The Brutal and Horrifying Penalty for Treason

By Newssleuth

From USA vs Rahman

In the late colonial period, as today, the charge of treason carried a “peculiar intimidation and stigma” with considerable “potentialities . . . as a political epithet.”

At the time of the drafting of the Constitution treason was punishable not only by death, but by an exceptionally cruel method of execution designed to enhance the suffering of the traitor.

William Blackstone in his Commentaries observed that the punishment for treason is “terrible in that the traitor is hanged by the neck, then cut down alive, that his entrails are then taken out, and burned, while he is yet alive,” and “that his head is cut off, and that his body is then divided into four parts.”

The Framers formulated the Treason Clause as a protection against the promiscuous resort to the stigmatizing label of “traitor” which carries such a horrifying penalty. Some delegates to the Constitutional Convention regarded the effort to limit the brutal “traitors death” penalty for subversive crimes as the central motive for the Constitution’s restrictive definition of treason.

The Treason Clause can be interpreted as applying only to charges denominated as “treason” and the Framers intended to limit a ” traitor’s death” for alleged subversion to instances of levying war against the United States, or adhering to enemies of the United States. In contrast, lesser subversive offenses were penalized by non-capital punishments or less brutal modes of execution.

Today treason continues to be punishable by death, while seditious conspiracy commands a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment.

The Supreme Court has identified, but not resolved, the question of whether the Treason Clause applies to offenses that include all the elements of treason but are not branded as such, where a defendant who engaged in subversive conduct might be tried for a crime involving all the elements of treason, but under a different name and without the constitutional protection of the Treason Clause.

None of the American born citizens who have helped terrorist organizations plan attacks, some who have traveled overseas to enemy training camps, have ever been convicted of treason against the United States.


23 responses to “The Brutal and Horrifying Penalty for Treason

  1. An absolutely horrific death! I wonder how many people were killed in this way. I’d say that had to be quite a deterrent to anyone conspiring against the government. It appears they had a hangman and a butcher man to carry out the ultimate punishment. Interestingly, many third world countries and terrorists still engage in some of these practices. This was a barbaric punishment to almost hang, then be released to be slaughtered and divided into quarters while still alive. Mandated death can’t be easy to face, but knowing this would be done to you would certainly give one pause. Barbarians (terrorists) still employ some of these punishments, i.e., beheading, for much lesser perceived evils. There is no “good” way to kill someone, be it by hanging, shooting, or electrocution. The end result is the same.

    I wonder if this punishment for treason is still on the other words, might it still be used?

    • I have yet to find out how traitors can be put to death under Federal statutes, just that they can be put to death.

      In the United States, the punishment for treason is set forth in Title 18, USC § 2381:

      Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

      What a huge discrepancy in the penalties for treason. From death to five years in the clink and a ten thousand dollar fine and being unable to hold any office under the United States.

  2. Methoids of Execution

    Various methods have been used in the history of the American colonies and the United States but only five methods are currently used. Historically, burning, pressing, gibbeting or hanging in chains, breaking on wheel and bludgeoning were used for a small number of executions while hanging was the most common method. Currently lethal injection is the method used or allowed in 37 of the 38 states which allow the death penalty and by the federal government. Nebraska requires electrocution. Other states also allow electrocution, gas chambers, hanging and the firing squad.

    During 1976-2003,
    885 executions

    718 by lethal injection
    151 by electrocution,
    11 by gas chamber
    3 by hanging
    2 by firing squad

    Regardless of the method, an hour or two before the execution the condemned person has a last meal and religious services.

  3. First Person Executed for Treason, in Connecticut

    Moses Dunbar, 30, white farmer, of Bristol Connecticut, was born in Plymouth Connecticut. He was convicted of holding a captain’s commission under Sir William Howe and of enlisting men for the Royal Army by the Superior Court ( Connecticut) in January 1777.

    And soon after, under sentence of death, cleared himself of his irons, knocked down the sentries, and escaped from jail, but was apprehended.

    The “Connecticut Courant” announced that, “On Wednesday, March 19, Moses Dunbar will be executed. A sermon will be preached at the jail to the prisoner by the Rev. Abraham Jarvis of Middleton and a sermon in the North Meeting-house to the spectators by the Rev. Nathan Perkins.”

    There was still another homily by Rev. Nathan Stone, which was printed, and which closes thus, “Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.”

    Dunbar was hung on the day designated, March 19, 1777 in the presence of a “prodigious concourse of people.”

    His son, Moses came to an untimely end.

