Eugène Delacroix's 1822 painting "The Barque of Dante" depicts the Florentine author of "The Divine Comedy" being guided through **** by the Roman poet Virgil. Dante placed traitors in ****'s innermost Ninth Circle, a punishment for the deep moral sin of treachery. Art courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
If you’re looking to nail someone for treason these days, don’t talk to a lawyer. The answer you’ll get will be short and likely disappointing: It’s hard to convict someone of treason and chances are the actions you’re describing won’t qualify for the charge. But if what you’re really trying to express is an emotional response, you’re better off turning to 14th-century Italian literature, not the law.
United - States—is - Crime - Reason - Crown
Legally speaking, treason—at least in the United States—is a narrowly defined crime, and for good reason. Under the British crown, treason could include a wide range of acts, some ambiguous enough to allow questionable or baseless charges. Merely imagining (known as “compassing”) the king’s death, for instance, could be treason. Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, was convicted of treason for adultery (based on pretty flimsy evidence).
Having escaped this fate themselves, the Founding Fathers wanted to limit the scope of what could be considered treasonous in our new democracy. For that reason, treason is the only crime explicitly defined in the Constitution; it consists “only in levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Further, conviction for treason requires the testimony of two witnesses or a confession by the accused in open court. In other words, no matter how nefariously you act on behalf of another country against the interests of the United States, you won’t be convicted of treason unless we are at war with that nation and there is adequate proof of the crime.
The moral sin of...
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