Talk:Treason

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Style dispute[edit]

An anonymous user does not approve of the English usage of singular noun + third person singular plural as a stylistic device (amongst other things as a gender neutral). This is an old and accepted usage. Not everyone likes it, but the Manual of Style is quite clear that an editor should not change the style of an article if its simply a matter of personal choice. Someone else (or other people) put together a coherent whole, it is both bad form and probably bad style, to mess with it. Please discuss here (anonymous user) if you have anything sensible to say on the issue. Just because you don't like the usage, doesn't make it wrong.

Incidentally, I don't think I wrote it - I'm just defending what's there. Francis Davey 19:24, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

By the way, you might want to look at the singular they article. It was good enough for Shakespeare, Thackeray and Jane Austin, so its good enough for me. Francis Davey 19:30, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

I don't know how much weight we should put on an argument about grammar that is not punctuated properly. Just pointing it out; no personal offence intended. Athanatis 13:39, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

POV edits concerning the civil war+[edit]

I guess who has a highly POV is open to debate.

The truth ought to be a reasonable defense.

One source for the point that the reason there were not trials for the traitors from the Civil War is Abraham Lincoln's second inaugaral address, in which he stated the policy of 'malice to none, charity to all'. Of course, Lincoln did not live to see how corrupted the history of the Civil War became. In America the issue is still hotly contested, as John McCain learned in the South Carolina primary.

What has happened here, in my opinion, is that the editor below feels that the truth is not a reasonable defense, but that the encyclopedia should be a bland compromise. Diderot would have been disappointed.

I will put in a new version of the edit that seeks to accommodate to your viewpoint as much as I feel is possible consistent with the truth that I would like to see in the articles, which is that the reason Confederates were not charged with treason had to do with the politics of reconciliation not the character of the acts of those who betrayed the US constitution and government.


Actually, as far as I have ever learned, the major reason that confederates were never charged with treason is because there was serious doubts among northern prosecutors that indictments for treason could be upheld. There was fear in the government that the Supreme Court would rule that the leaders of the confederacy had not committed any crime in seceding from the Union.--Henrybaker 00:56, 1 November 2005 (UTC)

Question of fact: At least five people were convicted of treason in or in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War - Mumford and the Lincoln Assassins. Presumably the article is addressing why we don't have photos of Davis and Lee on the gallows, but shouldn't the article address those who were tried? Hiernonymous (talk) 06:38, 8 December 2012 (UTC)

POV edits concerning the civil war[edit]

An anonymous user has been repeatedly inserting highly POV text into the United States section. The text reads:

Of course, the reality is that all southerners who supported the Confederacy were treasonous. The failure to prosecute these cases was not made on a legal basis, but on the belief that doing so would help bind the nation together. Unfortunately this belief has proven false. Southern revisionist historians have portrayed the treasonous behavior of the Confederates as heroic and portrayed the Unionists are agressors. No Confederate State has passed a resolution apologizing for the loss of life that their treasonous behavior caused nor to the slaves that they fought to keep. The white washing of history serves no legitamate purpose except to allow people to escape responsibility for their ancestors actions and to hold a viewpoint inconsistent with history.

This is quite clearly a personal opinion and far from being neutral. For the record I am a UK citizen and don't have a particular axe to grind about N v S in the US. It may well be that treason prosecutions were not pursued for reasons of national unity -- I would like to see some references to work on the subject before I was happy with that going here. But the rest of the material is rather evaluative and really has no place in an article on Treason. Perhaps it should be taken to an article on the civil war or reconstruction and debated there? Francis Davey 09:03, 31 August 2005 (UTC)

Questions[edit]

Nice work on this!

Questions ...


  • "The punishment for treason was often extended and especially cruel."

To call a spade a spade this should actually read: "The punishment for treason was often extended and especially cruel torture.", no?

  • "There have been only two successful prosecutions for treason on the state level, that of Thomas Dorr in Rhode Island and that of John Brown in Virginia."

Can anybody add the dates for these?


While I totally agree with the Ashcroft thing and think he should be tarred and feathered, I think its a bit POV. It would be better to pick a historical case to make the point here. -Reboot


Edit the crime sidebar at Mediawiki:crime -SV(talk) 09:04, 12 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Florida and Treason[edit]

In this sentence

The state of Florida's constitution defines treason as: "[Treason is] levying war against [the state], adhering to its enemies, or giving them aid and comfort..."

