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Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

325 U.S. 1

Cramer  v.  United States

 Argued: Nov. 6, 1944. --- Decided: April 23, 1945

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, with whom the CHIEF JUSTICE, Mr. Justice BLACK and Mr. Justice REED concur, dissenting.

The opinion of the Court is written on a hypothetical state of facts, not on the facts presented by the record. It states a rule of law based on an interpretation of the Constitution which is not only untenable but is also unnecessary for the decision. It disregards facts essential to a determination of the question presented for decision. It overlooks the basis issue on which our disposition of the case must turn. In order to reach that issue we must have a more exact appreciation of the facts than can be gleaned from the opinion of the Court.

Cramer is a naturalized citizen of the United States, born in Germany. He served in the German army in the last war, coming to this country in 1925. In 1929 he met Thiel who had come to this country in 1927 from a place in Germany not far from petitioner's birthplace. The two became close friends; they were intimate associates during a twelve-year period. In 1933 Cramer found work in Indiana. Thiel joined him there. Both became members of the Friends of New Germany, predecessor of the German-American Bund. Cramer was an officer of the Indiana local. He resigned in 1935 but Thiel remained a member and was known as a zealous Nazi. In 1936 Cramer visited Germany. On his return he received his final citizenship papers. He and Thiel returned to New York in 1937 and lived either together or in close proximity for about four years. Thiel left for Germany in the spring of 1941, feeling that war between the United States and Germany was imminent. According to Cramer, Thiel was 'up to his ears' is Nazi ideology. Cramer corresponded with Thiel in Germany. Prior to our declaration of war, he was sympathetic with the German cause and critical of our attitude. Thus in November, 1941, he wrote Thiel saying he had declined a job in Detroit 'as I don't was to dirty my fingers with war material'; that 'We sit here in pitiable comfort, when we should be in the battle-as Nietzsche says-I want the man, I want the woman, the one fit for war, the other fit for bearing.' In the spring of 1942 he wrote another friend in reference to the possibility of being drafted: 'Personally I should not care at all to be misused by the American army as a world conqueror.' Cramer listened to short-wave broadcasts of Lord Haw-Haw and other German propagandists. He knew that the theme of German propaganda was that England and the United States were fighting a war of aggression and seeking to conquer the world.

So much for the background. What followed is a sequel to Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1, 63 S.Ct. 2, 87 L.Ed. 3.

Thiel entered the German army and in 1942 volunteered with seven other German soldiers who had lived in the United States for a special mission to destroy the American aluminum industry. They were brought here by German submarines in two groups. Kerling was the leader and Thiel a member of one group which landed by rubber boat near Jacksonville, Florida on June 17, 1942. They buried their explosives and proceeded to New York City, where on June 21st they registered at the Hotel Commodore under the assumed names of Edward Kelly and William Thomas.

The next morning a strange voice called Cramer's name from the hall of the rooming house where he lived. On his failure to reply an unsigned note was slipped under his door. It read, 'Be at the Grand Central station tonight at 8 o'clock, the upper platform near the information booth, Franz from Chicago has come into town and wants to see you; don't fail to be there.' Cramer said he knew no Franz from Chicago. But nevertheless he was on hand at the appointed hour and place. Thiel shortly appeared. They went to the Twin Oaks Inn where they talked for two hours. Cramer admitted that he knew Thiel had come from Germany; and of course, he knew that at that time men were not freely entering this country from Germany. He asked Thiel, 'Say, how have you come over, have you come by submarine?' Thiel looked startled, smiled, and said, 'Some other time I am going to tell you all about this.' Thiel told him that he had taken the assumed name of William Thomas and had a forged draft card. Thiel admonished him to remember that he, Thiel, was 'anti-Nazi'-a statement Cramer doubted because he knew Thiel was a member of the Nazi party. thiel indicated he had come from the coast of Florida. Cramer inquired if he had used a rubber boat. When Thiel said that the only time he was 'scared to death was when I came over here we got bombed,' Cramer replied, 'Then you have come over by submarine, haven't you?' Thiel told Cramer that he had 'three and a half or four thousand dollars' with him and that 'if you have the right kind of connection you can even get dollars in Germany.' Cramer offered to keep Thiel's money for him. Thiel agreed but nothing was done about it that evening. Cramer admitted he had a 'hunch' that Thiel was here on a mission for the German government. He asked Thiel 'whether he had come over here to spread rumors and incite unrest.' Cramer after his arrest told agents of the F.B.I. that he had suspected that Thiel had received the money from the German government, that Thiel in fact had told him that he was on a mission for Germany, and that 'whatever his mission was, I thought that he was serious in his undertaking.' Thiel from the beginning clothed his actions with secrecy; was unwilling to be seen at Cramer's room ('because I have too many acquaintances there and I don't want them to see me'); and cautioned Cramer against conversing loudly with him in the public tavern.

So they agreed to meet at the Twin Oaks Inn at 8 P.M. on the following evening, June 23, 1942. At this meeting Kerling joined them. Cramer had met Kerling in this country and knew he had returned to Germany. Kerling and Thiel told Cramer that they had come over together. Cramer had a 'hunch' that Kerling was here for the same purpose as Thiel. Kerling left Thiel and Cramer after about an hour and a half. Kerling was followed and arrested. Cramer and Thiel stayed on at the tavern for about another hour. After Kerling left, Thiel agreed to entrust his money to Cramer for safekeeping. He told Cramer to take out $200 which Thiel owed him. But he asked Cramer not to put all of the balance in the safe deposit box-that he should keep some of it out 'in the event I need it in a hurry.' Thiel went to the washroom to remove the money belt. He handed it to Cramer on the street when they left the tavern. From the Twin Oaks Thiel and Cramer went to Thompson's Cafeteria where they conversed for about fifteen minutes. They agreed to meet there at 8 P.M. on June 25th. They parted. Thiel was followed and arrested.

