By Larry Gara and Lenna Mae Gara
This Commentary is Unpublished
In the modern world of nation states, treason has replaced the medieval world's heresy as the highest crime. American colonists, having committed treason against the British government, were careful, in writing a new constitution, to define treason in specific terms that made conviction difficult. To criticize the President, for example, or to speak out against a particular war, is not treason.
Article III, Section 3, paragraph one of the U.S. Constitution defines treason as follows: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court."
Because of its narrow definition there have been few treason trials in our history and even fewer convictions. In 1794 farmers in western Pennsylvania protested a tax on distilled whiskey by threatening to attack Pittsburgh. When President Washington called out 12,900 troops...
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Larry Gara, Emeritus Professor of History at Wilmington College, is the author or editor of six books and numerous scholarly articles. Lenna Mae Gara is a homemaker, writer and editor. They have lived in Wilmington since 1962.