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Treason is the highest crime of a civil nature of which a man can be guilty.  Its signification is different in different countries.  In general, it is the offense of attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance, or of betraying the state into the hands of a foreign power.  In monarchies, the killing of the king, or an attempt to take his life, is treason.  In England, to imagine or compass the death of the king, or of the prince, or of the queen consort, or of the heir apparent of the crown, is high treason; as are many other offenses created by statute.

In the United States, treason is confined to the actual levying of war against the United States, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort, in time of war.

Treason in Great Britain, is of two kinds, high treason and petit treason.  High treason is a crime that immediately affects the king or state; such as the offenses just enumerated.  Petit treason involves a breach of fidelity, but affects individuals.  Thus for a wife to kill her husband, a servant his master or lord, or an ecclesiastic his lord or ordinary, is petit treason.  But in the United States this crime is unknown; the killing in the latter cases being murder only.

Webster's 1828