    His wife, whose maiden name was Esther Adams, retired to the British Army and remained with it for some time but returned to Bristol and married Chauncey Jerome, a Loyalist, and with her husband went to Nova Scotia. At the peace they settled at their old home in Connecticut and were the parents of several children. She died in 1825, aged 66.

    Dunbar’s house was standing in 1859.

  4. Great study, Newsslueth…interesting…
    In our modern day, Treason would be chalked up to being silly season and getting all we-weed up by tea bag waving racist ingnorami who tresspass the steps of the Capital with not a care about anything other than the US Constitution and Its uniformed Defenders.

    Why was Bill Ayres invited to the White House? What was he there for? How long did he stay? Who did the background check? Why was he permitted entry?

  5. “None of the American born citizens who have helped terrorist organizations plan attacks, some who have traveled overseas to enemy training camps, have ever been convicted of treason against the United States.”

    Time to set a precedent with Major Hasan. If that’s not treason, I don’t know what is.

  6. O/T
    Ukraine; Virus Is Mixture Of H1N1 And Parainfluenza, Causes Cardiopulmonary Failure; Indicates BioWeapon
    Nov. 16

    Based on autopsies, we have come to the conclusion: it’s not pneumonia, but cardiopulmonary insufficiency and cardiogenic shock … The virus enters directly into the lungs, there is bleeding … Antibiotics should not be used

    Professor Victor Bachinsky, PhD., is a coroner in the Chernivtsi region of Ukraine. He provides evidence which indicates that parainfluenza mixed with the H1N1 virus, not pneumonic plague, has caused so much illness in Ukraine. Yet more strains of influenza which have combined, a strong indication that we are dealing with a laboratory developed bio-weapon.

    Ukraine Swine Flu Deaths indicate H1N1 Vaccine and Biological Weapon Link

    According to a news article in Russia this week, autopsies on H1N1 victims doctors have confirmed pneumonia was not the cause of death. Cardiopulmonary insufficiency and cardiogenic shock are to blame and antibiotics should not be used.

    The virus is said to be a mixture of Para influenza and influenza A/H1N1. It penetrates the mucus membranes, and then enters directly into the lungs causing bleeding.

    This from National Terror Alert Today in an email.
    Iowa – H1N1 Deaths Understated, Finding Hemorrhagic Lungs
    Nov. 22
    Is this cause for concern? I’m not sure, perhaps it’s common in severe cases of H1N1 that have progressed into a severe pneumonia. We attempted to contact the Polk County Medical Examiner on Sunday and were told to call back on Monday.

    Iowa has officially recorded 21 H1N1 deaths, including seven in Polk County alone. But the county’s medical examiner said he has performed autopsies on some residents who were never diagnosed with H1N1, but actually had it.

    “In the autopsy, what we’re seeing is very heavy, wet hemorrhagic lungs, lungs with a lot of blood in them,” said Dr. Gregory Schmunk.

    He said the official count of seven H1N1 deaths is inaccurate, but patient rights laws prohibit him from giving specific numbers.

    Also Hong Kong and Norway just reported cases of this swine flu mutation on Google news.

    Ukraine’s Pneumonic Plague: A New Strain of Flu Many Times More Lethal Than H1N1

  7. Has Baxter International released a biological weapon?
    David Rothscum Reports
    November 1, 2009

    Evidence appears to suggest that Baxter International is responsible for a new deadly outbreak of viral pneumonia in Ukraine.

    In February of 2009 Bloomberg reported that Baxter “accidentally” send vaccine material containing both live Avian bird flu and seasonal influenza to multiple laboratories worldwide. A laboratory decided to test the vaccine on it’s ferrets, but the ferrets all unexpectedly died. It must be noted that Baxter has made a “mistake” like this before. Blood products produced by Baxter once containd HIV. Thousands of haemophiliacs died due to this, and many went on to infect their spouses.

    Later in the year, a bizarre story emerged on the internet. The Huffington Post reported on a a man named Joseph Moshe who was arrested after a hours long standoff with the police because he had supposedly made threats against the White House. The man was able to withstand multiple rounds of tear gas.

    However, the internet community was very skeptical of the true reasons behind this man’s arrest. Comments on the Huffington Post website immediately began pouring in about an unreported side to this story, namely that Joseph Moshe was a Mossad Agent specialized in biological warfare who called into a radio show to warn people about a biological weapon that was being made by Baxter international that would be spread through vaccine and would cause a plague upon it’s release.

