Difference Between Sedition & Treason

By Paula McCullough

Sedition and treason are words often used interchangeably to describe acts of defiance against an established authority. The definition of these words, however, show that they are not one in the same. Examples of each can help drive home the differences between these two words.

Definition of Sedition

Sedition is defined as "conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state."

Examples of Sedition

When the United States instituted the draft for the Vietnam War, many young Americans showed their defiance by burning their draft cards. This act alone was seditious in nature, but not illegal. Burning the American flag has been upheld by the Supreme Court to be a constitutional right of citizens, but is also considered seditious. While not all acts of sedition are legal, being seditious does not automatically make them illegal. In dictatorial governments, of course, any act of sedition might be illegal and result in severe punishment.

Definition of Treason

Treason is defined as "violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one's country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies."

Examples of Treason

Americans usually think of Benedict Arnold when treason is mentioned. Arnold sold military secrets to the British during the Revolutionary War. This is a clear act of treason. Spies who spy against their own country are committing treason. Treasonous acts are illegal in all countries and are often punishable by death.

About the Author

Paula McCullough began freelance writing in 2011. With experience in accounting and business, she writes for various online publications. McCullough holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in accounting from Chapman University.