225th Anniversary of the First Congress: We’ll be posting documents and stories highlighting the establishment of the new government under the Constitution through March 2016.
What constitutes a federal crime, and how should individuals convicted of federal crimes be punished? On July 28, 1789, Senator William S. Johnson introduced the first provision for crimes against the nation.
The Crimes Act delineated crimes against the nation and their punishments, defining a category of felonies nonexistent before the Constitution. The Act codified criminal procedure in cases of felonies, established diplomatic immunity, and set a statute of limitations for federal crimes. It included specific punishments for various crimes. Death by hanging was the penalty mandated for the crimes of treason, murder, robbery within maritime jurisdiction, counterfeiting, and piracy.
An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes Against the U.S., Sen 1A-B1, 7/28/1789, Records of the U.S. Senate