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Cause is treated with cold neglect by a large portion of the human family. All gaze at effect--but few trace it to its producing original. Especially is this true with men in forming opinions of the conduct of their fellow-men. Petty errors are construed into crimes--petty crimes into felonies. Often have I known this to be the case in sectarian churches where charity was loudly professed but sparingly practised. The causes that operated upon the erring brother may have been extenuating but are not examined. _Away_ with him is the simultaneous cry. Kindness might have reclaimed and saved him. Too rarely are extenuating causes sought for--too partially are they credited when brought to light. But a limited number stop to analyze human nature--divest themselves of prejudice and become competent to pass an intelligent, impartial judgment upon the conduct of others. They do not inquire how formidable a force of temptation _they_ could vanquish if attacked by the arch enemies of ethics and Christianity. They can never fully know their own strength in morals until they measure arms with the foe. In the balmy days of prosperity a man may act justly in all things and be the censor of others. Reverses may drive this same man into great error--perhaps crime. Keen adversity is a crucible from which but few emerge like gold seven times tried. Charity is the specific to ameliorate these evils but too cheap to obtain a wide circulation. Abstruse dogmas cost more labour and by many are more highly prized.

There are crimes so flagrant that no extenuating circumstances can form a legal excuse--crimes that blight like the sirocco--crimes so dark that they hide the noblest deeds--the most brilliant talents--the most towering genius--consigning the perpetrator to lasting disgrace--enduring infamy. Treason stands high on the black catalogue. But one traitor was found among the disciples of Christ--but one was found among the sages and heroes of the American Revolution. That traitor was Benedict Arnold, a Major General in the army of the illustrious Washington.

He was a native of New London, Connecticut. At the commencement of the struggle for liberty he resided at New Haven and was captain of a volunteer company. When the hoarse clarion of war was sounded on the heights of Lexington he was among the first to march his company to the American headquarters at Cambridge where he arrived in ten days after that painful event.

The Massachusetts authorities conferred upon him the commission of Colonel with directions to raise 400 men and make an attempt to capture Ticonderoga. He repaired to Castleton, Vermont, where he met Col. Allen. On the 10th of May, 1775, this fortress surrendered at discretion. On the 6th of September of that year he commenced his march for Canada through the dense forest with 1000 men from New England consisting of infantry, one company of artillery and three companies of riflemen. A portion of his troops were obliged to return for want of provision to sustain them all, through the wilderness. The balance endured the severest hardships on the march and arrived at Point Levi opposite Quebec at the end of six weeks. But from the fact that Arnold had sent a letter forward to a friend by an Indian who betrayed his trust by giving information of the approaching troops it is believed Quebec would have been easily captured. To prevent this all means of crossing the river had been removed and the fortifications put under rapid improvement. It was not until the night of the 14th of October that he led his little band of 700 men up the heights that had been surmounted by Wolfe and formed them near the memorable plains of Abraham. The city had become so well fortified that the summons to surrender was treated with contempt. To attack with so small a force would be a reckless waste of human life. In a few days he marched to Point aux Trembles twenty miles above Quebec to await the coming of Gen. Montgomery who arrived on the first day of December. A siege upon the city was immediately commenced which was successfully resisted. On the morning of the 31st of that month a simultaneous assault was made on two sides of the city in which Montgomery was killed and Arnold severely wounded in the leg. Officers and men behaved with great gallantry. No other assault was attempted--the blockade was continued to May 1776. On the 18th of June Arnold withdrew from Canada. He subsequently commanded the small fleet on Lake Champlain and exhibited great skill and bravery.

In August, 1777, he relieved Fort Schuyler, then besieged by Col. St. Leger with, an army of near 1800 men. At the battle near Stillwater on the 19th September he fought like a tiger for four hours. After the British had been driven within their lines in the action of the 8th of October, Arnold pressed forward under a destructive fire and assaulted their works, forced their entrenchments and entered their lines with a handful of desperate followers and only retreated upon his horse being killed and himself severely wounded again in his unfortunate leg. For desperate bravery on the field of battle he had no superior. He seemed enchanted with danger and infatuated with military glory. But this was not his ruling passion. He was licentious, voluptuous, amorous and epicurean. The want of means to fully pamper these ruinous propensities, which had destroyed all sense of moral rectitude--solves the problem of his treason.

