 8 horses, sixteen head of cattle, seventy-eight sheep, thirty hogs and a lot of household and kitchen furniture.”1 In its speed and efficiency, the confiscation of Monticello was typical. Rarely, however, did the Confederate government confiscate Northern property at so little cost to its own citizens.

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