Treason Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Treason, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Treason?

Disloyalty, treachery, betrayal to ones own country usually by the way of supporting and purposely aiding the enemies thereby leading to war and civil disorder in the country.

History and Meaning of Treason

Treason is one of the oldest and most serious crimes in the legal system of many countries. The original concept behind the crime of treason was the betrayal of one's ruler or government, but as governments have changed over time, the definition of treason has evolved as well. In modern times, the crime of treason is generally defined as a breach of allegiance to one's own country, often by aiding its enemies or engaging in espionage.

The consequences of being accused and convicted of treason can be severe, including imprisonment, fines, or even the death penalty in some countries. In some cases, the punishment for treason may also extend to the accused's family members or associates.

Examples of Treason

  1. During World War II, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of espionage for their role in passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, an act which was considered treasonous and led to their execution.

  2. In 1606, Guy Fawkes was found guilty of treason for his involvement in the so-called Gunpowder Plot, a failed attempt to blow up the English Parliament building.

  3. In 1865, Mary Surratt was convicted of conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln and sentenced to death, a controversial decision since there was little concrete evidence that she had played any active role in the assassination plot.

Legal Terms Similar to Treason

  1. Sedition: the crime of inciting rebellion or resistance against the government.

  2. Espionage: the act of spying or gathering classified information on behalf of a foreign government or entity.

  3. Sabotage: the deliberate destruction or damage of property or equipment in order to disrupt or interfere with a country's military or industrial operations.

  4. Subversion: the act of attempting to overthrow or undermine a government or other established authority through secret or unlawful means.