Cramer returned home. He put Thiel's money belt in a shoe box. He put some of the money between the pages of a book. Later he put the balance in his bank, some in a savings account, most of it in his safe deposit box. He and Thiel had talked of Thiel's fiance e, Norma Kopp. At the first meeting Cramer had offered to write her on Thiel's behalf. He did so. He did not mention Thiel's name but asked her to come to his room, saying he had 'sensational' news for her. Cramer appeared at Thompson's Cafeteria at 8 P. M. June 25th to keep his appointment with Thiel. He waited about an hour and a half. He returned the next night, June 26th, and definitely suspected Thiel had been arrested. Though he knew Thiel was registered at the Hotel Commodore, he made no attempt to get in touch with him there. When he returned to his room that night, Norma Kopp was waiting for him. She testified that he told her that Thiel was here; that 'they came about six men with a U-boat, in a rubber boat, and landed in Florida'; that they 'brought so much money along from Germany, from the German government' he was keeping it in a safe deposit box; and that they 'get instructions from the sitz (hideout) in the Bronx what to do, and where to go'. The next morning Cramer left a note for 'William Thomas' at the Commodore saying that Norma Kopp had arrived and suggested a rendezvous. Later in the day Cramer was arrested. He told the agents of the F.B.I. that the name of the man who had been with him at Thompson's Cafeteria on the evening of June 23rd was 'William Thomas', that 'Thomas' had been working in a factory on the West Coast since March, 1941, and had not been out of the United States since then. He was asked if 'Thomas' was not Thiel. He then admitted he was, saying that Thiel had used an assumed name, as he was having difficulties with his draft board. He also stated that the money belt Thiel gave him contained only $200 which Thiel owed him and that the $3500 in his safe deposit box belonged to him and were the proceeds from the sale of securities. After about an hour or so of the falsehoods Cramer asked to speak to one of the agents alone. The request was granted. He then recanted his previous false statements and stated that he felt sure that Thiel had come from Germany by submarine on a mission for the German Government and that he thought that mission was 'to stir up unrest among the people and probably spread propaganda.' He stated he had lied in order to protect Thiel.

The Court holds that this evidence is insufficient to sustain the conviction of Cramer under the requirements of the Constitution. We disagree.

Article III, Sec. 3 of the Constitution defines treason as follows: '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 charge against Cramer was that of adhering. The essential elements of the crime are that Cramer (1) with treasonable intent (2) gave aid and comfort to the enemy. [1]

There was ample evidence for the jury that Cramer had a treasonable intent. The trial court charged the jury that 'criminal intent and knowledge, being a mental state, are not susceptible of being proved by direct evidence, and therefore you must infer the nature of the defendant's intent and knowledge from all the circumstances.' It charged that proof of criminal intent and knowledge is sufficient if proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the two witnesses are not necessary for any of the facts other than the overt acts. On that there apparently is no disagreement. It also charged: 'Now gentlemen, motive should not be confused with intent. If the defendant knowingly gives aid and comfort to one who he knows or believes is an enemy, then he must be taken to intend the consequences of his own voluntary act, and the fact that his motive might not have been to aid the enemy is no defense. In other words, one cannot do an act which he knows will give aid and comfort to a person he knows to be an enemy of the United States, and then seek to disclaim criminal intent and knowledge by saying that one's motive was not to aid the enemy. So if you believe that the defendant performed acts which by their nature gave aid and comfort to the enemy, knowing or believing him to be an enemy, then you must find that he had criminal intent, since he intended to do the act forbidden by the law. The fact that you may believe that his motive in so doing was, for example, merely to help a friend, or possibly for financial gain, would not change the fact that he had a criminal intent.' On that there apparently is no disagreement. A man who voluntarily assists one known or believed to be an enemy agent may not defend on the ground that he betrayed his country for only thirty pieces of silver. See Hanauer v. Doane, 12 Wall. 342, 347, 20 L.Ed. 439; Sprott v. United States, 20 Wall. 459, 463, 22 L.Ed. 371. 'The consequences of his acts are too serious and enormous to admit of such a plea. He must be taken to intend the consequences of his own voluntary act.' Hanauer v. Doane, supra (12 Wall. 347, 20 L.Ed. 439). For the same reasons a man cannot slip through our treason law because his aid to those who would destroy his country was prompted by a desire to 'accommodate a friend.' [2] Loyalty to country cannot be subordinated to the amenities of personal friendship.

Cramer had a traitorous intent if he knew or believed that Thiel and Kerling were enemies and were working here in the interests of the German Reich. The trial court charged that mere suspicion was not enough; but that it was not necessary for Cramer to have known all their plans. There apparently is no disagreement on that. By that test the evidence against Cramer was overwhelming. The conclusion is irresistible that Cramer believed, if he did not actually know, that Thiel and Kerling were here on a secret mission for the German Reich with the object of injuring the United States and that the money which Thiel gave him for safekeeping had been supplied by Germany to facilitate the project of the enemy. The trial court charged that if the jury found that Cramer had no purpose or intention of assisting the German Reich in its prosecution of the war or in hampering the United States in its prosecution of the war but acted solely for the purpose of assisting Kerling and Thiel as individuals, Cramer should be acquitted. There was ample evidence for the jury's conclusion that the assistance Cramer rendered was assistance to the German Reich, not merely assistance to Kerling and Thiel as individuals.

