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Defining Treason – Why Are Founding Fathers Heroes But Confederate Leaders Not?

April 01, 2021
00:00 33:47
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There is perhaps no other accusation as damning as ‘traitor.’ The only crime specifically defined in the Constitution, the term conjures notions of Benedict Arnold, hundreds of thousands of Civil War deaths, and our own worst fears about living in a country so starkly divided between Red and Blue. Clearly this tern needs clarification. That’s what today’s guest, UC Davis law professor Carlton F.W. Larson, author of ON TREASON: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law , is here to do. He offers an accessible look at the legal definition of treason, as opposed to the way it has recently been used for rhetorical mudslinging.

We discuss how the law has historically been applied to the famous—and infamous—actions of people like John Brown, Tokyo Rose, Edward Snowden, Jane Fonda, and Aaron Burr, as well as the largely forgotten cases of men like Walter Allen and Hipolito Salazar, the only man executed by the federal government for treason since the end of the Revolutionary War. The varied stories provide snapshots of America at moments of danger: a nation terrified of an oncoming war at Harpers Ferry; in Hanoi, during a war that caused upheaval at home; and on the banks of the Hudson during the Revolution, a group of traitors from the Crown reeling from the treasonous actions of one of their own.

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to
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