    Moshe claimed that Baxter’s laboratory in the Ukraine out of all places was creating this biological weapon. All of this came out in the beginning of August, which is more than 2 months before the situation that is currently unfolding. For Moshe to correctly name the country where a new epidemic would be unleashed, requires either inside information, or an incredible coincidence as anyone with a basic knowledge of statistics can confirm for himself.

    It must also be noted that massive numbers of microbiologists have been dying bizarre deaths. This case of what appears to be a brave man who sacrificed it all to bring us this message may explain why so many microbiologists have been murdered. The fact that this man managed to predict an outbreak of highly lethal influenza in a place where we would least expect it, 2 months before it a actually occurred, lends credence to his claim that Baxter International is responsible for the outbreak and shows that top microbiologists can pose a problem to the people responsible for this ongoing disaster.

    Comments on the Huffington post website on an article about Moshe’s arrest documenting his claim that the Influenza virus in a vaccine manufactured by Baxter in Ukraine replicates RNA from the 1918 flu and is meant as a bioweapon:

  8. I wondered about the traitor’s body being dissected and about its religious implications, and also what the word drawn meant. I found the following under the title of “Hanged, drawn and quartered.” A full explanation and explicit details of the event are ghastly. It was a public spectacle whereupon people cheered as it was being done. This punishment was reserved for men, while women were burned at the stake.

    “Religious Considerations. Dismemberment of the body after death was seen by many contemporaries as a way of punishing the traitor beyond the grave.”,_drawn_and_quartered


    Purple Lips Flapping 8pm – 9pm EST
    (Won’t be the first time Jesus was excised by this maniac, children. Sadly, it won’t be the last.)

    BTW: Just saw That One’s lying joke Gibbs on Fox taped this morning. What is that solid red drape attached to the White House on a flag thingy? Am I missing out on a special occasion or something? What’s up with that?

  10. The Joint Chiefs of Staff should be worried…

    Dec. 12, 2009

    The Joint Chiefs have transgressed every prerequisite for court-martial and a death sentence

    And when the American people finally rise up and overthrow the usurper and his cohorts, loyal and true members of the U.S. Military will hall them from the holes into which they have fled, and bring them before a military tribunal on charges of treason.

    And for that reason, the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be worried…

  11. Will these five be convicted on treason?

    “Nothing Adds Up

    What I told the audience in Washington and Northern Virginia on Thursday evening 10 was that if you think your sons or husbands are prey to the madness of these five stooges lite just arrested in Pakistan on their way to the jihad killer camps in North Waziritstan, then turn them in now, rat them out now, betray them now, because you are paying taxes to buy the systems that will capture or kill them inevitably. Little about this tale adds up.

    The five putative jihadist wannabee cronies in an uncle’s house in Pakistan — all Americans from Pakistani, Egyptian, Eritrean and Somali backgrounds.

    The reported family member calling CAIR and turning in a videotape that made CAIR’s executive director “uncomfortable.”

    The arrests in Pakistan the same news cycle in which we learn of the October arrest of David Coleman Headley (heretofore Gilani), a Washington born drug felon, who was once run by the DEA, and is now accused of plotting with the Mumbai killers of the LeT.

    Doesn’t add up. Early days. Pakistan is deeply sinister. Headley has a Pakistan control agent. So did the killers at Mumbai.

    And now the Obama administration asserts that Pakistan is our partner in the fight against the Taliban that takes refuge in Pakistan.”

  12. Are these treasonous crimes against the US when Senator Nelson is Threatened by the WH …if he doesn’t vote yea on Healthcare? The WH will close down Offutt Air Force Base (a National Security Base). Extortion, Blackmail and playing politics with National Security! Rahn alledgedly headed this game up. Now WH denies, aides deny, but aides also reported to the Weekly Standard that this was happening yesterday. This is the base where George Bush went during 9-11. Is the base an important part of our national security…YES! No MSM reporting!

    Dems Threaten Nelson In Pursuit of 60

    While the Democrats appease Senator Lieberman, they still have to worry about other recalcitrant Democrats including Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. Though Lieberman has been out front in the fight against the public option and the Medicare buy-in, Nelson was critical of both. Now that those provisions appear to have been stripped from the bill, Lieberman may get on board, but Nelson’s demand that taxpayer money not be used to fund abortion has still not been met. According to a Senate aide, the White House is now threatening to put Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn’t fall into line.