The trial judge stated when he sentenced Cramer that it did not appear that Cramer knew that Thiel and Kerling were in possession of explosives or other means for destroying factories in this country or that they planned to do that. He stated that if there had been direct proof of such knowledge he would have sentenced Cramer to death rather than to forty-five years in prison. But however relevant such particular knowledge may have been to fixing the punishment for Cramer's acts of treason, it surely was not essential to proof of his traitorous intent. A defendant who has aided an enemy agent in this country may not escape conviction for treason on the ground that he was not aware of the enemy's precise objectives. Knowing or believing that the agent was here on a mission on behalf of a hostile government, he could not, by simple failure to ask too many questions, assume that this mission was one of charity and benevolence toward the United States. But the present case is much stronger. For Cramer claims he believed the enemy agent's objective was to destroy national morale by propaganda and not to blow up war factories. Propaganda designed to cause disunity among adversaries is one of the older weapons known to warfare, and upon occasion one of the most effective. No one can read this record without concluding that the defendant Cramer knew this. He is an intelligent, if misguided, man. He has a quick wit sharpened by considerable learing of its kind. He is widely read and a student of history and philosophy, particularly Ranke and Nietzsche. He had been an officer of a pro-German organization, and his closest associate had been a zealous Nazi. He also had listened to German propagandists over the short wave. But, in any event, it is immaterial whether Cramer was acquainted with the efficacy of propaganda in modern warfare. Undoubtedly he knew that the German Government thought it efficacious. When he was shown consciously and voluntarily to have assisted this enemy program his traitorous intent was then and there sufficiently proved.

The Court does not purport to set aside the conviction for lack of sufficient evidence of traitorous intent. It frees Cramer from this treason charge solely on the ground that the overt acts charged are insufficient under the constitutional requirement.

The overt acts alleged were (1) that Cramer met with Thiel and Kerling on June 23rd, 1942, at the Twin Oaks Inn and 'did confer, treat, and counsel' with them 'for the purpose of giving and with the intent to give aid and comfort' to the enemy; (2) that Cramer 'did accompany, confer, treat, and counsel with' Thiel at the Twin Oaks Inn and at Thompson's Cafeteria on June 23rd, 1942, 'for the purpose of giving and with intent to give aid and comfort' to the enemy; and (3) that Cramer gave false information of the character which has been enumerated to agents of the F.B.I. 'for the purpose of concealing the identity and mission' of Thiel and 'for the purpose of giving and with intent to give aid and comfort' to the enemy.

The Court concedes that an overt act need not manifest on its face a traitorous intention. By that concession it rejects the defense based on the treason clause which Cramer has made here. The Court says an overt act must 'show sufficient action by the accused, in its setting, to sustain a finding that the accused actually gave aid and comfort to the enemy.' It says, however, that the 'protection of the two-witness rule extends at least to all acts of the defendant which are used to draw incriminating inferences that aid and comfort have been given.' It adds, 'Every act, movement, deed, and word of the defendant charged to constitute treason must be supported by the testimony of two witnesses. The two-witness principle is to interdict imputation of incriminating acts to the accused by circumstantial evidence or by the testimony of a single witness. The prosecution cannot rely on evidence which does not meet the constitutional test for overt acts to create any inference that the accused did other acts or did something more than was shown in the overt act, in order to make a giving of aid and comfort to the enemy.' And when it comes to the overt acts of meeting and conferring with Thiel and Kerling the Court holds that they are inadequate since there was 'no two-witness proof of what they said nor in what language they conversed.' That is to say, reversible error is found because the two witnesses who testified to the fact that Cramer met twice with the saboteurs did not testify that Cramer gave them information of 'value to their mission' such as shelter, sustenance, supplies, encouragement or counsel.

That conclusion, we submit, leads to ludicrous results. The present case is an excellent example.

It is conceded that if the two witnesses had testified not only that they saw Cramer conferring with Thiel and Kerling but also heard him agree to keep Thiel's money and saw him take it, the result would be different. But the assumption is that since the two witnesses could not testify as to what happened at the meetings, we must appraise the meetings in isolation from the other facts of the record. Therein lies the fallacy of the argument.

In the first place, we fully agree that under the constitutional provision there can be no conviction of treason without proof of two witnesses of an overt act of treason. We also agree that the act so proved need not itself manifest on its face the treasonable intent. And as the Court states, such intent need not be proved by two witnesses. It may even be established by circumstantial evidence. For it is well established that the overt act and the intent are separate and distinct elements of the crime. [3] The 'intent may be proved by one witness, collected from circumstances, or even by a single fact.' Case of Fries, 9 Fed.Cas. pages 826, 909, No. 5,126; Respublica v. Roberts, 1 Dall. 39, 1 L.Ed. 27; United States v. Lee, 26 Fed.Cas. page 907, No. 15,584; Trial of David Maclane, 26 How.St.Tr. 721, 795-798. Acts innocent on their face, when judged in the light of their purpose and of related events, may turn out to be acts of aid and comfort committed with treasonable purpose. It is the overt act charged as such in the indictment which must be proved by two witnesses and not the related events which make manifest its treasonable quality and purpose. This, we think, is the correct and necessary conclusion to be drawn from the concession that the overt act need not on its face manifest the guilty purpose. The grossest and most dangerous act of treason may be, as in this case, and often is, innocent on its face. But the ruling of the Court that the related acts and events which show the true character of the overt act charged must be proved by two witnesses is without warrant under the constitutional provisions, and is so remote from the practical realities of proving the offense, as to render the constitutional command unworkable. The treasonable intent or purpose which it is said may be proved by a single witness or circumstantial evidence must, in the absence of a confession of guilt in open court, be inferred from all the facts and circumstances which surround and relate to the overt act. Inference of the treasonable purpose from events and acts related to or surrounding the overt act necessarily includes the inference that the accused committed the overt act with the knowledge or understanding of its treasonable character. To say that the treasonable purpose with which the accused committed the overt act may be inferred from related events proved by a single witness, and at the same time to say that so far as they show the treasonable character of the overt act, they must be proved by two witnesses, is a contradiction in terms. The practical effect of such a doctrine is to require proof by two witnesses, not only of the overt act charged which the Constitution requires but of every other fact and circumstance relied upon to show the treasonable character of the overt act and the treasonable purpose with which it was committed which the Constitution plainly does not require. Here, as in practically all cases where there is no confession in open court, the two are inseparable, save only in the single instance where the overt act manifests its treasonable character on its face. The court thus in substance adopts the contention of the respondent, which it has rejected in words, and for all practical purposes requires proof by two witnesses, not only of the overt act but of all other elements of the crime save only in the case where the accused confesses in open court. It thus confuses proof of the overt act with proof of the purpose or intent with which the overt act was committed and, without historical support, expands the constitutional requirement so as to include an element of proof not embraced by its words.

