Jan. 9, 2021

Patriot or Traitor?

Patriot.  Many of the people on the right are calling themselves that, lately.  Most of those that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6th, claimed to be patriots.

For some of us, that seems ludicrous.  Patriots don’t try to overturn fair elections.  Patriots don’t storm the Capitol and, go looking for Representatives and Senators they feel are not sufficiently loyal to the President.  How can they call themselves patriots?

Our country seems to be more divided than we have been since the Civil War.  Did the average soldier in the Civil War feel that they were being patriotic?  In his 2010 book “Major Problems in the Civil War and Reconstruction”, historian Michael Perman says that historians are divided on why millions of men seemed to be so eager to fight, suffer and die over four years.

Some historians emphasize that Civil War soldiers were driven by political ideology.  They held firm beliefs about the importance of liberty, Union, or state rights or about the need to protect or destroy slavery.  Other historians point to the need to protect one’s home or land or the honor and brotherhood to be preserved when fighting alongside other men. 

Confederate soldiers who were educated drew upon their knowledge of the American Revolution to justify their participation.  They professed to fight for liberty and independence from what they saw as a too radical government.

Article III of the Constitution contains a very narrow definition of treason as it applies to the United States. It states, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.


The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.”

Today, you can find varying opinions on whether those who took up arms against the United States were traitors or patriots.  History itself, not mortal men or women will determine who was a patriot during this time and who was traitorous.