Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Confiscation of Rebel Property

So little has been said upon this subject of late by the papers, and the action of Congress seem to be so decisive in favor of adopting a measure for the relief of the over-taxed citizens of the North, by calling upon those in rebellion at the South to assist, nolens volens, in defraying the expenses of the war, that we were quite surprised to see our cotemporary of the Democrat come out in his issue of Saturday, and oppose the passage of such an act.  Our neighbor is entitled to his opinion, though he come out flat-footed in favor of the North meekly bearing the entire expense of the rebellion; but he will find very few persons, even among those for whom he is in the habit of catering, who will agree with him in that particular.

The Democrat opposes the passage of a confiscation act, because it thinks it may conflict with the constitution.  If such an act be passed, it will no doubt be so worded as not to conflict with the constitution, so that the tender consciences of those who would feign have the people believe they are the specially appointed guardians of that instrument,  may not be wounded.  It is a plain and every day principle in common law, that where a party commits a trespass or inflicts an injury, he shall not only repair the damages but pay the costs of suit.  We believe with Ben. Wade, the noble Senator from Ohio, when he said, that as no jurist has undertaken to define the limits to which a man might go in the defence of his life when assailed, so no statesman would undertake to limit the powers which the Government might use to preserve its life when assailed by traitors.”  This proposition challenges contradiction.  The constitution is not only threatened but is assaulted.  Shall those who would destroy the constitution use that instrument to effect their object?  That’s the question, and here the law of self-preservation comes in to upset the casuistain of theorists and lawyers.

But the subject of confiscation is not one for debate just now, as newspaper discussion cannot affect the result, and that result is bound to be the passage of an act confiscating the property of rebels.  If Congress do not pass such law, the President, as the constitution fully empowers him, will issue a proclamation declaring all the property of men in arms against the Government confiscate after a certain day.  In the meantime, our loyal Generals are freeing the rebels’ slaves – which, after all, is the secret of the “constitutional” cry against confiscation, uttered by the pro-slavery press – as witness the following sweeping order, said to have been recently issued by Gen. Hunter, of the Military Department of the South.  We doubt very much, if true, whether the order will be permitted to stand; nevertheless it strikes at the very heart of the rebellion, and it is only by the adoption of such stringent measures that the rebels will be brought to their senses:

HILTON HEAD, May 9th, 1862.

GENERAL ORDER NO. 10 – The three States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, comprising the Military Department of the South, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of America, and having taken up arms against the United States, it became a military necessity to declare martial law.  This was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862.  Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible.  The persons in these three States – Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina – heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Monday Morning, May 19, 1862, p. 2

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