We have developed in the Appendix to this opinion the historic function of the overt act in treason cases. It is plain from those materials that the requirement of an overt act is designed to preclude punishment for treasonable plans or schemes or hopes which have never moved out of the realm of thought or speech. It is made a necessary ingredient of the crime to foreclose prosecutions for constructive treason. The treasonable project is complete as a crime only when the traitorous intent has ripened into a physical and observable act. The act standing alone may appear to be innocent or indifferent, such as joining a person at a table, stepping into a boat, or carrying a parcel of food. That alone is insufficient. It must be established beyond a reasonable doubt that the act was part of the treasonable project and done in furtherance of it. Its character and significance are to be judged by its place in the effectuation of the project. That does not mean that where the treasonable scheme involves several treasonable acts, and the overt act which is charged has been proved by two witnesses, that all the other acts which tend to show the treasonable character of the overt act and the treasonable purpose with which it was committed must be proved by two witnesses. The Constitution does not so declare. There is no historical support for saying that the phrase 'two Witnesses to the same overt Act' may be or can be read as meaning two witnesses to all the acts involved in the treasonable scheme of the accused. Obviously one overt act proved by two witnesses is enough to sustain a conviction even though the accused has committed many other acts which can be proved by only one witness or by his own admission in open court. Hence, it is enough that the overt act which is charged be proved by two witnesses. As the Court concedes, its treasonable character need not be manifest upon its face. We say that its true character may be proved by any competent evidence sufficient to sustain the verdict of a jury. Any other conclusion lands to such absurd results as to preclude the supposition that the two witness rule was intended to have the meaning attributed to it.

When we apply that test to the facts of this case it is clear to us that the judgment of conviction against Cramer should not be set aside. The historical materials which we have set forth in the Appendix to this opinion establish that a meeting with the enemy may be adequate as an overt act of treason. Hale, Kelyng and Foster establish that beyond peradventure of doubt. Such a meeting might be innocent on its face. It might also be innocent in its setting, as Hale, Kelying and Foster point out, where, for example, it was accidental. We would have such a case here if Cramer's first meeting with Thiel was charged as an overt act. For, as we have seen, Cramer went to the meeting without knowledge that he would meet and confer with Thiel. But the subsequent meetings were arranged between them. They were arranged in furtherance of Thiel's designs. Cramer was not only on notice that Thiel was here on a mission inimical to the interests of this nation. He had agreed at the first meeting to hide Thiel's money. He had agreed to contact Norma Kopp. He knew that Thiel wanted his identity and presence in New York concealed. This was the setting in which the later meetings were held. The meetings take on their true character and significance from that setting. They constitute acts. They demonstrate that Cramer had a liking for Thiel's design to the extent of aiding him in it. They show beyond doubt that Cramer had more than a treasonable intent; that that intent had moved from the realm of thought into the realm of action. Since two witnesses proved that the meetings took place, their character and significance might be proved by any competent evidence.

In the second place, this judgment of conviction should be sustained even though we assume, arguendo, that Cramer's motion to dismiss at the end of the government's case should have been granted. To concern of the Court is that acts innocent on their face may be transformed into sinister or guilty acts by circumstantial evidence, by inference, by speculation. The rule announced by the Court is based on a desire for trust-worthy evidence in determining the character and significance of the overt acts. But this is not a case where an act innocent on its face is given a sinister aspect and made a part of a treasonous design by circumstantial evidence, by inference, or by the testimony of a single witness for the prosecution. We know from Cramer's own testimony-from his admissions at the trial-exactly what happened.

We know the character of the meetings from Cramer's own admissions. We know from his own lips that they were not accidental or casual conferences, or innocent, social meetings. He arranged them with Thiel. When he did so he believed that Thiel was here on a secret mission for the German Reich with the object of injuring this nation. He also knew that Thiel was looking for a place to hide his money. Cramer had offered to keep it for Thiel and Thiel had accepted the offer. Cramer had also offered to write Norma Kopp, Thiel's fiance e, without mentioning Thiel's name. Cramer also knew that Thiel wanted his identity and his presence in New York concealed. Cramer's admissions at the trial gave character and significance to those meetings. Those admissions plus the finding of treasonable intent place beyond a reasonable doubt the conclusion that those meetings were steps in and part and parcel of the treasonable project.

Nor need we guess or speculate for knowledge of what happened at the meetings. We need not rely on circumstantial evidence, draw inferences from other facts, or resort to secondary sources. Again we know from Cramer's testimony at the trial-from his own admissions-precisely what transpired.

