Theses Doctoral

Evolution of Criminal Law: The Rise and Fall of Treason, Sodomy and Adultery

Heiliczer, Ephraim Zachary

This dissertation relates to treason and sodomy crimes that were fundamental in all pre-modern societies (also adultery but to a lesser extent). These laws, characterized by their biblical source, have met their demise in modern Western societies. The rise of individual rights led to significant changes in these crimes and eventually to their demise. As discussed below, the demise has become so substantial that the antiquated crime of sodomy, termed the crime against nature, is a modern source of pride, and actions like those of January 6, 2021, that would have been considered treason in prior generations are no longer charged as treason.

Chapter One: Dying Criminal Laws: Sodomy and Adultery From the Bible toDemise analyzes the rise and fall of sodomy and adultery. The original legal basis for punishing sodomy and adultery was due to a breach in the duty of loyalty owed to God (i.e. sin) or the state. However, the loosening of the bonds of loyalty in present day Western criminal law has led to the demise of these crimes. Their demise has correlated with the rise of individual rights, especially the right to privacy. As such, the demise of sodomy and adultery laws is symbolic of the shift from a duty-based to a rights-based society.

Chapter Two: The Genesis of Treason: The Creation of Equality and TheEstablishment of the Patriarchy analyzes the biblical source of treason. The roots of treason reach back to the Bible. Treason against God’s divine right kings was acrime because it was an assault against the heavenly order. Petit treason was also an attack on God’s order.

The initial chapters of the book of Genesis contain the foundation of the law oftreason. The treasons of Adam and Eve, Cain, the Sons of God, Ham, and Nimrod each relate to different aspects of both high and petit treason. The dissertation also analyzes the place of treason during the reign of Saul and David as Kings of Israel. According to the Book of Samuel, neither Saul's indeterminate use of treason nor the virtually nonexistent use of treason by David is the right path. Rather, a determinant form of treason that punishes actual treason but does not punish all forms of opposition is appropriate.

Chapter Three: The Rise and Fall of High Treason and The Correlation with PetitTreason Infallible Relationships: From Edward III to The Execution of Charles I And Lessons For Modern Treason in the Age of Charles III traces the roots of treason as a crime in Anglo-American law, the expansion of treason during Henry VIII’s reign, up to the conviction of King Charles I for high treason. Henry VIII enacted multiple amendments to the law of high treason and did nothesitate to utilize treason as a weapon in his battle for supremacy against the Pope in England. Compared with Henry and his children, James I endeavored to use the law of high treason sparingly. Treason underwent a fundamental transformation during Charles I’s reign thatultimately led to a civil war and Parliament transforming treason from a statute that protected the King into a law that protected the nation. This was done by rejecting the King’s special status and invoking the transformative idea of a social contractbetween the nation and the people. In short, a transformation from status to contract.

The changes at the dawn of treason have continued to the present day, and treason,the crime that protects the hierarchy of society, has not been invoked in the US and UK since the end of World War II. The failed South African treason trial against Nelson Mandela and the Civil and Woman’s Rights Movements appear to have led to treason’s demise in cases that do not involve armed warfare. Despite the renewed interest in treason following the assault on the US Capital on January 6, 2021, there does not appear to be an appetite for reviving treason. In the age of Charles III, the most severe crime for a march like Charles I’s “warlike march” on Parliament is seditious conspiracy.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Fletcher, George
J.S.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 1, 2023