The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Sedition is a deprecated term of law to refer to non-overt conduct such as speech and organization that is deemed by the legal authority as tending toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often included subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws.

Because "sedition" is typically considered the subvert act, the overt acts that may be prosecutable under "sedition" laws vary from one legal code to another. Where those legal codes have a traceable history, there is also a record of the change of definition for what constituted sedition at certain points in history. This overview has served to develop a sociological definition of sedition as well, within study of persecution.

The difference between sedition and treason consists primarily in the subjective ultimate object of the violation to the public peace. Sedition does not consist of levying war against a government nor of adhering to its enemies, giving enemies aid, and giving enemies comfort. Nor does it consist, in most representative democracies, of peaceful protest against a government, nor of attempting to change the government by democratic means (such as direct democracy or constitutional convention).


Sedition in its modern meaning first appeared in the Elizabethan Era (c. 1590) as the "notion of inciting by words or writings disaffection towards the state or constitued authority" [1,89]. Ibid, p90: "Sedition complements treason and martial law: while treason controls primarily the privileged, ecclesiastical opponents, priests, and Jesuits, as well as certain commoners; and martial law frightens commoners, sedition frightens intellectuals." A famous action that has to do with sedition in U.S. history is the Alien and Sedition Acts.

See also: Mutiny


  1. Breight, Curtis, C. Surveillance, militarism and drama in the Elizabethan Era, Macmillian 1996: London.
Last updated: 05-07-2005 04:16:19
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04