Cramer told the whole story in open court. He admitted he agreed to act and did act as custodian of the saboteur Thiel's money. He agreed to hold it available for Thiel's use whenever Thiel might need it. It is difficult to imagine what greater aid one could give a saboteur unless he participated in the sabotage himself. Funds were as essential to Thiel's plans as the explosives he buried in the sands of Florida. Without funds the mission of all the saboteurs would have soon ended or been seriously crippled. Cramer did not stop here. Preservation of secrecy was essential to this invasion of the enemy. It was vital if the project was to be successful. In this respect Cramer also assisted Thiel. He cooperated with Thiel in the concealment of Thiel's identity and presence in New York City. He did his best to throw federal officers off the trail and to mislead them. He made false statements to them saying that Thiel's true name was 'Thomas' and that Thiel had not been not of the country since the war began.

If Cramer had not testified, we would then be confronted with the questions discussed in the opinion of the Court. But he took the stand and told the whole story. It is true that at the end of the government's case Cramer moved to dismiss on the ground that the crime charged had not been made out. That motion was denied and an exception taken. If Cramer had rested there, the case submitted to the jury and a judgment of conviction rendered, we would have before us the problem presented in the opinion of the Court. But Cramer did not rest on that motion. He took the stand and told the whole story. Any defect in the proof was cured by that procedure. As stated in Bogk v. Gassert, 149 U.S. 17, 23, 13 S.Ct. 738, 739, 37 L.Ed. 631, 'A defendant has an undoubted right to stand upon his motion for a nonsuit, and have his writ of error, if it be refused; but he has no right to insist upon his exception after having subsequently put in his testimony, and made his case upon the merits, since the court and jury have the right to consider the whole case as made by the testimony. It not infrequently happens that the defendant himself, by his own evidence, supplies the missing link'. And see Sigafus v. Porter, 179 U.S. 116, 121, 21 S.Ct. 34, 36, 45 L.Ed. 113; McCabe & Steen Const. Co. v. Wilson, 209 U.S. 275, 276, 28 S.Ct. 558, 559, 52 L.Ed. 788; Bates v. Miller, 2 Cir., 133 F.2d 645, 647, 648; 9 Wigmore on Evidence (3d ed. 1940) § 2496. And the rule obtains in criminal as well as in civil cases. Sheridan v. United States, 9 Cir., 112 F.2d 503, 504, reversed on other grounds 312 U.S. 654, 61 S.Ct. 619, 85 L.Ed. 1104; Edwards v. United States, 8 Cir., 7 F.2d 357, 359; Baldwin v. United States, 9 Cir., 72 F.2d 810, 812.

Why then must we disregard Cramer's admissions at the trial? Why must we assume, as does this Court, that those admissions are out of the case and that our decision must depend solely on the evidence presented by the government?

The Constitution says that a 'confession in open Court' is sufficient to sustain a conviction of treason. It was held in United States v. Magtibay, 2 Philippine 703, that a confession in open court to the overt acts charged in the indictment was not an adequate substitute for the testimony of two witnesses where the accused denied treasonable purpose. We need not go so far as to say that if the whole crime may be proved by an admission by the accused in open court, one of the ingredients of the offense may be established in like manner. See Respublica v. Roberts, supra. We do not say that if the government completely fails to prove an overt act or proves it by one witness only, the defect can be cured by the testimony of other witnesses or by the admissions of the accused. We do say that a meeting with the enemy is an act and may in its setting be an overt act of treason. We agree that overt acts innocent on their face should not be lightly transformed into incriminating acts. But so long as overt acts of treason need not manifest treason on their face, as the Court concedes, the sufficiency of the evidence to establish the treasonable character of the act, like the evidence of trasonable intent, depends on the quality of that evidence whatever the number of witnesses who supplied it. There can be no doubt in this case on that score. Certainly a person who takes the stand in defense of a treason charge against him will not be presumed to commit perjury when he makes admissions against self-interest. Admissions against self-interest have indeed always been considered as the highest character of evidence. When two witnesses testify to the overt acts, why then are not admissions of the accused in open court adequate to establish their true character? Could the testimony of any number of witnesses more certainly or conclusively establish the significance of what was done? Take the case where two witnesses testify that the accused delivered a package to the enemy, the accused admitting in open court that the package contained guns or ammunition. Or two witnesses testify that the accused sent the enemy a message, innocuous on its face, the accused admitting in open court that the message was a code containing military information. Must a conviction be set aside because the two witnesses did not testify to what the accused admitted in open court? We say no. In such circumstances we have no examples of constructive treason. The intent is not taken for the deed. Proof of the overt act plus proof of a treasonable intent make clear that the treasonable design has moved out of the realm of thought into the filed of action. And any possibility that an act innocent on its face has been transformed into a sinister or guilty act is foreclosed. For the significance and character of the act are supplied by the admissions from the lips of the accused in open court. The contrary result could be reached only if it were necessary that the overt act manifest treason on its face. That theory is rejected by the Court. But once rejected it is fatal to the defense.

Cramer's counsel could not defend on the grounds advanced by the Court for the simple reason that the government having proved by two witnesses that Cramer met and conferred with the saboteurs, any possible insufficiency in the evidence which it adduced to show the character and significance of the meetings was cured by Cramer's own testimony. Cramer can defend only on the ground that the overt act must manifest treason, which the Court rejects, or on the ground that he had no treasonable intent, which the jury found against him on an abundance of evidence. Those are the only alternatives because concededly conferences with saboteurs here on a mission for the enemy may be wholly adequate as overt acts under the treason clause. They were proved by two witnesses as required by the Constitution. Any possible doubt as to their character and significance as parts of a treasonable project were removed by the defendant's own admissions in open court. To say that we are precluded from considering those admissions in weighing the sufficiency of the evidence of the true character and significance of the overt acts is neither good sense nor good law. Such a result makes the way easy for the traitor, does violence to the Constitution and makes justice truly blind.

