Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Look at Benedict Arnold

American Heritage magazine has published an interesting article on Benedict Arnold, entitled "On the Trail of Benedict Arnold." It is written by historian and author W. D. Wetherell.

The article explores the legacy of a man who was one of the greatest heroes of the American Revolution - and also the most despised traitor in American history.

Arnold continues to fascinate us today. How could a man so courageously committed to the cause of America go on to betray that cause (as well as his friendship with George Washington - a man in many ways like a father to him)?

Check out the article, and then let us know what you think of Benedict Arnold.


Corazon said...

This is a tough question to answer, simply because Arnold was an important figure during the war, yet I cannot deny the fact that he was a traitor to the cause. My personal opinion (and I think the author of the article would agree) is that Arnold had been slighted by the Americans to such a degree that he felt he did not belong. Of course this is not a justification for treason, but I think it helps to explain a little Arnold's reasoning. Also, the way we define "treason" and "loyalty" to America is very different than it would have been for Arnold. I've even heard a professor suggest that calling Arnold a traitor is too strong simply because "America" was more an idea than a nation at that time. Tough question...I'd like to hear what others have to say.

P.S. Burr is still the bigger loser! =)

Lindsey Shuman said...

I think that the Arnold figure is clothed with treason more because of popular culture's influence than anything. Surely there have been bigger traitors to this nation than Arnold (not that this negates that fact that Arnold did bail on his countrymen). I think of Arnold as an American version of the Biblical David. Arnold (like David) were giants who succomed to the temptation of the moment. Britain was Arnold's Bathsheeba, and Arnold's desire for glory and honor (which he thought the British would provide) was the snare of the temptress.

Brian Tubbs said...

Interesting comparison w/ David, Lindsey. I think Arnold's Bathsheba was literally Peggy Shippen. :-) She was a key figure in luring Arnold to the Loyalist cause.

But...the comparison w/ David is even more literal. People often forget that, with Saul chasing David and trying to kill him, David took refuge with the Philistines (Israel's dreaded enemy). And even started to march WITH the Philistines to do battle w/ Saul's army. But turned back when some of the other Philistines didn't trust him. So, David came close to committing the same kind of treason that Arnold did.

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