Being disqualified by his wounds for field service he was put in command of the garrison at Philadelphia. He made the house of Gov. Penn his headquarters which he furnished in princely style and commenced a course of extravagant living and equipage far beyond his salary. To raise funds he laid violent hands upon all property belonging to those who did not enter fully into the cause of the patriots. He oppressed, extorted, used public money and properly for private purposes and made his public accounts more than duplicate. He rushed into unsuccessful trading speculations and made himself amenable to a series of grave charges and was summoned to appear before the commissioners of accounts who rejected more than half the amount of his charges against government. He appealed to Congress whose committee confirmed the report of the commissioners with the remark that Arnold had been allowed too much. So violent was his language and conduct towards his superiors that he was arraigned before a court-martial and sentenced to be reprimanded by Washington. This sentence was sanctioned by Congress and promptly executed. His mortification had now reached its zenith. He was bankrupt in means--his reputation wounded--his pride lacerated. He became surcharged with fell revenge--treason was the best panacea for that dark passion. He was quick to see that West Point would command the most money and inflict the deepest wound upon the cause of liberty. He suddenly professed deep repentance and applied to the New York delegation in Congress to obtain for him the command of that important post. Through Gen. Schuyler the same application was made to Washington who was anxious to have his services in the field but willing to comply with his wishes. Early in August, 1779, Arnold repaired to the camp of Washington and made the application in person without apparent anxiety, stating that his wounds disqualified him for field service. With full confidence in his fidelity he received the desired command.

It has been intimated by some writers that the plan of treason was suggested to Arnold by an English courtesan with whom he was intimate. It is true that he wrote to Col. Robinson of the British army upon the subject before he applied for the command. That letter opened to him a correspondence with Sir Henry Clinton who sanctioned the project and probably fixed the price of the base deed. On the conclusion of these preliminaries the traitor solicited the appointment he received. He repaired to the garrison at West Point and opened an ostensible mercantile correspondence with Major Andre the British agent to consummate the nefarious plot. The names assumed were Gustavus and Anderson. For convenience of escape the British sloop of war Vulture was moved up the river at a distance not to excite suspicion. An interview was arranged for the night of September 21, 1780. Andre was landed below the garrison under a pass for John Anderson. Arnold received him at the house of a Mr. Smith _within_ the American lines in violation of his sacred promise not to do so to avoid the penalty of a spy--showing the reckless daring of the traitor. The sun rose upon them before their plans of operation were completed. Andre remained with Arnold during the day. When ready to leave in the evening it was found the Vulture had been compelled to move too far down the river for him to reach her with a boat. He exchanged his regimentals for a plain suit--received a pass from Arnold and proceeded by land for New York. On the 23d he had proceeded so far that he felt perfectly secure when one of a militia scout suddenly seized the reins of his bridle and brought him to a stand. Instead of producing his pass he asked the man where he belonged. He answered--"below." "So do I" was the response and declared himself an English officer on urgent business and wished not to be detained. At that moment two others of the scout came up when the spy discovered his true position. He offered a purse of gold and his gold watch to let him pass. To those patriot soldiers the offer was an insult. He then offered them any amount they would name in money or dry goods, with himself as a hostage until the amount should be received. Fortunately for the cause of freedom, British gold could not purchase these honest men in humble life. They had met the tempter and had moral courage to repel all his assaults. Their virtue paralyzed the treason of the only traitor in the American army. Let their names be handed down to posterity with profound veneration. John Paulding, David Williams and Isaac Vanwert secured Andre and foiled Arnold. Williams lived respected and died regretted in my native neighborhood. Often have I heard him relate the minute circumstances of that important capture. He claimed to be the one who first arrested the spy. These three men proceeded to examine their prisoner and found concealed in his boots an exact account of the garrison at West Point in detail in the handwriting of Arnold. They took him to Lieut. Col. Jameson who commanded the scouting parties. Anxious to save the traitor, he persisted in the character assumed and shrewdly asked that Arnold should be informed that Anderson was taken, who would explain and make every thing satisfactory. The ruse succeeded--an express was sent to the garrison which enabled Arnold to escape on board the Vulture on the 25th of September, a few hours only before Gen. Washington reached West Point. He proceeded to Sir Henry Clinton at New York where he received $50,000 and the commission of brigadier general in the British army--the price of his base treachery. Although the foul transaction was tolerated by the English government, all honorable men in England detested the traitor and his treason. This was frequently manifested after his location in that country at the close of the Revolution. Lord Lauderdale expressed his disgust on seeing Arnold seated on the right hand of the king and exclaimed--"His majesty is supported by a traitor." Lord Surry rose to speak in the House of Commons and on perceiving the traitor in the gallery sat down and exclaimed--"I will not speak while that man is in the House." In addition to the money paid and the disgrace of associating with this vile man--the British army lost one of its brightest ornaments in the death of Maj. Andre. Contrary to his sacred pledge Arnold made him a spy by taking him within the American lines. He was tried, convicted and hung. Washington would gladly have warded off the dreadful sentence could he have found any excuse for doing so. The law demanded the sacrifice--it was made from the necessity of the case.

