Attainder of Treason

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Upon conviction of and sentencing for treason, a person is attainted: he loses all claim to the protection of the law. Under English law attainder of treason worked "corruption of blood," depriving the traitor's descendants of the right to inherit property from or through him. The second clause of Article III, section 2, of the Constitution virtually abolishes attainder of treason. Because of that clause, abraham lincoln insisted that the forfeiture of ex-Confederates' property under the confiscation act of 1862 be only for the lifetime of the owner. Construing the act and the constitutional provision in Wallach v. Van Riswick (1872), the Supreme Court held that the limitation on attainder of treason was solely for the benefit of the heirs.

Dennis J. Mahoney