Treason In Britain

High treason is by the law accounted the highest civil crime which can be committed by any member of the community. After various alterations and amendments made and repealed in subsequent reigns, the definition of this offence was settled as it originally stood, by the Act of the 25th of Edward Ill and may be divided into seven different heads:

1. Compassing, or imagining, the death of the king, queen, or heir apparent.

2. Levying war against the king in his realm.

3. Adhering to the king's enemies, and giving them aid, in the realm, or elsewhere.
[It has been thought necessary by the legislature to explain and enlarge these clauses of the Act 25 Edward III as not extending, with sufficient explicitness, to modern treasonable attempts. It is therefore provided by the Act 36 George III cap. 7, 'That if any person (during the life of his present Majesty, and until the end of the session of Parliament next after a demise of the crown) shall within the realm, or without, compass, imagine, invent, devise, or intend, death or destruction, or any bodily harm, tending to death or destruction, maim or wounding, imprisonment or restraint of the person of the king, his heirs and successors, or to deprive or depose him or them, from his style, honour, or kingly name, or to levy war against the king within this realm, in order by force to compel him to change his measures, or in order to put any force or constraint upon, or to intimidate or overawe, both houses, or either house, of Parliament: or to incite any foreigner to invade the dominions of the crown: and such compassings, etc., shall express, utter, or declare, by publishing and printing or writing, or by any other overt act or deed,' —- the offender shall be deemed a traitor, and punished accordingly.]

4. Slaying the king's chancellor or judge in the execution of their offices.

5. Violating the queen, the eldest daughter of the king, or the wife of the heir apparent, or eldest son.

6. Counterfeiting the king's great seal, or privy seal.

7. Counterfeiting the king's money, or bringing false money into the kingdom.

This detail shows how much the dignity and security of the king's person is confounded with that of his officers, and even with his effigies impressed on his coin. To assassinate the servant, or to counterfeit the type, is held as criminal as to destroy the sovereign.

This indiscriminate blending of crimes, so different and disproportionate in their nature, under one common head, is certainly liable to great objections, seeing that the judgment in this offence is so extremely severe and terrible, viz. 'That the offender be drawn to the gallows on the ground or pavement; that he be hanged by the neck, and then cut down alive; that his entrails be taken out and burnt, while yet alive; that his head be cut off; that his body be divided into four parts; and that his head and quarters be at the king's disposal.'

Those Found Guilty of Treason

William Gregg

Earl of Derwentwater

James Sheppard

Christopher Layer Esq