The Politics of Treason

Garrick Sapp at Trudge to Truth
2 min readJan 25, 2024


There are few labels in today’s politics that expose as much ignorance and hate as traitor. Ignorance because of the miniscule number of treason convictions in the history of the United States. Hate because treason is heinous. A traitor is someone who uses deception to damage his country. Lysander Spooner described it well:

“Benedict Arnold was a traitor, solely because, while professing friendship for the American cause, he attempted to injure it. An open enemy, however criminal in other respects, is no traitor.”

This is why Arnold is the classic example of treason. Traitors are deceitful and they turn on their country. It follows closely after murder, rape, and abusing children. It is a charge for the lowest of low.

Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 Actions Qualify as ‘Treason’: Glenn Kirschner— Newsweek

Key moderate Republican comes out in favor of impeaching Mayorkas, says he should be ‘tried for treason’ — Fox News

These types of headlines are common today and prove that treason is primarily a political term. History shows that this has been the case almost from the beginning. John Mitchell and Philip Weigel, whiskey distillers, were convicted of treason and sentenced to hang. George Washington issued two stays and finally a pardon in 1795. The Whiskey Rebellion was politics. Hamilton would have hanged men over tarring and feathering a government worker.

During the American Civil War, newspapers referred to Southerners as traitors. Leading politicians did too.

“We’ll use their confiscated wealth to establish hundreds of thousands of free Negro farmers, and at their side soldiers armed to occupy and transform the heritage of traitors.” — Thaddeus Stevens

There were no trials and most former Confederates took their loyalty oaths. Spooner again makes the appropriate observation. “It cannot be denied that, in the late war, the Southern people proved themselves to be open and avowed enemies, and not treacherous friends.” Like with the Whiskey Rebellion, cooler heads prevailed, and the odious treason charges faded away.

Even some of the most famous traitors were not convicted of treason. In 1951 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage, not treason. Trump and Mayorkas are not traitors. To describe them as such is the lowest form of politics.



Garrick Sapp at Trudge to Truth

Career consultant turned substitute teacher and writer. I enjoy the outdoors and poker.