Treason and Related Offenses in the Roman Germanic Law

Treason and Related Offenses in the Roman Germanic Law

Lear, Floyd Seyward

The Rice Institute Pamphlet, Volume 42, Number 2 (1955)


When first I began work on my doctoral dissertation, eventually entitled “The Early History of Treason,” under the direction of Professor C. H. McIlwain at Harvard University some thirty years ago, the subject appealed to me as an interesting, though somewhat antiquarian, study in the archaeology of the law. The topic did not appear greatly relevant to the intellectual climate of American life in the decade following the First War. Indeed, treason does not seem to bulk large as an active political principle in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. The American and French Revolutions, the movements of liberal reform, and even the American Civil War have not been interpreted widely within the context of a political theory of treason. The treason of Arnold, the conspiracy of Burr, and the machinations of Blount come to mind as expressions of opprobrium; the heroic figures of Mazzini, Kossuth and Garibaldi as symbols of opposition to tyranny though rebels against constituted authority-all equally traitors depending upon the point of view. The War between the States, to employ the euphemism of the South, was for long the War of the Rebellion in the North. The violence of the Nihilists in Imperial Russia, the Dreyfus case, and the fear of Bol- shevism in the last days of Woodrow Wilson suggested in their several ways that varied strains of the dark political infection still lurked in the body politic of the world. Yet this black sickness of states had not broken forth in alarming virulence, or at least its dark name had not been spoken widely and openly, since the English Civil Wars and the Restoration when such regicides as Hugh Peter and his fellows were hanged for the death of their king, Charles I.

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