Is there any particular reason Florida was chosen? The U.S. Constitution defines treason and would seem more appropriate. States don't ordinarily try people for treason. -- Cecropia 05:46, 6 May 2004 (UTC)

Brutus as a traitor[edit]

Brutus betrayed Caesar, but not the Roman Republic. Actually he purported to protect Rome from Caesar's ambitions to become its sole ruler. This makes it dubious whether Brutus (and hence Cassius also) were true traitors, as they believed (with some right) that Caesar was an ursurper. And although they may have faced treason charges (or the outrage of the population), which made them flee Rome, I wouldn't call them traitors. Dante placed Brutus in the lowest circles of Hell, but Shakespeare portrayed him as a hero.

Although Brutus is still an assassin... But this is factual, while treason is more subjective.

I also find it quite comical that Caesar is named now as a traitor as well. The traitor betrayed. And although crossing the Rubicon amounted to treason, he was never convicted for it. I must conclude thah treason has a strong political stench to it, but I'm not sure that although formally maybe someone has comitted treason, either an upheld conviction or historic infamy (however subjective judgment may be in both cases) should be needed to put someone in these lists as a traitor, as I do agree with Dante that it is one of the worst crimes man can commit. But of course, that is subjective as well ;)

-On a related note, I somehow doubt that Lucifer was a historical figure. I'm removing it from the list. [Thucydides]

Regardless of your interpretation of Brutus's motives, the crime that he committed was the equivalent of regicide, which is in all cases considered treason. Firestorm 01:10, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

List is haphazard at best[edit]

The article seems to justify not listing leaders of the Confederacy, the most organized armed rebellion in U.S. history, as traitors because charges were never brought. Are we to only list people who were convicted of treason? In that case Benedict Arnold should not be listed - he fled to Britain. Judas Iscariot, moreover, was never convicted of treason, indeed would have been considered heroicly loyal by the Romans, the regime in power at that time.
We should also, if we're just listing people convicted of treason, expand the list to political dissidents of such regimes as the Soviet Union, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and any number of other historical and current dictatorial regimes.
So clearly we are not listing just those convicted of treason - so why exclude Confederates?
Then again, if we're listing people whom we only believe to be traitors, why not expand the list greatly and let people make their own decisions by reading the individual's biography? If we expand the list of traitors to popular belief in their era (an important note), then we might place George Washington on the list of UK traitors, for example.
In short, this list is clearly Western (even U.S.) biased, has no clear pattern as to why or where people are listed, and incomplete at best. We should either drop it entirely, or set up guidelines and expand it greatly.
--Xinoph 17:03, Sep 7, 2004 (UTC)

It is seven years later, I know, but I will take the opportunity to voice my continued amazement that the likes of Jeff Davis and Alexander Stephens (among many others) managed to escape the hangman's noose. I certainly realize the impracticality of trying every Confederate, but the ringleaders should have swung. Thus I agree that participants in America's greatest flowering of mass treason should be included.--172.190.1.3 (talk) 20:16, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Thomas More a traitor?[edit]

You could say many things about Thomas More, but how is he classified as a traitor? --Penta 22:18, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)

This flows back to my point above.--Xinoph 17:51, Nov 16, 2004 (UTC)

More was convicted of treason and executed for refusing to recognise Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England. Richard75 02:56, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

More was convicted of not agreeing to abide by some protestant act that Henry had proposed and passed. He was a martyr, not a traitor.
70.69.50.77 04:41, 13 May 2007 (UTC)
That's just your point of view. The penalty for complying with "some Protestant act" was execution for treason. A person can be both a traitor and a martyr at the same time, and More was convicted of treason and later canonised as a martyr by the Catholic Church. Richard75 14:04, 13 May 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but he was tried and convicted under the hand of the leader of the church that today recognizes him as a saint. Obviously the Anglican church wouldn't look at him as a traitor today, even though Henry VIII might have 500 years ago. Being a traitor back then wasn't quite the same as being one now, or else we should try and convict Jane Fonda for being a traitor for what she did during the Vietnam War.
70.69.50.77 23:21, 15 May 2007 (UTC)
Firstly, the Anglican and Catholic churches are entirely different churches. Secondly, and more importantly, unless and until More is posthumously pardoned, his conviciton still remains 500 years later. Whether you, or eitehr church, or the British public or anyone else regards him as a traitor in their opinion is utterly irrelevant. Someone convicted of treason qualifies for inclusion in the article: it's not a question of what anyone thinks, but of historical fact.
Richard75 19:23, 16 May 2007 (UTC)