    Offutt Air Force Base employs some 10,000 military and federal employees in Southeastern Nebraska. As our source put it, this is a “naked effort by Rahm Emanuel and the White House to extort Nelson’s vote.” They are “threatening to close a base vital to national security for what?” asked the Senate staffer.

    Indeed, Offutt is the headquarters for US Strategic Command, the successor to Strategic Air Command, and not by accident. STRATCOM was located in the middle of the country for strategic reasons. Its closure would be a massive blow to the economy of the state of Nebraska, but it would also be another example of this administration playing politics with our national security.

    Michael Goldfarb on December 15, 2009 12:41 PM

  13. Glenn Beck reported this today and called it treasonous. As he was ending his show, he received a call from the WH. He will report on it tomorrow. Whatever they said, he said it was ridiculous or some term like that. He also said he made sure the producers checked and double checked the information. Apparently these 20 senators did also.

    20 GOP Senators Call for Investigation of Offutt Threat

    Twenty Republican senators have requested that the Senate Armed Services Committee launch an investigation into reports that the Obama White House threatened to close Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force base unless Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson fell into line on health care. Those reports first appeared on this blog. In the letter to Senators Levin and McCain, the committee chairman and ranking member, the 20 ask that “a hearing be held as to whether the BRAC process has been compromised.”

    Meanwhile, both Nelson and the White House strenuously deny the allegation. A statement from White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer asserts “This rumor is absolutely false, as the people spreading it well know. This is nothing but a cynical, crass political game that is designed to maintain the status quo. Let’s be clear: the people spreading these falsehoods think nothing is wrong with a system under which families and businesses continue to bear the brunt of skyrocketing costs, insurance companies are allowed to discriminate and drop at will, and thousands of Americans lose their coverage every single day.”

    They protest a little too much. I do not know this story is “absolutely false.” To the contrary, I’m confident it’s true. Twenty senators are now calling for an investigation, and each is presumably pretty well sourced in the Senate. If the charges are “absolutely false,” maybe the White House will encourage Senate Democrats to call this Republican bluff. I won’t hold my breath.

    What is absolutely true is that the threat itself is clumsy. The Base Realignment and Closure Process won’t get started again for a couple of years, and Offutt is a nearly irreplaceable piece of America’s national security infrastructure. Still, this White House does sometimes see national security issues in terms of jobs created or saved. They’re closing Gitmo and moving hardened al Qaeda terrorists into your neighborhood? Don’t worry, that’s 3,000 jobs created or saved. You’re not going to vote for health care? That’s 11,000 jobs your state just lost!

    The desperation of the White House — caving to Lieberman, threatening Nelson, attacking Dean — is what’s most striking. This is not the behavior of a team assured of their position and confident in the outcome. This is the behavior of team that is standing “on the precipice,” and about to fall into a ravine. And Nelson still hasn’t said he will vote for the bill.

    Michael Goldfarb on December 16, 2009 11:01 PM

  14. Blackstone was merely quoting the British Law for punishment of treason. The punishments were not necessarily inclusive, you could get 1 or 3 or all. There were also I believe 5 sections of treason, one which was ‘squnaking’ the queen if you were not the king. We limited our definition to only 2. We also have an amendment against cruel and unusual punishment and it applies to treason as well.

    I think at some point we have to address whether a terrorist attack by a citizen is treasonous.

  15. Anyone that makes war against the USA , in any fashion is in my book a traitor and should be delt with swiftly and given no quarter , and in combat our Military leaders should do all within their power to Kill the enemy no holds barred , survival of the fittest , winner takes all give no quarter kill or be killed , like Rommel said go find somthing to kill , Patton we will greese the tank tracks with their guts , Le May if Russia bombs the usa , they won`t have a home to go home to , bring back the Guts of our Officer corps, and get rid of the traitors in our govt NOW , CLEAN HOUSE .

  16. Any moderation of my comments will not be done be me let the PC GUTLESS WONDERS DO IT. Bill Kay .

  17. I am a proud descendant of the heroic Moses Dunbar, who as a Captain in the British Army, was wrongfully executed for treason. He should have been treated as a prisoner of war. Instead, he was executed by the rebellious subjects of their rightful king George the Third. Rebels commit treason-there was not yet a United States. We were English subjects. Connecticut passed a special law to “justify” Moses Dunbar’s execution. In proper historical context, Dunbar was not a rebel, but a loyal British subject.

  18. Why haven’t these traitors in the U.S. not been tried for treason??? Who is above the law?? Just do it for God’s sake!! This is so unfair to the American people. We cannot allow the so called elites be above the law.

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