The most relevant source of materials for interpretation of the treason clause of the Constitution is the statute of 25 Edw. III, Stat. 5, ch. 2 (1351) and the construction which was given it. It was with that body of law and the English and colonial experience under it that the Framers were acquainted. That statute specified seven offenses as constituting treason. As respects the three offenses relevant to our present discussion, it provided as follows: if a man 'doth compass or imagine the death' of the king, or 'if a man do levy war' against the king in his realm, or if he 'be adherent to the king's enemies in his realm, giving to them aid and comfort in the realm, or elsewhere, and thereof be probably attainted of open deed', he shall be guilty of treason.

Coke makes clear that the requirement of an overt act under the statute applies to all of the offenses included in the category of treason. See Coke, Institutes of the Laws of England, Third Part (5th ed. London, 1671), p. 5. There are indications by Coke that the overt act was a separate element of the offense and that its function was to show that the treasonable design had moved from thought to action. Id., pp. 5, 12, 14, 38. Hale is somewhat more explicit. In discussing the offense of compassing the king's death he indicates that the overt act may be 'indifferent' in character. He says, 'That words may expound an overt-act to make good an indictment of treason of compassing the king's death, which overt-act possibly of itself may be indifferent and unapplicable to such an intent.' 1 Hale, History of the Pleas of the Crown (Emlyn ed., London, 1736), p. 115. And he noted that 'If there be an assembling together to consider how they may kill the king, this assembling is an overt-act to make good an indictment of compassing the king's death.' Id., p. 119. Kelying states the same view. He cites Sir Everard Digby's Case, 1 St.Tr. 234, for the proposition that the meeting of persons and their consulting to destroy the king was itself an overt act. 'It was resolved that where a Person knowing of the Design does meet with them, and hear them discourse of their traitorous Designs, and say or act nothing; This is High-Treason in that Party, for it is more than a bare Concealment, which is Misprision, because it sheweth his liking and approving of their Design.' He says that if a person not knowing their intent met with them, heard their plans, but said nothing and never met again, that would be only misprision of treason. 'But if he after meet with them again, and hear their Consultations, and then conceal it, this is High-Treason. For it sheweth a liking, and an approving of their Design.' Kelyng, A Report of Divers Cases in Pleas of the Crown (3d ed., London, 1873), p. *17. And see p. *21.

Foster is even more explicit. Like Coke he asserts that an overt act is required for each branch of treason covered by the Statute of Edward III. Foster, A Report of Some Proceedings on the Commission for the Trial of the Rebels in the Year 1746 in the County of Surry, and of other Crown Cases (2d ed., London 1791), pp. 207, 237. He makes clear that an overt act is required not to corroborate the proof of a traitorous intent but to show that the treasonable project has left the realm of thought and moved into the realm of action. As respects the offense of compassing the death of the king, he says that the indictment 'must charge, that the defendant did traitorously compass and imagine &c, and then go on and charge the several overt-acts as the means employed by the defendant for executing his traitorous purposes. For the compassing is considered as the treason, the overt-acts as the means made use of to effectuate the intentions and imaginations of the heart.' Id., p. 194. He refers to Crohagan's Case (Cro.Car. 332) where the defendant said 'I will kill the King of England, if I can come at him' and the indictment added that he came to England for that purpose. 'The traitorous intention, proved by his words, converted an action, innocent in itself, into an overt-act of treason.' Id., p. 202. And he also points out that 'Overt-acts undoubtedly do discover the man's intentions; but, I conceive, they are not to be considered merely as evidence, but as the means made use of to effectuate the purposes of the heart.' Id., p. 203. And he adds, 'Upon this principle words of advice or encouragement, and, above all, consultations for destroying the King, very properly come under the notion of means made use of for the purpose. But loose words not relative to facts are, at the worst, no more than bare indications of the malignity of the heart.' Id., p. 204. He follows Kelyng in saying that attendance at a meeting with previous notice of the design to plot the death of the king or a return to a meeting after knowledge is gained of its treasonable purpose is treason, though bare concealment would not be if the defendant met the conspirators 'accidentally or upon some indifferent occasion'. Id., p. 195.

It is true that these observations related to the offense of compassing or imagining the death of the king. But Foster indicates that the same test applies to make out the offense of adherence to the king's enemies. He says, 'The offense of inciting foreigners to invade the kingdom is a treason of signal enormity. In the lowest estimation of things and in all possible events, it is an attempt, on the part of the offender, to render his country the seat of blood and desolation.' Id., pp. 196-197. This was said in connection with his discussion of Lord Preston's case, 12 How.St.Tr. 645, a landmark in the law of treason. Lord Preston was indicted both for compassing the death of the king and for adherence to his enemies. England was at war with France. The indictment alleged as an overt act of treason that on December 30, 1690, Lord Preston and others hired a small boat in the County of Middlesex to take them to another vessel which would carry them to France. The indictment alleged that the defendants were en route to France to communicate military information to the enemy. After the vessel set sail for France and when the vessel was in the County of Kent, the defendants were arrested. Papers containing information of value to the enemy were found on the person of Lord Preston's servant. Lord Preston contended that since the indictment laid the treason in Middlesex there was no showing that a legally sufficient overt act of treason had been committed in that county. The court held, however, that the act of boarding the boat in Middlesex was a sufficient overt act of treason. Lord Chief Justice Holt ruled, 'Now the question is, whether your lordship had a design to go to France with these papers? If you had, and if your lordship did go on ship-board in order to it, your taking boat in Middlesex in order to go on ship-board, is a fact done in the county of Middlesex.' 12 How.St.Tr., p. 728.

