Benedict Arnold

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History portrays people by their actions and in turn judges them accordingly. This is how we come to think of some historical figures as heroes and others as villains. Their actions in the face of their circumstances define how we think of them. What their motivations are or how they came to the decisions that they choose are sometimes never given the proper prospective. It has been said that history is written by the victors, so depending on who is doing the writing this version of history also paints our assessment of these heroes and villains. Sometimes the deeds that make one man a villain are given more weight than deeds that might deem the same man a hero. That is what happened to Benedict Arnold, his actions during the American Revolutionary War ensured victory for the American forces. But his acts of heroism have since been overshadowed by his final act of betrayal. When we think of the American Revolutionary War we have a tendency to immediately think of George Washington and the struggle against the tyranny of the British. But besides Washington do we ever think of the other men who served with valor. We know the names of several members of the Second Continental Congress; because they went on to sign the United States Constitution. But what of the other soldiers who also fought against the British? What of Nathaniel Green or Henry Knox, who fought alongside Washington at Boston and served the entire eight years of the war? Or what of Joseph Plum Martin, an enlisted man whose diaries are the best historical documents concerning the life of the average soldier in the Continental Army? If these names seem unfamiliar it is because they are rarely mentioned in our history textbooks. These men are never given their proper credit for their service to this country. Another name that may spring to mind when we think of the revolution is that of Benedict Arnold. Our textbooks make sure we know of his involvement in the Continental Army. His betrayal of the Continental Army to the British army has long been scorned by Americans. His name has become for all intents and purposes equated with the word traitor in American history. But what the text books fail to mention is that his involvement with the Continental Army prior to his actions at West Point was one of daring and patriotism. For us to truly understand Arnold’s true place in American history we must first understand the reasoning behind the decision for going to war against England. Also we need to understand how his deeds on the battlefields not only helped the colonists cause but also helped to ensure victory for the fledgling nation. It is by considering these two factors that we are able to put into full context the reasons for Arnold’s betrayal. The intent of the colonists when taking up arms against England was not originally one of independence for the colonies, but rather as political protests against what many felt were unfair policies by Parliament. Since the first colony was set up on American shores there had been little involvement by England in the daily affairs of the colonies. That all changed with the French-Indian War. During that war the English sent troops to fight for and protect the colonists. Even though the English won the war, it left the country almost bankrupt. In an effort to address this issue it was decided to tax the colonies to repay England’s war debt. These taxes and laws made many in the colonies angry. The majority of the colonist’s felt that they were being treated unfairly by Parliament. In retaliation for these taxes, many Americans began to become involve in protests and boycotts against these new tax laws. However each new protest by the colonists bought about a new set of laws from Parliament. This cycle continued until finally on April 19, 1775 events spiraled out of control in Massachusetts at the towns of Lexington and Concord. The British forces in Massachusetts were ordered to capture...
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