Are dual loyalists traitors?[edit]

Can dual loyalty be an example of treason - for example how Napoleon III failed to prevent the rise of the German Empire because he was more loyal to Italy than to France? GCarty 11:53, 7 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Divided loyalty can constitute treason, but the political decisions of a legitimate ruler are not considered treason unless they were motivated by a desire to harm his own country. Ex post facto results viewed in hindsight are not traitorous. -- Cecropia | explains it all ® 19:19, 13 May 2005 (UTC)

Reorganization[edit]

I did some reorganizing of the article, such as putting treason under Britain and the US under their own sections. I also expanded on the fact that people accuse others of treason for dissenting against government policy. I know that's a potential NPOV case. so I didn't name names here. But I think it's valid to have that in the article on treason.
JesseG 06:31, Mar 6, 2005 (UTC)

I am about to add some info from NZ. I feel that a time will come where we should have individual articles for counries and a Category:Treason by country. This will avoid clutter in the Treason article. Alan Liefting 03:34, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

List of Traitors[edit]

This list is way too subjective. It should only include those who have at least been brought to trial for treason, with a notation of whether the trial succeeded. Also, the definitions of treason in different countries and times vary. The legal definition of treason, as noted in the U.S. article, is very narrow. On the other hand, monarchies can and have deemed anyone who opposes the monarch traitors. Kings have had wives or even concubines put to death on suspicion of sleeping with someone else. How were they traitors? The King was the state (L'etat, ce moi) so betraying him personally was treason.

Certainly George Washington was a traitor in the eyes of Britain, but so was every leader of the American Revolution. How do we list Washington in particular without naming John Adams, who was much more the firebrand in believing that the interests of the colonies and the crown were unreconcilable? Why not Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, a theoretical basis of treason? Then I will turn the other way and point out that the treaty signed in 1783 that acknowledged the indepedence of the U.S. in effect absolved American leaders of treason.

Louis XVI and Marie Antionette? Oh, please. Like it or not, they were the internationally recognized rulers of France. So when you deem them and not, say, Danton and Robespierre, as traitors, you are redefining "traitor" as "loser."

After the death of Lenin, was Trotsky the traitor? Or Stalin?

I would not even list those who I reasonably believe are traitors if they were never so charged. Example: John Walker Lindh. His case pretty neatly fits the Constitutional definition of treason. But he was never charged with treason. -- Cecropia | explains it all ® 03:29, 4 May 2005 (UTC)

It has been proven many times over that history books are written by the winners, and that governments are far frome infallible, so i'd say that it would be fair to include people commonly considered to have performed acts of treason, whether they were convicted or not. Firestorm 01:15, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Lori Berenson[edit]

Situation might be interesting in the context of this article. --Daniel C. Boyer 15:31, 13 May 2005 (UTC)

Wasn't she the American woman involved in an intrigue in another country? Then no matter what she did there (unless she was acting as an agent against the US) there is no issue of treason. This article is messy enough with its charges of treason against individuals anyway. They should almost all be removed. -- Cecropia | explains it all ® 19:10, 13 May 2005 (UTC)
Yes; her conviction is highly controversial, as although she is a U.S. citizen, she was convicted of treason against Peru. Without taking a POV here, the case is certainly interesting and I think mention of it might add something to the article. --Daniel C. Boyer 19:29, 14 May 2005 (UTC)
Maybe I'm missing the fine points of other nations' laws, but unless she's a dual citizen, I don't see how she could be convicted of treason. Subversion, maybe, or being a spy, but treason? -- Cecropia | explains it all ® 23:38, 14 May 2005 (UTC)
She was working with a revolutionary party. Likewise with all the revolutionaries on the list, it is treason in the minds of the current government he/she fights. But if a revolutionary is trying to make his/her country a "better" place, it really doesn't fit treason, since in this scenario, they are not helping SOME OTHER country. Also, in my mind I make a distinction between being loyal to your country, and being loyal to the government that happens to be in control of your country at some moment.
Well most traitors believe they are trying to make their country a better place... E.g. John Walker Lindh, Guy Fawke's, Oliver Cromwell, the Muslims clerics in UK. Really the most likely reason you'll be a traitor would be if you want to make your country a better place. Even William Joyce surely had the intention of eventually making the UK a better place... Nil Einne 19:07, 22 December 2005 (UTC)
Lindh was not convicted of treason. When he joined the Taliban, the US gov was giving money to the Taliban for wiping out the opium crop. But anyway, Nothing to do with making "their" country a better place. Selling military information to the enemy-- clearly traitorous, and not trying to make their country better. Your first sentence needs rethinking. Maybe 'some' would be a better word. GangofOne 22:15, 22 December 2005 (UTC)
I'm no expert on this matter, but the article Allegiance stated that, in the UK at least, allegiance arises not only when you're the citizen of a country, but also when you're a friendly alien residing in a particular territory. Possibly Berenson was held to owe local allegiance to Peru. As I said, I don't know, I'm just stating a possibility. Athanatis 14:42, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

