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Abraham Carlisle and John Roberts Trials: 1778

Collaborators, Chosen As Examples

Defendants: Abraham Carlisle, John Roberts
Crime Charged: Treason
Chief Defense Lawyers: George Ross, James Wilson, William Lewis, Elias Boudinot
Chief Prosecutor: Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant
Judges: Thomas McKean, William Atlee, and John Evans, justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date of Trials: Carlisle: September 25, 1778; Roberts: September 30, 1778
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Death by hanging

SIGNIFICANCE: John Roberts and Abraham Carlisle were victims of a politically motivated sentence for treason. The judiciary of Pennsylvania wanted to show its toughness toward collaborators with the enemy. Though guilty, they were no more so than other collaborators who escaped death.

The Revolutionary War was still in progress in late June of 1778, when the British army, because of a change in its strategy, abandoned Philadelphia and marched to New York. In British America's largest city, Philadelphia, they left a residue of property damage and hard feelings among American patriots toward those Philadelphians who had collaborated with the British during the year that they controlled the city.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1637 to 1832