The news of Arnold's treason created surprise and indignation among the people of his native country. At Philadelphia his effigy was made large as life and drawn through the streets at night in a cart with a figure of the devil at his side holding a lighted lantern to his face and the inscription in large capitals--TRAITOR ARNOLD. The cart was followed by a dense crowd with martial music playing the rogue's march. The principal being absent the representative was hung and then burnt. Arnold had become so hardened by a long indulgence in improper practices that he was apparently steeled against all reflection upon the past. Soon after he commenced his murderous career in the British service, Washington remarked of him in a private letter-"I am mistaken, if, _at this time_ Arnold is undergoing a mental hell. He wants feeling. From some traits of his character which have lately come to my knowledge, he seems to have been so hackneyed in crime--so lost to all sense of honor and shame, that while his faculties still enable him to continue his sordid pursuits there will be no time for remorse." An ingenious, bold but unsuccessful attempt was made to abduct him from New York before the execution of the unfortunate Andre. He made a hair-breadth escape.

The baseness of Arnold's treason was increased in blackness by his subsequent conduct. He had the assurance to write to Washington the day he escaped on board the Vulture, stating that he was acting for the good of his country and requesting the commander-in-chief to protect his wife and pass her and his baggage to him. Mrs. Arnold was immediately forwarded to New York with her effects and those of her husband. Arnold professed to his new companions in arms to be radically changed to a staunch loyalist. The Declaration of Independence he declared a treasonable paper--its authors a company of ambitious rebels seeking power to enslave the people. He wrote a threatening letter to Washington relative to the execution of Andre and assured him of a fearful retaliation unless a reprieve was granted. He published an address to the people of America fully justifying his treasonable conduct. He then issued an artful tirade of insulting sophistry for the purpose of inducing others to plunge into the same quagmire of disgrace with himself--calling it a proclamation with the following caption. "To the officers and soldiers of the Continental army who have the real interests of their country at heart and who are determined no longer to be the tools and dupes of Congress or of France."

All his vile paper demonstrations deepened his infamy, increasing the boiling indignation of the American people without inducing a single one to desert the cause of his country. To do this was a part of the consideration of the Arnold purchase. Sir Henry Clinton was deceived by the traitor and egregiously mistaken in the stern integrity of the patriots. Finding his Proteus brigadier powerless over the minds of his former companions, Sir Henry deducted $100,000 from the $150,000 which was the stipulated price for West Point and the traitor and despatched him to Virginia to act upon the persons and property of the obstinate rebels. In January 1781 Arnold entered Chesapeake Bay with a protecting naval force and landed with about 1700 men. His cruelties, ravages and plunders along the unprotected coast could not be surpassed by a band of practised pirates. Revenge seemed to be the motive power of his action. During one of his predatory excursions he captured an American captain of whom he inquired what the Americans would do with him if he fell into their hands, to which the officer replied--"If my countrymen should catch you I believe they would first cut off that lame leg which was wounded in the cause of FREEDOM and bury it with the honors of war and afterwards hang the remainder of your body in gibbets."

After returning from Virginia he was sent on an expedition against New London where he first breathed the vital air. He landed his troops in two detachments--one on each side of the harbor. He led one against Fort Trumbull which could make but a feeble resistance. Fort Griswold made a spirited defence against the other division commanded by Lieut. Col. Eyre but was compelled to yield to an overwhelming force. When the Americans surrendered but seven men had been killed within the lines--after the surrender a murderous slaughter was commenced by the British and about 100 killed and wounded. On entering the fort an English officer inquired who commanded the garrison. Col. Ledyard presented his sword and answered--"_I_ did--but _you_ do now." His sword was taken by the officer and immediately plunged through his heart. In the attack the enemy had 48 killed and 145 wounded. Arnold commenced his favorite work of plunder--loaded and sent away 15 vessels mostly freighted with private property--fired the place and reduced 60 dwelling-houses and 84 stores to ashes and in his haste four of his own ships were burned. He completed this work of destruction and was absent from New York only eight days. Such expeditions afforded the richest aliment for the black heart of this traitor. He continued the scavenger of the British army to the close of the war and then removed to London where he died in 1801. To the lasting disgrace of the British government Arnold received a liberal pension to the time of his death which is continued to his descendants and is frequently complained of by the British press.

With the blackness of eternal disgrace resting upon his character this traitor has had apologists among American writers. They attribute his treason to a want of liberality on the part of our government. I have said the want of means to give full scope to his sordid passions was the cause. A want of liberality does not appear upon the record. He was allowed more than justice demanded--more than other officers under like circumstances. He was unsound at the core--void of moral rectitude--was proved dishonest before the commissioners of accounts--the committee of Congress and the court-martial. His name should _then_ have been erased from the roll of officers regardless of consequences. That would have saved him from the treason he perpetrated--the accomplished Andre from the scaffold and thousands from the ravages subsequently committed by the reckless traitor. All apologies for Arnold are sophisms. His name is stamped with a lasting infamy that blots out the noble deeds that preceded his Lucifer-fall.

Source: Sages and Heroes of the American Revolution, by L. Carroll Judson: Copyright, 1854 Available for download at the Project Gutenberg website.