Thursday, October 9, 2014

British and Colonial Origins of Treason Law:

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial
“Unsurpassed Valor, Courage, and Devotion  to Liberty”

The Founders’ included in their Constitution a provision for treason committed against “them,” the united States that comprised the new union; the new Confederate States of America duplicated this article in its own Constitution, and the State of North Carolina established its own law that dealt with citizens who gave aid and comfort to the enemy.  During the War Between the States, North Carolina was confronted by its citizens giving aid and comfort to the invader.
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British and Colonial Origins of Treason Law:

“The constitutional and legal foundation for the crime of treason was laid nearly 700 years ago in the English statute of 25 Edward III (A.D. 1350). 

{Among the] seven categories of “High Treason” in the Statute of Edward was that of “adhering” to the King’s “enemies,” giving them “aid and comfort.” Although the provision endured throughout the centuries in England, it is with the . . . colonial experience that its relevance [to America begins].

At one point or another, recognition of the crime of treason existed in most of the colonies, either in express legislation or less formally.  [The] first significant building block in the creation of the modern American crime of treason came shortly after the Declaration of Independence.  The Continental Congress had formed the improbably named “Committee on Spies,” whose members included John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, John Rutledge and James Wilson – all titans of the Revolution.  The Committee recommended that the colonies enact treason legislation, and Congress adopted the recommendation, passed it on to the colonies, and, in doing so, utilized the then-familiar language of the Statute of Edward:

“Resolved, That all persons abiding within any of the United Colonies, and deriving protection from the laws of the same, owe allegiance to the said laws, and are members of such colony; and that all persons passing through, visiting or make a temporary stay in any of the said colonies, being entitled to the protection of the laws during the time of such passage, visitation, or temporary stay, owe, during the same time, allegiance thereto:

That all persons, members of, or owing allegiance to any of the United Colonies, as before described, who shall levy war against any of the said colonies within the same, or be adherent to the King of Great Britain, or other enemies of the said colonies, or any of them, within the same, giving to him or them, aid and comfort, are guilty of treason against such colony:

That it be recommended to the legislatures of the several United Colonies, to pass laws for punishing, in such manner as to them shall seem fit, such persons before described, as shall be provably attained of open deed, by people of their condition, of any of the treasons before described.”

Within a year, most of the former colonies, then members of the “United States,” had enacted appropriate legislation using the Committee’s and the Congress’ recommended language.  Thus, at the birth of the Constitution of the United States of America in 1787, there was a 400-year-old acceptance of the idea that it was treason to “adhere” to a [Colony or State] government’s “enemies” and give them “aid and comfort.” 

(Aid and Comfort, Jane Fonda in Vietnam, Holzer & Holzer, McFarland & Company, 2002, pp. 95-96)

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