Defining Documents in World History: Treason

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In the current politically charged era, the word “treason” frequently surfaces in vitriolic discourse. However, in the history of the United States, how many cases of actual treason have there been, who were the perpetrators, and what were their consequences?

The list of people convicted of treason against the U.S. is actually void of famous names such as Benedict Arnold and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – who, while treacherous and treasonous in their own rights, were never legally convicted of that crime – but does contain names such as Aaron Burr, John Fries (leader of Fries' Rebellion), John Brown (perpetrator in the Harpers Ferry raid), and numerous individuals convicted of defecting to Nazi Germany during WWII. In fact, the last conviction for treason in the U.S. was in 1952.

These volumes explore the history of treasonous acts in the United States from the country’s founding to present. Documents examined include charters, constitutions, legislative debates, political speeches, historical accounts, court cases, modern-day articles, and more.

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