That's right. You can be guilty of treason even if you are not a citizen of the country, because as soon as you enter that country the government owes you a duty of protection under its laws, which carries a reciprocal duty not to attack that government or country while you are there (unless you are a member of an invading army). As for wanting to make your country a better place, motive is irrelevant in the criminal law of most (probably all) countries. It's what you do, not why you do it, that makes you guilty of treason. And no distinction is drawn between treason against a country and against the government of that country. Richard75 16:24, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

I'd be curious, Richard, to know if you have a source for the assertion that a non-citizen resident of a country can be guilty of treason against that country. Particularly in reference to the United States. Can a foreign agent residing in the U.S. be charged with treason in U.S. courts? Thanks! -Fsotrain09 22:00, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
In England a court held in 1781 (R v De la Motte) that aliens can be convicted of high treason. In modern times that rule has been upheld in 1907 (De Jager v Attorney-General of Natal). (See Archbold Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice para. 25-10.) Also William Joyce was not a British citizen and not even resident in Britain when he committed his crimes (he was originally an American who later took German citizenship), but he was still convicted of treason against the British Crown, because he used to be resident in England, and the Crown still owed him protection since he was still in possession of a British passport (even though he had obtained that passport by lying about his nationality).
Although I haven't find a source for US law which deals with this point, the US Code at 18 US 2381 makes specific reference to allegiance:
"Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason..."
America inherited its common law system from England, so in 1776 "allegiance" would have had the same meaning as it did in England at Independence, and interpretations by American courts of what it means would therefore be based on the same principles or premise. "Allegiance" does not appear to be defined by statute elsewhere in the Code. Unfortunately I can't find any federal court cases about it, and the cases mentioned above post-date Independence, so I can't give you a definite answer about the United States, but a rule similar to the English rule is possible.
Also note that Canadian law makes no mention of allegiance at all, and simply states: "every one commits high treason who, in Canada..." So as long as you are in Canada your nationality is irrelevant. While you stay there you have to obey the law, including treason law.Richard75 16:42, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, this information is very helpful! -Fsotrain09 20:23, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

The bottom line is that case were non-citizens have been convicted of treason are dubious (including Joyce). The fact that a court has made a decision is hardly the end of the matter as court can make ridiculous and contradictory decisions, particulary when political influence comes into play.--Jack Upland 07:05, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Be that as it may, the law is whatever the courts say it is. Although we can all disagree with a court's decision, that decision still remains the law of the land either until a higher court overrules it or the legislature passes an act to change the law. The Joyce case was appealed to the House of Lords, the nation's highest court of appeal, which upheld the verdict and sentence. Richard75 17:02, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Question:[edit]

Can a citizen of Country A who willingly "outsources" or sends the jobs of gainfully employed citizens to Country B, be considered a traitor to Country A? The logic being that the cumlative effect of repeatedly sending high paying jobs overseas to countries with lower paying wages, resulting in the slow erosion of that country's economy. One definition of the word treason seems to allow for such an interpretation. "citizen's actions to...make war against, or seriously injure the [parent country]" War could be interpreted as economic warfare.

