Redford, MI asked in Gov & Administrative Law, Consumer Law, Business Law and Constitutional Law for Michigan

Q: How can the government claim ownership of confederate gold when it was abandoned or intentionaly hidden by confederacy

If the president of the Confederate Treasure left the gold intentionally would that not legally invoke the finders keepers laws? Who initially owned the confederate gold?

2 Lawyer Answers
Thomas. R. Morris
Thomas. R. Morris
Answered
  • Dexter, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: The federal Confiscation Act of 1862 would apply to gold owned by the Confederate States of America (which the Act did not recognize as an entity), with the result that the United States would own the gold. This is a hypothetical question because the CSA government probably held no gold at the time of its defeat in 1865. You have not provided sufficient facts for me to be able to analyze this as a legal issue.

Michael Zamzow
PREMIUM
Michael Zamzow
Answered
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Setting aside statutes from 150 years ago (that are still enforceable today) for a moment. You could also think about it in practical terms, there is no "finders keepers" law. The concept, rather, if the true owner of the property either "lost or mislaid" the property, legal title to the property has never be divested. On the other hand, abandoned property does trigger a relinquishment of title (although there may be obligations that continue associated with ownership prior to abandonment).

Gold, is not something that is abandoned. It is lost or mislaid. Gold that is buried, is mislaid. Gold that is on the surface, is probably lost.

Generally, the finder of lost property merely has physical control of the property and an intention to assume dominion over the object. But, in a battle between the finder and the true owner, the finder will lose (what happens when someone buys the lost property from the finder, it depends).

Generally, the finder of mislaid property does not acquire the right to possession. Essentially the finder has a duty to return the property to its owner, otherwise they may be guilty of larceny and they may be held liable in tort for conversion.

Treasury trove on the other hand depends on the state, but most states, including Michigan view treasure trove the same as lost property (i.e. trespass matters).

Clearing title to these types of items is a tricky matter, and efforts to find the true owner should be documented diligently and objectively 'reasonable'.

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