Benedict Arnold

Topics: American Revolutionary War, Benedict Arnold, Treason Pages: 6 (2213 words) Published: March 16, 2006
Prior to his act of treason, Benedict Arnold was highly regarded as America's greatest Revolutionary general. Due to his high rank and excellent performance on the battlefield it seemed most unlikely that Arnold would defect to the other side. "Arnold has betrayed us. Whom can we trust now?" asked George Washington who now felt that no one could be trusted once Arnold had betrayed his country of which he had shown so much love for beforehand. Arnold had been a die-hard patriot who at the Boston Massacre asked if the Americans were asleep, waiting tamely to be robbed of their liberty. Yet he has gone down in history books as a villain of America, a despised turncoat instead of the hero he was for both America and England in the same war. His name has become a synonym for traitor. He was America's first traitor. Despite the criticism that Arnold has received, he was, in his own eyes and to a few others, justified in his traitorous actions. As immoral as he was perceived, he did feel that he must justify his actions to himself if not to his country. However historians look at it, Benedict Arnold was actually justified to betray his fellow comrades. It must be kept into account that Arnold's pride had been injured in his many defensive court appearances, his contributions and accomplishments had been overlooked on the battlefield, and his financial status had been destabilized through numerous fines and helped none by the overlooking of Congress to pay him his salary.

Benedict had made quite a few enemies during his American Revolution staging. Many of them who were very interested and determined in seeking his disgrace brought charges against him. For instance, Major John Brown charged Arnold with thirteen military crimes (one of the thirteen crimes being that Arnold had seized captured goods at Montreal for his own use) and Lieutenant Colonel Moses Hazen charged Arnold with insulting his character. Although Arnold was not punished by Congress as they were convinced by Samuel Adams that the accusations against Arnold were false, his pride was wounded severely and he would not forget this wrong against him (Alderman 78). Not too long after this incident he suffered another blow to his pride. This was a very personal injury. The Continental Congress appointed five new major generals. To Arnold's shock and disappointment he was not one of them. All five of them had been brigadier generals just like him but they were all junior to him and vastly inferior in military ability. It was one of a number of slights during his military career that helped to sow the seeds of treason in his mind (Alderman 79). Benedict Arnold was clearly dissatisfied with his treatment at the hand of Congress. He sent Washington an indignant letter. The snub was Congress' "very civil way of requesting my [Arnold's] resignation, as unqualified for the office I hold…. When I entered the service of my country my character was unimpeached. I have sacrificed my interest, ease and happiness in her cause." (Wade 30). This rebuff for Arnold was hard on his diminishing pride, especially after his court charges. Matters only got worse when Brown published a handbill with thirteen accusations to publicly denounce and humiliate Arnold. Benedict Arnold did not show up in court just for military related offenses. Some of Arnold's commercial activities were a little shady. Rumors spread when he bought the most elegant house in Pennsylvania for his third wife Margaret (called Peggy by Arnold) Shippen, that he was getting rich illegally (Wade 41). At the Council of Pennsylvania, another of Arnold's enemies the president of the Pennsylvania Council Joseph Reed brought five charges against Arnold for his questionable deals; four of them concerned his money-making activities and the last one pertained to a charge of favoritism towards Loyalists which was of slight importance. Although Arnold was only sentenced to be reprimanded on two of the charges presented against him,...
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