I doubt economic warfare will hold up because it's not supported by any laws or precident and more importantly, the intention is not to make war against the country that is losing the jobs, but just to save costs. I.e. most likely, the reasons for the actions are to safe costs not to make war therefore there is no way treason would apply. Nil Einne 18:53, 22 December 2005 (UTC)
Econmic war is just a name for business as usual. Whether treason involves 'intent' is another question. If someone outsourch FOR THE PURPOSE of harming his country... Perhaps if you're unhappy with outsourcing, you could vote for policies and parties that oppose it. Of course an outsourcher may profit, but they produce an impoverished nation around them; hardly very desirable from even a selfish point of view. Such is the shortsightedness of the human point of view. This discussion is becoming off topic. GangofOne 00:33, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

Merge[edit]

There is significant overlap of the United Kingdom section with the High treason article. This article mainly discusses high treason after all and not petty treason. So I guess either discuss UK briefly mainly the current situation and link to the high treason article OR kill the high treason article and move it all here. Either way, I don't think the current situation is fruitful... Nil Einne 18:58, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

I concur with the above. The UK section takes up way too much space on the treason article to serve as just an example. --SpacemanAfrica 04:26, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

With regard to the above comment on petty treason, there isn't really much to say about petty treason as it was just aggravated murder, so any article about treason is bound to focus on high treason. Petty treason was not unique to the UK, they had it in the US as well until 1789. Richard75 03:00, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

I agree, treason is more expansive than just High Treason, and is not limited to one nationality. Perhaps some redundancy could be eliminated by linking between articles, but I think both articles should be included.

I have moved the bulk of the section to High treason in the United Kingdom. Richard75 16:47, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

I think the current situation is helpful, in that it briefly explains the term "high treason".--Jack Upland 06:55, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

"to overthrow the government is not treason"[edit]

It is also generally considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the government. It is objected that in countries like the United States, conspiring to overthrow the government is not treason as the Constitution states it is the duty of citizens to overthrow a corrupt or malfunctioning government."

The second sentence was disputed by User:Krich '"it is objected" by whom? source please'

I believe the editor was probably refering to http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Declaration_of_Independence , "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is in the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, ..." -- GangofOne 03:41, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

United States Code, Title 18:

Sec. 2384. Rebellion or insurrection

Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

Sec. 2384. Seditious conspiracy

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

Sec. 2390. Enlistment to serve against United States

Whoever enlists or is engaged within the United States or in any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof, with intent to serve in armed hostility against the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.


As the Declaration of Independence simply stated the fact and the reasons why the thirteen colonies would no longer consider themselves part of England, and did nothing to create the legal entity known as "United States of America", it cannot be cited as legal justification excusing acts charged as treason under U.S. Code. If the U.S. Constitution contained such verbiage, that would be a different matter entirely.
What I would like to know is if the Constitution requires all those "owing allegiance" to refrain from giving aid and comfort to the enemy, couldn't someone like Adam Gadahn simply state that he no longer owed allegiance to the country? Other folks do on occasion leave a country and give up their citizenship, and under the U.S. Constitution it seems they would get a pass on charges of treason simply by doing so. That's assuming, of course, that the U.S. Constitution would be allowed to trump U.S. Code. Comments? Ridenm 22:57, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
If you leave your country and give up citizenship then you generally no longer owe allegiance to it (although some say that you still owe allegiance if you leave your dependent family behind, as your former government would continue to protect them on your behalf -- that's an old-fashioned point of view though and might not be upheld by a court today). The exception is if in time of war you become a citizen of the enemy country, which is "adhering to the enemy." Richard75 16:08, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

A few points. First, successfully overthrowing a government is not treason--winners are, by definition, not traitors.  :)

Second, intepreting the DofI to mean that arbitrary attempts to overthrow the US government are legally tolerated, is wrong. The D of I, keep in mind, has no legal force as US law; it was a political piece justifying the removal of the British crown from the American colonies. The government to be "abolished", in this case, was seated in London. The Constitution contains no language which might be construed to permit the non-democratic overthrow of the US government. It does, however, list many mechanism for the peaceful replacement of the government, most notably this thing called "elections". Of course, some argue that the major two political parties are indistinguishable, thus true reform cannot come democratically; I rather strongly disagree with such sentiments. --EngineerScotty 17:46, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

Misc[edit]

Added dab-link to Anne Coulter's book.

