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[one,—the legislature was extremely liberal in declaring new treasons in the unfortunate reign of King Richard the second: as, particularly, the killing of an ambassador was made so. Which seems to be founded
better reason than the multitude of other points that were then strained up to this high offence; the most arbitrary and absurd of all which was by the statute 21 Rich. II. c. 3,-which made the bare purpose and intent of killing or deposing the king, without any overt act to demonstrate it, treason. And yet so little effect have over-violent laws to prevent any crime, that within two years afterwards this very prince was both deposed and murdered. And in the very first
year of his successor's reign an Act was passed, reciting " that no man knew how he ought to “ behave himself, to do, speak or say, for doubt of such
pains of treason; and therefore it was accorded, that in
no time to come any treason be judged, otherwise than “ was ordained by the statutes of King Edward the “ third” (a). This at once swept away the whole load of extravagant treasons, introduced in the time of Richard the second.
But afterwards, between the reign of Henry the fourth and Queen Mary, and particularly in the bloody reign of Henry the eighth, the spirit of inventing new and strange treasons was revived. Among which, we may reckon the offences of clipping money; breaking prison or rescue when the prisoner is committed for treason; burning houses to extort money; stealing cattle by Welshmen ; counterfeiting foreign coin ; wilful poisoning; execrations against the king, calling him opprobrious names by public writing; refusing to abjure the pope; deflowering, or marrying without the royal licence, any of the king's children, sisters, aunts, nephews or nieces; bare solicitation of the chastity of the queen or princess, or advances made by themselves; marrying with the king, by a woman not a virgin, without previously discovering to him such her un(a) Stat. 1 Hen. 4, c. 10.
[chaste life; judging or believing, (manifested by an overt act,) the king to have been lawfully married to Anne of Cleves; derogating from the king's royal style and title, impugning his supremacy, and assembling riotously to the number of twelve, and not dispersing upon proclamation. All which new-fangled treasons were totally abrogated by the statute 1 Edward VI. c. 12, (confirmed by statute 1 Mary, c. 1), which once more reduced all treasons to the standard of the statute of the twenty-fifth year of Edward the third. But since the reign of Mary, addition has again been made to the number of treasonable offences created by act of parliament. For by statute 1 Anne, st. 2, c. 17, s. 3, if any person shall endeavour to deprive or hinder any person, being the next in succession to the Crown according to the limitations of the Act of Settlement, from succeeding to the Crown, and shall maliciously and directly attempt the same by any overt act, such offence shall be treason. By statute 6 Anne, c. 7, any person shall maliciously, advisedly, and directly, by writing or printing, maintain and affirm that any other person hath any right or title to the Crown of this realm, otherwise than according to the Act of Settlement; or that the kings of this realm, with the authority of parliament, are not able to make laws and statutes to bind the Crown and the descent thereof,—such person shall be guilty of trea
This offence, (or indeed maintaining this doctrine in anywise, that the king and parliament cannot limit the Crown,) was once before made treason by statute 13 Eliz. c. 1, during the life of that princess. And after her decease, it continued a high misdemeanor, punishable only with forfeiture of goods and chattels, even in that most flourishing era of indefeasible hereditary right and jure divino succession. But it was again raised into treason, by the statute of Anne above mentioned, at the time of a projected invasion in favour of the then pretender; and upon this statute one Matthews, a printer, was convicted and executed, in 1719, for printing a treasonable pamphlet, en[titled, “Vox populi vox Dei” (1).] Lastly, by 36 Geo. III. c. 7 (c), if any person shall, either within the realm or without, compass, imagine or intend death, 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; and shall express, utter or declare such intention by publishing any printing or writing, or by any overt act,-he shall be adjudged a traitor.
[Thus much for the crime of treason, or lesæ majestatis, in all its branches (d); which consists, we may observe, originally, in grossly counteracting that allegiance which is due from the subject by either birth or residence; though, in some instances, the zeal of our legislators to stop the progress of some highly pernicious practices has occasioned them to depart a little from this primitive idea. It is now, however, time to pass on from defining the crime, to describing its punishment.]
The offence of treason is, (by exception from the general rule of the Crown law,) subject to limitation in respect of time. For by 7 Will. III. c. 3, no person shall be prosecuted for treason, but within three years after the commission of the offence ; except only in the case of a designed assassination of the sovereign, by poison or otherwise.