Foster in his analysis of that case makes clear that taking the boat was an overt act sufficient not only to the crime of compassing the death of the king but also adherence to the enemies of the king. Foster, op. cit., pp. 197-198. Yet on its face and standing alone the overt act of taking the boat was completely innocent and harmless. Only when it was related to other activities and events did it acquire a treasonable significance. Foster gives other indications that in case of adherence to the enemy the function of the overt act is no different than when the offense of compassing is charged. The crime of adherence is made out where the defendant attempts to send money, provisions, or information to the enemy 'though the money or intelligence should happen to be intercepted; for the party in sending did all he could; the treason was complete on his part, though it had not the effect he intended.' Id., p. 217.

Blackstone emphasizes the desirability of a restrictive interpretation of the offense of treason, condemning 'constructive' treason and 'newfangled treasons' which imperil the liberty of the people. 4 Blackstone, Commentaries (6th ed. Dublin 1775), pp. 75, 83, 85, 86. Blackstone recognizes the distinction between evidence of intent and the overt act: 'But, as this compassing or imagination is an act of the mind, it cannot possibly fall under any judicial cognizance, unless it be demonstrated by some open, or overt act. And yet the tyrant Dionysius is recorded to have executed a subject, barely for dreaming that he had killed him; which was held for a sufficient proof, that he had thought thereof in his waking hours. But such is not the temper of the English law; and therefore, in this, and the three next species of treason, it is necessary that there appear an open or overt act of a more full and explicit nature, to convict the traitor upon.' Id., p. 79. When it comes to the offense of adherence to the enemy he gives examples of adequate overt acts, some of which may be innocent standing by themselves. 'This must likewise be provided by some overt act, as by giving them intelligence, by sending them provisions, by selling them arms, by treacherously surrendering a fortress, or the like.' Id., pp. 82-83. His analysis supports the views of Foster that the function of the overt act is to show that the traitorous project has moved out of the realm of thought into the realm of action.

The English cases prior to 1790 support this thesis. We have mentioned Lord Preston's case. In the case of Captain Vaughn, 13 How.St.Tr. 485, the principal charge against the defendant was adhering to the enemy, though levying war was also alleged. The substance of the overt act of adherence was that when France and England were at war the defendant cruised in a small ship of war, in English waters, in the service of France with intent to take the king's ships. It was objected that the overt act alleged was insufficient 'for it is said only he went a-cruising; whereas they ought to have alleged that he did commit some acts of hostility, and attempted to take some of the king's ships; for cruising alone cannot be an overt-act; for he might be cruising to secure the French merchantships from being taken, or for many other purposes, which will not be an overt-act of treason.' p.531. But Lord Chief Justice Holt ruled: 'I beg your pardon. Suppose the French king, with forces, should come to Dunkirk with a design to invade England; if any one should send him victuals, or give him intelligence, or by any other way contribute to their assistance, it would be high-treason in adhering to the king's enemies.' p. 531. And Lord Chief Justice Treby added: 'The indictment is laid for adhering to, and comforting and aiding the king's enemies. You would take that to be capable to be construed adhering to the king's enemies in other respects; but I take it to be a reasonable construction of the indictment, to be adhering to the king's enemies in their enmity. What is the duty of every subject? It is to fight with, subdue, and weaken the king's enemies: and contrary to this, if he confederate with, and strengthen the king's enemies, he expressly contradicts this duty of his allegiance, and is guilty of this treason of adhering to them. But then you say here is no aiding unless there was something done, some act of hostility. Now here is going aboard with an intention to do such acts; and is not that comforting and aiding? Certainly it is. Is not the French king comforted and aided, when he has got so many English subjects to go a cruising upon our ships?' pp. 532, 533. And he went on to say that acts which 'give the enemy heart and courage to go on with the war' are acts of adherence even though the whole project was 'an unprosperous attempt.' p. 533. He emphasized that the lack of success was immaterial, for 'if they have success enough, it will be too late to question them.' p. 533. This is plain recognition not only that the aid and comfort may be given though the project is thwarted [1] but also that aid and comfort is given when the enemy is encouraged and his morale bolstered as well as when materials are furnished.

The case of Francis De la Motte, 21 How.St.Tr. 687, is also somewhat illuminating. The indictment charged compassing and adhering. The overt acts included writing and causing to be written documents conveying intelligence to the enemy, procuring a messenger to cary the documents, and hiring a person to gather and to send the intelligence. Mr. Justice Buller in his charge to the jury said: 'The sending intelligence, or collecting intelligence, for the purpose of sending it to an enemy, to enable them to annoy us or to defend themselves, though it be never delivered to the enemy; or the hiring a person for that purpose, is an overt act of both the species of treason which I am stating to you from this indictment.' p. 808.

These materials indicate that the function of the overt act was to make certain that before a conviction for the high crime of treason may be had more than a treasonable design must be established; it must be shown that action pursuant to that design has been taken. The treason of adherence was defined essentially in terms of conduct for it involved giving aid and comfort. Yet the attempt alone was sufficient; the aid and comfort need not have been received by the enemy. Conduct amounting to aid and comfort might be innocent by itself-such as collecting information or stepping into a boat. It was sufficient if in its setting it reflected a treasonable project. It need not entail material aid; comfort or encouragement was sufficient. The only requirement was that it definitely translate treasonable thought into action which plainly tended to give aid and comfort to the enemy.

These materials likewise support the contention of the government that the overt act need not manifest treason on its face.

The history of treason in this country down to the Constitution has been recently developed in Hurst, Treason in the United States, (1944) 58 Harv.L.Rev. 226. We do not stop to explore that field. But Professor Hurst's researches make plain that prior to the revolution the influence of 25 Edw. III was strong in the colonies and that, if anything, the scope of the offense was somewhat broadened. The Revolution changed matters. The Continental Congress recommended more restrictive legislation to the colonies which limited treason to levying war and adhering to the enemy, giving him aid and comfort. Id., p. 247. No form of treason by compassing was retained. Id., p. 252. Distrust of constructive treason was beginning to be voiced (id., pp. 253, 254) though in some colonies treason was so broadly defined as to include mere utterances of opinions. Id., pp. 266 et seq.

The proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 have been related in the opinion of the Court. And see Hurst, Treason in the United States, 58 Harv.L.Rev. 395. As the Court points out the Framers were anxious to guard against convictions of the innocent by perjury and to remove treason from the realm of domestic, political disputes. Franklin expressed concern on the first in his statement that 'prosecutions for treason were generally virulent; and perjury too easily made use of against innocence.' 2 Farrand, Records of the Federal Convention, p. 348. Madison and Jefferson [2] both expressed distrust of treason for its long history of abuse in the political field. Madison said in language somewhat reminiscent of Blackstone: 'As treason may be committed against the United States, the authority of the United States ought to be enabled to punish it. But as new-fangled and artifical treasons have been the great engines by which violent factions, the natural offspring of free government, have usually wreaked their alternate malignity on each other, the convention have, with great judgment, opposed a barrier to this peculiar danger, by inserting a constitutional definition of the crime, fixing the proof necessary for conviction of it, and restraining the Congress, even in punishing it, from extending the consequences of guilt beyond the person of its author.' The Federalist, No. XLIII.

The requirement of two wotnesses was not novel. England had long had that rule. 9 Holdsworth, A History of English Law (2d ed. 1938) p. 207. The novelty was in the requirement that there be two witnesses to the 'same' overt act. Moreover, there was no novely in the offenses which were included in the definition of treason. Adhering to the enemy, giving him aid and comfort, like levying war, had long been embraced in the English crime of treason as we have seen. But there was novelty in the narrow definition of treason which was adopted-a restrictive definition born of the fear of constructive treason and distrust of treason as a political instrument.

There is, however, no evidence whatever that the offense of adhering to the enemy giving him aid and comfort was designed to encompass a narrower field than that indicated by its accepted and settled meaning. Nor is there the slightest indication that the kind or character of overt acts required were any different than those which had long been recognized or accepted as adequate. The overt act was of course 'intended as a distinct element of proof of the offense in addition to intent.' Hurst, op. cit., pp. 415 416. But any suggested difference from the body of law which preceded vanishes when two witnesses to the same overt act are produced. As respects the point vital for our decision it is therefore quite inaccurate for the Court to conclude that our treason clause 'taught a concept that differed from all historical models.' That would be true only if there was a purpose to depart from the concept of adhering to the enemy or the concept of overt acts which had become ingrained in the antecedent English law. We find no such purpose.


^1  It is well established that the overt act and the intent are separate and distinct elements of the crime of treason under the Constitution. See Ex parte Bollman, 4 Cranch. 75, 126, 2 L.Ed. 554; United States v. Burr, 25 Fed.Cas. pages 2, 13, 14, No. 14,692a; United States v. Lee, 26 Fed.Cas. page 907, No. 15,584; United States v. Vigol, 28 Fed.Cas. page 376, No. 16,621; United States v. Hanway, 26 Fed.Cas. pages 105, 126, No. 15,299; United States v. Greiner, 26 Fed.Cas. pages 36, 39, No. 15,262; United States v. Greathouse, 26 Fed.Cas. pages 18, 22 No. 15,254; United States v. Werner, D.C., 247 F. 708, 709, 710; United States v. Fricke, D.C., 259 F. 673, 677; United States v. Robinson, D.C., 259 F. 685, 690; United States v. Stephan, D.C., 50 F.Supp. 738, 742, 743, affirmed 6 Cir., 1943, 133 F.2d 87, 99. Chief Justice Marshall ruled in United States v. Burr, 25 Fed.Cas. pages 52, 54, No. 14,692h, that it was in the discretion of the prosecutor to present evidence of te intent before proof of an overt act. And see United States v. Lee, supra.

^2  Carlisle v. United States, 16 Wall. 147, 150, 151, 21 L.Ed. 426; Sprott v. United States, 20 Wall. 459, 463, 464, 22 L.Ed. 371; United States v. Hodges, 26 Fed.Cas. pages 332, 334, No. 15,374; Charge to Grand Jury-Treason, 30 Fed.Cas. pages 1032, 1034, No. 18,270; see also 1 East, Pleas of the Crown (1806) pp. 77-81; Warren, What is Giving Aid and Comfort to the Enemy (1918), 27 Yale L.J. 331, 343-345; Hazard and Stern, 'Exterior Treason' (1938), 6 U. of Chi.L.Rev. 77, 84, 85. But a mere showing of aid and assistance to an alien enemy permanently residing in the United States without any showing that the enemy alien has designs against the interest of the United States, does not without more establish an act of treason. See United States v. Fricke, D.C., 259 F. 673, 682.

^3  See note 1, supra.

^1  Accord: William Gregg, 14 How.St.Tr. 1371; Trial of Dr. Hensey, 19 How.St.Tr. 1341. Both of these involved indictments for compassing and adhering, the overt acts being letters of intelligence intercepted before they reached the enemy.

^2  In a letter of April 24, 1792, Jefferson, then Secretary of State, wrote: 'Treason, * * * when real, merits the highest punishment. But most codes extend their definitions of treason to acts not really against one's country. They do not distinguish between acts against the government and acts against the oppressions of the government; the latter are virtues; yet they have furnished more victims to the executioner than the former; because real treasons are rare, oppressions frequent. The unsuccessful strugglers against tyranny, have been the chief martyrs of treason law in all countries.' See 8 Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Library ed. Wash.1903) p. 332.

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