Also, in that spirit; it might be useful to add content about the use of "treason" (and related epithets like "traitor", "disloyal", etc.) as a way of deriding one's political opponents (especially in the context of democratic debate, where extra-legal means of achieving a policy objective are not considered)? In US politics today; both sides of the political spectrum have their share of ideologues who routinely accuse the other side of treason. This is certainly not a phenomenon unique to 2006; or to the US. --EngineerScotty 01:07, 6 January 2006 (UTC)

Criticism[edit]

I would think there is a fair amount of critiscism of treason laws, as "victor's justice" etc. Has anyone given thought to a "criticisms" heading?24.64.223.203 22:44, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Oppenheimer[edit]

Can we clarify the wording surround Oppenheimer? It is utterly opaque, first insinuating that he's guilty, then stating that he's not, and then implying his guilt?? innocence?? is a right-wing and/or jewish plot ???? I've never even heard ot this "plot" before. (My memory of reading venona long ago was that it cleared Oppenheimer completely) 67.100.217.179 06:09, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

USA[edit]

Can we start a discussion here on whether the declaration of independence in the American colonies in 1776 constitued treason or sedition? Let us stick to an intelligent discussion, please.137.186.248.248 19:15, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

Ann Coulter[edit]

Should there perhaps be a link from this page to other references of "treason", such as to Ann Coulter's book "Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism"? PJ 15:15, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

Go for it.--Mike18xx 22:02, 17 August 2006 (UTC)
I disagree. A link to Ann Coulter's book (just because it happens to have the title "Treason") is not a viable edit because it would be perceived as endorsing her point of view, and this would violate NPOV. This article is for telling people what treason is, not advertising someone's book or promoting their views. Richard75 (talk) 18:47, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

Last Briton to be executed for treason[edit]

The penalty for treason was changed from death to a maximum of imprisonment for life in 1998 under the Crime And Disorder Act. Before 1998, the death penalty was mandatory, subject to the royal prerogative of mercy. William Joyce was the last person to be put to death for treason, in 1946.

Theodore Schurch appears to be the last person to be put to death for treason, in 1946, a day after the penultimate person, William Joyce. Qwerty 13:45, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

Schurch was executed for treachery, not treason. See Treachery Act 1940. Richard75 17:39, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

Definition of Treason with or without Enemy[edit]

In many nations, it is also often considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the government, even if no foreign country is aided or involved by such an endeavour.

First, we need citings for this. Second, we need examples; none is given. I for one would like to know what nations define treason in this way. (Unsigned comment by User:Mrzold, 02:13, 12 July 2007)

The following examples appear in the article and are cited:
In Canada:
"Every one commits treason who, in Canada, (a) uses force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Canada or a province..."
In New Zealand:
"Every one owing allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen in right of New Zealand commits treason who, within or outside New Zealand,—
(e) Uses force for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of New Zealand; or
(f) Conspires with any person to do anything mentioned in this section."
In Ireland:
"Treason shall consist only in ... attempting by force of arms or other violent means to overthrow the organs of government established by the Constitution, or taking part or being concerned in or inciting or conspiring with any person to make or to take part or be concerned in any such attempt."
See also the English offence called treason felony, a lesser offence which originally used to be treason, by which it is a crime "to deprive or depose our Most Gracious Lady the Queen ... from the style, honour, or royal name of the imperial crown of the United Kingdom, or of any other of her Majesty's dominions and countries."
This article gives plenty of examples. Richard75 17:56, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

My apologies. These are good examples. My mistake was due to haste and a search for something more specific which need not be included in this article.--Mrzold 21:48, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

No problem. Richard75 00:28, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Quoting from Acts of Parliament[edit]

Please note that the legislation quoted in this article uses the section and subsection numbers that are used in the original text. Please do not change them, as accuracy of quotations supercedes Wikipedia's Manual of Style. Richard75 (talk) 13:36, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

The same goes for commas and other punctuation. Richard75 (talk) 19:54, 15 May 2008 (UTC)


Etymology[edit]

A user with IP address 98.214.142.70 placed the following suggestion at the very bottom of the article:


It's my understanding that the term "traitor" comes from a Latin verb meaning "...to hand over..." or "...to give away...". It was first used in the apostolic church to refer to apostates who "handed over" scriptures to the Roman government to be destroyed. Ironically, then, the first "traitors" were not working against the government but cooperating with it.


