Page images

The most horrid cruelties were in this way often practised upon the innocent as well as the guilty, under the show of administering public justice. The innocent in the moment of torture, would often confess themselves guilty in order to escape present suffering, and the confessions thus forced out of them were used as evidence to condemn them.

To guard against every improper influence of a similar kind, it is provided in an amendment to the constitution, that "no person shall be compelled, in any criminal case, to be a witness against himself."


Treason is the highest crime known to the laws, for its aim is to overturn the government, and the means used are such as necessarily lead to great disturbance and bloodshed. It is therefore held in the greatest abhorrence in all countries, and punished with the greatest severity.

Formerly treason was punished in England in the following manner: the offender was drawn to the gallows on a sledge. He was then hung by the neck, but cut down while yet alive, and his entrails taken

Were the innocent made to suffer as well as the guilty?
What use was made of confessions thus forced from persons?
What provision is made in an amendment to the constitution to
prevent such influences?

Why is treason the highest crime known to the laws?

How was treason formerly punished in England?

out and burned.

He was then beheaded and his

body cut into four quarters. All his lands and tenements were forfeited, from the time of committing the treason, and all his goods and chattels, from the time of his conviction.

"His blood was also "corrupted," so that none of his descendants, to the remotest generation, could inherit any property through him.

Treason, in England, is now punished by beheading. In the United States it is punished by hanging.

The constitution of the United States defines treason thus: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

Therefore a mere agreement or conspiracy to levy war is not treason; nor is a secret meeting of unarmed conspirators, though with treasonable intent; nor is the enlistment of men to serve against the government, treason. They are high misdemeanors but not treason. There must be an actual levying of war, or adhering to the enemy, or the offence of treason is not complete.

The crime of treason is so atrocious, so destructive to all civil society, that it ought to meet with certain punishment, and yet it is so infamous and detestable that every precaution should be taken to prevent any innocent person from being convicted.

How is treason now punished in England?

How in the United States?

How does the constitution define treason?

What offences are high misdemeanors but not treason?

It is therefore specially provided in the constitution that " no person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court."

One credible witness is sufficient to prove any other crime, but two witnesses are required to prove an act of treason. The human maxim of the law that "it is better that ninety and nine guilty persons should escape, than that one innocent person should suffer," seems to have been extended still farther, and opened another door of escape by requiring two witnesses.


The adoption of the constitution of the United States established the government of the United States as a national government. Therefore the citizens of each and every state are citizens of the United States, and removing from one state to another does not affect their citizenship.

The United States is one nation, and a citizen of one part must be a citizen of each and every other part. Hence the constitution declares that "the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all immunities and privileges of citizens in the several states."

How many witnesses are required to prove an act of treason?
How many are required to prove any other crime?
Why are two witnesses required to prove an act of treason?
What does the constitution declare respecting citizens?


Persons sometimes commit crimes in one state and then flee into another. To reach such persons, and at the same time prevent all interference of one state in the affairs of another, it is provided in the constitution that when persons, charged with high crimes, flee into another state, the executive authority of the state from which they flee may demand them from the executive of the state to which they flee, and that they shall then be delivered up to be tried in the state in which the crime was committed.

A similar provision has been made respecting the escape of slaves from one state to another.


Every government ought to possess sufficient power to protect itself not only as a whole, but in part. Each state being a part of the national government has a right to ask protection from that government in cases of danger. A state might be invaded by a foreign power or by another state. It might be overrun by an insurrection, or its government might be subverted or endangered by a faction. The constitution

What is to be done when persons commit crimes in one state and then flee into another?

What has the constitution guarantied to each state?

therefore guaranties a republican form of government to every state in the Union, and promises to protect each of them against invasion and domestic violence.


No human institution is perfect. No constitution can be so formed as to meet every change in the condition of a nation. It has been therefore provided that amendments may be made to the constitution of the United States in the following manner:

Two-thirds of the members of both houses of congress may propose amendments; or the legislatures of two-thirds of the states may apply to congress to call a convention to propose amendments, and congress is then bound to call such convention.

The proposed amendments are then sent to the several states for ratification. And congress may determine whether they shall be ratified by the legislatures of the states or conventions of the states. And when they have been so ratified by three-fourths of the states, the amendments then become part of the constitution.

The constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States are the supreme law of the land; and the judges of every state are bound thereby.

How can amendments to the constitution be made?
What is the supreme law of the land?

« PreviousContinue »