(6) State Tr. ix, 680.
coin or other royal signatures; and (c) The 36 Geo. 3, c. 7 (which 3rd, those created for the security was at first temporary only), was of the Protestant succession in the made perpetual by 57 Geo. 3, c. 6; house of Hanover. But the statutes and it having been doubted whe- of the two first classes, have been ther it extended to Ireland, it was repealed by the 7 & 8 Vict. c. 102, expressly extended to that country and 2 Will. 4, c. 34; and those of by 11 & 12 Vict. c. 12.
the third, (with the exception of (d) Besides the above treasons, such as are noticed in the text,) Blackstone (vol. iv. pp. 88 et seq.) have lost their importance by the mentions many others created since extinction of the line of the Prethe reign of Mary, which he divides tender, against whom their prointo-1st, such as relate to Papists; visions were directed. 2nd, such as relate to falsifying the
Until recently, the punishment of treason, appointed by law, was more terrible than those inflicted for the crime of murder itself. For the sentence ran-1. That the offender be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution. 2. That he be hanged by the neck, until he be dead. 3. That his head be severed from the body. 4. That his body be divided into four quarters. 5. That his head and quarters shall be at the disposal of the Crown. But the sovereign, after sentence, by warrant under his sign-manual counter-signed by a principal secretary of state, might change the whole sentence into beheading, or even remit the capital punishment altogether: and the sentence upon women, (the decency due to whose sex forbade the exposing and publicly mangling their bodies,) was, only that they were to be drawn to the place of execution, and hanged by the neck until they were dead (f ). And now by the Felony Act, 1870 (33 & 34 Vict. c. 23), s. 31, the only portion of the sentence previously in use which is retained for the future, is that part which directs that the traitor shall be hanged by the neck till he be dead.
We proceed next to consider certain offences which, though they fall short of treason, are, like it, injurious to the person, prerogative, or government of the sovereign. As
(f) In Blackstone's time (see vol. iv. p. 92), the sentence on a traitor was still more dreadful; for as the law then stood (in addition to the solemnities mentioned in the text), the traitor, if a male, was, 1st, to be drawn on a sledge or hurdle to the gallows ; 2nd, to be hanged by the neck, and then cut down alive; 3rdly, his entrails to be taken out and burned while he was yet
alive. And if a woman, she was to be drawn to the gallows, and there burned alive. But the sentence was altered to the form in which it is stated above, by 30 Geo. 3, c. 48, s. 1, and 54 Geo. 3, c. 146. Also the abolished incidents of attainder, forfeiture and corruption of blood formerly attached to the crime of treason, as well as to some other crimes.
II. Misprision of treason.
[Misprisions, a term derived from the old French mespris, a neglect or contempt, are, in the acceptation of our law, generally understood to be all such high offences as rank not amongst such as are or were capital, but are closely bordering thereon: and it is said that a misprision is contained in every treason and felony whatsoever; and that, if the king so please, the offender may be proceeded against for the misprision only (g). And upon the same principle, while the jurisdiction of the Star Chamber subsisted, it was held that the king might remit a prosecution for treason, and cause the delinquent to be censured in that court merely for a high misdemeanor: as happened in the case of Roger, Earl of Rutland, in the forty-third year of Elizabeth, who was concerned in the Earl of Essex's rebellion (h). Misprisions are generally divided in our books into two sorts; negative, which consist in the concealment of something which ought to be revealed; and positive, which consist in the commission of something which ought not to be done. The latter, however, are not denominated in common language as misprisions, but rather as contempts or high misdemeanors (i). Misprision of treason consists of the bare knowledge and concealment of treason, without any degree of assent thereto, for any assent makes the party a principal traitor : as indeed the concealment, which was construed aiding and abetting, did at the common law. But it is now enacted by the statute 1 & 2 P. & M. c. 10, that a bare conccalment of treason, shall be only held a misprision.
This concealment becomes criminal if the party apprised of the treason does not, as soon as conveniently may be, reveal it to some judge of assize or justice of the peace (k). But if there be any probable circumstances of assent, —
(9) Year Book, 2 Rich. 3, 10; Staundf. P. C.37; Kel. 71; 1 Hale, P. C. 374; Hawk. P. C. b. 1, c. 20.
(h) Hudson, of the Court of Star
Chamber, MS. in Mus. Brit. ; Col-
(i) 4 BI. Com. 121.