What this user has said may well be worthy of inclusion, but it needs to be checked (according to wiktionary, treason does come from the latin noun traditio, which does has the meaning ascribed to it in the paragraph above), and it cannot go in an illogical place at the end of the article. Really it would belong at the beginning.James500 (talk) 06:08, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

I have added this: [1] Richard75 (talk) 17:10, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

Interwiki links[edit]

I think that it:Tradimento (reato) is the correct page in the italian language wiki; could someone please explain why it has been removed? James500 (talk) 20:43, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

I have decided that this page was correct and added it. James500 (talk) 02:57, 2 March 2009 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not a thesaurus?[edit]

Wikipedia is not a dictionary, but I don't think that policy excludes the listing of synonyms. A recent edit removed a list of colloquial terms for "traitor" because the encyclopedia is "not a thesaurus". I wonder if this is correct? However wiktionary includes a thesaurus. James500 (talk) 15:11, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

A list of synonyms is a (secondary) function of a dictionary, and the function of a thesaurus; it has no place in an encyclopedia article. --Orange Mike | Talk 13:09, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

Added two lines on treason in islam[edit]

It's obvious that the Ahmadiyya sect is not representive of islam, in fact it's considered heretical. So their opinion cannot be used. While some muslims in public often try to deny that apostasy is punished with death(often to Western jounalists), the practice is and has always been that it does require the death penalty. Hundreds if not thousands of people have been killed/executed the past few years. WikiPedias own article on the subject is also in line with that. It's in fact written into the laws of several islamic countries such as Pakistan. People are being regularly prosecuted and/or persecuted for abandoning islam all over the world. Their only defence is to prove that they were not born muslim but instead belong to one of the few religions that islam 'tolerates'(or rather: harasses and use for tax income) such as christianity or judaism. Lets be honest here rather than blind. M99 87.59.77.160 (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 08:27, 24 July 2009 (UTC).

High Treason in U.S.[edit]

I came here after watching American Dad episode Stanny Slickers II: The Legend of Ollie's Gold where Stan said (via song) that in the Iran-Contra Affair, although good-intentioned - what the President and General North did were "technically High Treason". Is that true? Is there a "High Treason" statute in the US? This article only says something about kings of England. Also what is the difference between treason and treachery? Thanks. --64.149.36.182 (talk) 15:10, 28 August 2009 (UTC)

The answer is no. Treason in the US is limited by the Constitution (Article III) to levying war against the United States or adhering to the enemy. This is only the definition of treason, the atatute which makes it a crime is 18 USC 2381 which says:
If you scroll down the article there is more about treason in America, the article is not just about England.
Treachery is a British offence which existed in the Second World War. It was similar to treaon, but the differences are explained here. Richard75 (talk) 19:42, 28 August 2009 (UTC)

Remove Benedict Arnold[edit]

In the section about treason in the United States, it says

In the history of the United States there have been fewer than 40 federal prosecutions for treason and even fewer convictions. Several men were convicted of treason in connection with the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion but were pardoned by President George Washington. One of American history's most notorious traitors, in which his name is considered synonymous with the definition of traitor, is Benedict Arnold.

Benedict Arnold should be removed from this passage. The United States did not exist until the United States Constitution was ratified in 1788. Arnold committed his traitorous actions in 1780.

-- Akamantauskas (talk) 18:51, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

The United States have existed since well before then. See Continental Association#Legacy. Richard75 (talk) 20:09, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
I worded that poorly. The article states that treason is specifically defined in the United States Constitution, Article III, Section 3, and then later lists Benedict Arnold as a traitor. The section explicitly states that it is discussing the Federal definition of treason. While I agree that Arnold is the nation's most notorious traitor, he never committed treason against the Federal government of the United States, as his actions predate the Constitution, and thus he should be removed from the list. -- Akamantauskas (talk) 17:48, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
I now agree with you that he doesn't belong on this list, but he should probably feature in the article somewhere, for the very reason that he is "one of American history's most notorious traitors, in which his name is considered synonymous with the definition of traitor." Leaving him out altogether might seem odd to anyone who hasn't read your argument. Perhaps we should move him to another paragraph and point out that he predates the Constitution. Richard75 (talk) 20:13, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Done. Richard75 (talk) 20:20, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

Bendict arnold should not be there, putting his name there is more opinion than fact. By that regard 1/3 of the british subjects at that time would be treasonous. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 98.116.181.39 (talk) 17:34, 30 September 2011 (UTC)

Palestinian Territories[edit]

The wording is political, like building facts on the ground. Gaza is not autonomous, they are still occupied because they are subject to total blockade and everything including counting down to their last calorie is controlled by Israel. The territory doesn't belong to Fatah or Hamas. In fact Israel is trying to make the break permanent and has even attempted to give responsibility of Gaza to Egypt.

