Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Petit Treason Definition:

Treason by a servant against his master or a wife against her husband

Related Terms: Treason, High Treason

John Cowell defined petit treason as follows:

"Treason of a lesser or lower kind ; for whereas treason in the highest kind (high treason) ... (is) an offence done against the security of the Common-wealth, so is Petit Treason though not so expressly.

"Petit Treason is, if a Servant kill his Master, a Wife her Husband, a secular or religious Man his Prelate."

In the 1888 edition of their law dictionary, Stewart Rapalje and Robert Lawrence wrote of high treason as follows, including relevant reference to petit treason:

"Treason against the king, as distinguished from petit treason, which was treason by a servant against his master, a wife against her husband, &c.

"Since petit treason was abolished by 9 Geo. IV. c. 31, §2 (1829), the correlative term "high" is not now usually retained, when speaking of this the highest civil crime. It is merely denominated treason."


  • Rapalje, Stewart and Lawrence, Robert, A Dictionary of American and English Law, Volume II (Jersey City: Frederick D. Linn & Co. Law Publishers and Booksellers, 1888).

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