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A concise, accessible, and engaging guide to the crime of treason, written by the nation’s foremost expert on the subject
Treason—the only crime specifically defined in the United States Constitution—is routinely described by judges as more heinous than murder. Today, the term is regularly tossed around by politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle. But, as accusations of treason flood the news cycle, it is not always clear what the crime truly is, or when it should be prosecuted.
Carlton F. W. Larson, a scholar of constitutional law and legal history, takes us on a journey to understand the many subtleties of the Constitution’s definition of treason. With examples ranging from the medieval English Parliament to the accusations against Edward Snowden and Donald Trump, Larson brings to life not only the most notorious accused traitors, such as Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, and World War II’s “Tokyo Rose,” but also lesser-known figures, such as Hipolito Salazar, the only person ever executed by the federal government for treason, and Walter Allen, a labor union leader convicted of treason against the state of West Virginia in the early 1920s.
Grounded in over two decades of research, On Treason is an indispensable guide for anyone who wants to understand the role of treason law in our constitutional democracy. With this brisk, clear look at the law’s history and meaning, Larson explains who is actually guilty and when—and readers won’t need a law degree to understand why.
Carlton F.W. Larson is a Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis, School of Law, where he teaches American constitutional law and English and American legal history. A graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School, Larson is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the law of treason. His scholarship has been cited by numerous federal and state courts, and has been highlighted in the New York Times and many other publications. He is a frequent commentator for the national media on constitutional law issues and is the author of the book The Trials of Allegiance: Treason, Juries, and the American Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2019).