'Merikan (talk) 04:39, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

What's with the whole Judas thing?[edit]

I mean, no question he betrayed Jesus, but Jesus wasn't exactly a sovereign nation. Why is he given such an important place here, as to be pictured in the top right spot? 64.30.108.172 (talk) 14:10, 7 January 2011 (UTC)

Because from the Christian point of view he is considered the ultimate traitor, having betrayed the ultimate Sovereign Lord to whom the highest fidelity is owed. Thus, in the Western tradition from which many English-speaking Wikipedians come, he is the prime example of a traitor. --Orange Mike | Talk 21:14, 18 January 2011 (UTC)

Is this a factual error?[edit]

Treason was the only crime which attracted those penalties (until they were abolished in 1814, 1790 and 1973 respectively).[1]

Was burning women at the stake really repealed in 1973? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 72.185.55.103 (talk) 18:10, 18 January 2011 (UTC)

No. Read it again: burning is mentioned second so it was abolished in 1790. Beheading is mentioned third, and really was abolished in 1973. Richard75 (talk) 21:55, 18 January 2011 (UTC)

Etymology[edit]

I'm suspicious about the etymology given (or rather, some details of it). Currently the article says "Indeed, the etymology of the word traitor originates with Judas' handing over of Jesus to the Roman authorities: the word is derived from the Latin traditorem which means "one who delivers."[2]

However, the reference given (the Online Etymology Dictionary - I don't know how scholarly this source is) says "early 13c., from O.Fr. traitor (11c.), from L. traditorem (nom. traditor) "betrayer," lit. "one who delivers," from stem of tradere "deliver, surrender" (see tradition). Originally usually with a suggestion of Judas Iscariot."

"Originally usually with a suggestion" seems remarkably like [weasel words] to me, and the comparison to Judas seems less important than the actual act of handing someone over to their enemies. Wardog (talk) 13:00, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

Aid and Comfort[edit]

Lots of legal definitions of treason involve giving "Aid and Comfort" to a country's enemies. is "Aid and Comfort" defined in law? It strikes me as a rather vague concept otherwise, and one that a good (or malicious) lawyer could make to mean just about anything (criticising government policy; anti-war protests; ; negligence or incompetance by the military; giving medical care to wounded enemy soldiers; etc). Wardog (talk) 13:05, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

In English law the offence is "be[ing] adherent to the King’s enemies in his realm, giving to them aid and comfort..." So there has to be some sort of connection to or communication with the enemy: just critising the government etc would not be enough. Also Archbold says (2009 edition, para. 25-29) "It is not enough to prove that the defendant intentionally did acts which in fact assisted the enemy. His intention and purpose are relevant; it has to be shown that he had an evil intention and the purpose of aiding and comforting the King's enemies." Giving medical assistance to enemy soldiers would presumably still count, but international law and customs of war permit this and would presumably be recognised as a defence. Richard75 (talk) 20:13, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

Addition of Culture Section[edit]

I don't really think that the mention of King Lear or Dante's Inferno really fit into the summary of treason at the top of the article, but there isn't really a section that it would fit. Maybe a treason in culture section, or views on treason, or anything of the type would work. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Dkyguy1995 (talkcontribs) 18:26, 17 February 2013 (UTC)

Treason against a sovereign and treason against a constitution[edit]

The paragraph that starts "Oran's Dictionary of the Law ..." is totally misleading for the crime of treason in the majority of the English speaking nations (as described in separate paragraphs in this article). A clear distinction needs to be made between what is considered treason in those countries where an oath of allegiance is taken to uphold the constitution (as in America) and those that swear to be faithful to a sovereign (as in Britain). Although in practice may not make much difference in a modern democracy, there is a clear legal distinction. The dignified (Walter Bagehot) in the Commonwealth has its uses in making things such as treason much easier to understand. -- PBS (talk) 10:31, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

Beheading[edit]

currently the article says:

"In English law, high treason was punishable by being hanged, drawn and quartered (men) or burnt at the stake (women), or beheading (royalty and nobility). Treason was the only crime which attracted those penalties..."

Was beheading a statutory requirement for nobility or a mercy show under royal prerogative (as in the case of Sir Thomas More who was neither royalty and nobility)? But whether that sentence is accurate or not, the next one is not as nobles were also beheaded for reasons other than treason. -- PBS (talk) 10:54, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

I think you are right on both counts. Fixed. Richard75 (talk) 12:07, 21 August 2013 (UTC)