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Doc. 109. rebel Sequestration act. Judge Magrath's opinion.

In the Confederate Court, at Charleston, S. C., the following proceedings were had on the 24th of October:

Judge Magrath delivered the opinion of the Court with regard to the questions raised by Messrs. J. L. Pettigru, Nelson Mitchell, and Wm. Whaley, Esqrs., as to the constitutionality of the Sequestration Act.

The Judge, before giving his opinion, in some preliminary remarks, alluded to the great ability with which the questions raised had been discussed, and said that in the decision he was about to render he had been assisted by the labor and impressed by the zeal which had been [244] exhibited in the arguments. While he entertained no doubt that he had reached a conclusion altogether reconcilable with and supported by authority and reason, it was competent for the parties to refer to another tribunal the correctness of this decision.

The Judge then proceeded with his opinion, which was listened to with the closest attention. The main point decided in the case was that the Sequestration Act was the constitutional exercise by Congress of the power given to it under the Constitution of the Confederate States to declare war and to make rules concerning captures on land or water. The power to confiscate, or otherwise deal with the property of enemies, within the territories of the belligerents, in time of war, belongs to every nation; and that power, in these Confederate States, was given to the Confederate States under that portion of the Constitution which gave it the power to regulate captures. In this general power of confiscation, debts are not to be excluded, but are to be regarded as another species of property.. There was no foundation for the argument that the power to confiscate in time of war was in the States and not in the Confederate States.

The exercise of that power in the States--if it could be supposed to be there — would be so controlled by the treaty-making power, and other powers which belong to the Congress of the Confederate States, that its exercise by the States would be subject to control, and, perhaps, prohibition, as would be inconsistent with the idea of the sovereign power of the State or nation.

The Sequestration Act operates directly upon the property mentioned in the first section of that act. By the terms of the act the sequestration of all such property was complete, and such property by that Act of Sequestration becomes as absolutely and lawfully the property of the Confederate States as if the title to it had passed from its former owner for a valuable consideration.

The duties, therefore, which the act declares to affect the citizens of the Confederate States in relation to such property, were duties in relation to property which belongs to the Confederate States, and could not be considered as duties which at all existed in connection with the property in which alien enemies had any interest remaining. By the operation of that act the interest of such alien enemies had become completely extinguished, and their title instantly divested. The proceedings which were contemplated by that act were proceedings contemplated for the purpose of enabling the Government to recover the possession of that to which it had thus established a perfect right of property.

The demurrers, therefore, in all the cases were overruled.

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