Traitors in History Who Didn’t Hesitate To Betray Their Own: Anthony Johnson, Maurice Papon, Mir Jafar

Fareeha Arshad
A sketch of Anthony JohnsonWikimedia Commons
If there is anybody to be blamed for the gruesome history as we know today, then we can all agree on one word: traitors. Throughout the past and across the cultures, some people were hypocrites of the worst kind. Never once do they feel uncomfortable selling out their people in exchange for money and fame. Let’s have a look at three of such cowards from history.

1. Anthony Johnson

Johnson was a wealthy, black Angolan plantation owner who lived in Virginia in the early seventeenth century. Being an ex-slave himself, Johnson was also a legal slave owner.

In the 1620s, Johnson was captured and sold as a slave to a Virginian colonist. However, the slave laws were not passed in Virginia until 1661. So, instead of working as an actual slave, he was an ‘indentured servant’ — that is, unlike the usual slaves, he had a one-way ticket out from slavery after his contract ended.

After such contracts would end in four to seven years, the indentured servants were given lands in exchange for their service. That’s how Johnson successfully set up a plantation of his own after he asked for his freedom.

Much later, when he was a slave-owner himself, his slave asked him for his freedom. Without any remorse, Johnson sued the poor slave. He claimed that he ‘owned’ the life of his slave, and the court agreed to his claim. By then, slavery was legal in Virginia, and Johnson showed no hesitation in treating his slave the way he was once treated.

2. Maurice Papon
Maurice Papon with his wife BettinaFlickr

Maurice Papon was a French politician and the police secretary-general who shook hands with the Nazis during the Second World War.

When the Nazis occupied France, many French political figures betrayed their people. However, unlike the others, Papon’s betrayal wasn’t even evident at the time and therefore wasn’t put on any trial then. Instead, he managed to grow in ranks after the war. In 1968, he was elected as a member of the French National Assembly and served as the cabinet of Prime Minister Raymond Barre from 1978 to 1981. He was even honoured with the Legion d’honneur.

Despite the authority he held as a civil servant, Papon was a ruthless human being. It was only in 1981 when evidence with his signature was uncovered that confirmed his treachery. He ordered the deportation of more than 1500 Jews to the Drancy internment camp from 1942 to 1944.

For the next couple of years, the investigation of the political leader continued. He was finally put on trial only in 1997. Despite the atrocities he committed, Papon served less than five years and was released on humanitarian grounds. After being released, he continued to advocate his ‘innocence’ and died in 2002.

3. Mir Jafar
Robert Clive and Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey (1757)An artwork by Francis Hayman | Image source: Picryl

The worst kind of betrayal comes from selfish people who care only for their promotion or success. Mir Jafar was one such man whose greed pushed innocent people into violent oppression for a couple of centuries. Belonging to the upper ruling class of Bengal, Jafar sided with Britishers and went against his people just so that he could sleep in a better home and sit in a better office.

This was the seventeenth century when the Britishers were still trying to strengthen their Indian subcontinent. Seeing the opportunity, Jafar sold his people to the Britishers and allowed them to massacre the complete Bengal Army. In exchange, he was appointed as the puppet ruler in the region. Not much later, Jafar betrayed the trust of the Britishers too, only to side with the Dutch. However, his greed got the best of him.

Not only did it not end well for Jafar, but India was also thrown into callous times for the next couple of centuries under British rule.

History bears witness to the fact that there have always been traitors in almost every culture and society. Who are some of the other traitors in history and even in the present times, who didn't hesitate to betray their own people? Do let us know in the comments section.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

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