punishments, more or less severe, according to the estimate which the Parliament, who passed the act, formed of the crime of the person against whom it was passed.
When a traitor was tried in court, found guilty by a jury, and judgment pronounced against him, forfeiture to the crown of his property real and personal, and corruption of his blood followed, among other disabilities, as legal sequences of the judgment against him. When a traitor was condemned and punished by an act of Parliament, the punishment was such as the Parliament saw fit to denounce. In case the traitor, thus condemned and punished, was living when the act was passed, the judgment denounced against him was generally, and almost always, death, forfeiture of his property real and personal, and corruption of his blood; and, in case the traitor, thus condemned and punished, was dead when the act was passed, the judgment denounced against him was, forfeiture of his property real and personal, which he owned when in life, and corruption of his blood.
In these modes of punishing treason, which prevailed in England when our Constitution was adopted, three things were most unjust and cruel. They were,
First. Condemning and punishing a man by a legislative act, which not only adjudged him guilty without giving him an opportunity for defense, but declared his acts criminal, after they had been committed.
Second. The blood of the traitor was corrupted, which inflicted an injury only on his innocent heirs.
Third. Passing an act of attainder against a man after he was dead, and forfeiting his property to the Crown, after it had passed by descent to his heirs, and thus punishing his innocent heirs and them only.
Our fathers determined that none of these three iniquities should be practised under the government they formed for us. They put an end to the first one, by the clause in the Constitution which declares that, "No bill of atttainder of ex post facto law shall be passed;" and to the second and third ones, by the clause, which declares that, "No attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture, except during the life of the person attainted."