Bad Rap!

Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold (Photo credit: Marion Doss)

English: Benedict Arnold's Oath of Allegiance,...
Benedict Arnold’s Oath of Allegiance, 05/30/1778 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Benedict Arnold has been regarded for years as the biggest traitor in American history, yet he was one of the most brilliant American soldiers of all time.  His achievement in leading a force across the wilds of Maine to attack Quebec is considered by some to be even greater than Wolfe’s endeavour.

Arnold’s resentment gradually mounted when he was passed over in promotions, and constantly harried by charges of misconduct.  In 1780, he decided to work for the British and sent them information about West Point, the gateway to the Hudson River.  The British officer carrying the information was caught and Arnold barely managed to escape into British lines before his wrongdoing was discovered.

He was made a brigadier-general in the British army and was paid more than £6,000 compensation for the loss of his property.  He helped the British in the attacks on Richmond and New London, but could not find satisfactory employment when he went to London.

In 1787, he went to live in Saint John, New Brunswick, but even the Loyalists treated him with contempt.  He began a trading business with the West Indies, and contempt turned to anger when his warehouse burned to the ground.  His partner, Munsen Hoyt, said that Arnold had set it on fire to collect insurance.  There was a court case in which Arnold charged Hoyt with slander, and “blackening my character”.  Hoyt replied: “It is not in my power to blacken your character because it is as black as can be.”  Arnold was awarded 20 shillings damages.  A crowd gathered on King Street and burned him in effigy.  The mayor had to read the riot act to disperse the crowd.

On September 4, 1791, Arnold advertised in the Royal Gazette that he was selling “excellent feather beds, mahogany four-poster bedsteads, an elegant set of Wedgwood gilt ware, cabriole chairs covered with blue damask, and a lady’s elegant saddle and bridle.”  He left Saint John after the sale and went back to London where he fitted privateers for the war against France.  He died in 1801, after ten depressed years.

To read more about these events, I suggest going to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute for a very interesting article: Treachery of Benedict Arnold, and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography for another fascinating article.

Or, if you’d rather hold a book in your hands and read a more thorough account, the I would suggest Benedict Arnold: A Traitor in Our Midst.  Or, you can read THE TRAITOR AND THE SPY – Thanks J. G.!