Affiliate Link

Arnold In Effigy at Philadelphia

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

September 30.—This afternoon the people of Philadelphia and vicinity made a demonstration somewhat unfavorable to the late commander at West Point, by carting that notorious conspirator through the streets of the city. The exhibition was as follows:—A stage raised on the body of a cart, on which was an effigy of General Arnold sitting; this was dressed in regimentals, had two faces, emblematical of his traitorous conduct, a mask in his left hand, and a letter in his right from Beelzebub, telling him that he had done all the mischief he could do, and now he must hang himself.

At the back of the general was a figure of the Devil, dressed in black robes, shaking a purse of money at the general’s left ear, and in his right hand a pitchfork, ready to drive him into hell as the reward due for the many crimes which his thirst for gold had made him commit.

In the front of the stage, and before General Arnold, was placed a large lantern of transparent paper, with the consequences of his crimes thus delineated, i. e.: On one part General Arnold on his knees before the Devil, who is pulling him into the flames; a label from the general’s mouth with these words, “My dear sir, I have served you faithfully ;” to which the Devil replies, “And I’ll reward you.” On another side, two figures hanging, inscribed, “The Traitor’s Reward,” and written underneath, “The Adjutant-General of the British Army, and Joe Smith; the first hanged as a spy, and the other as a traitor to his country.” And on the front of the lantern was written the following:—

“Major-General Benedict Arnold, late Commander of the Fort West Point. The crime of this man is High Treason.

“He has deserted the important post west point, on Hudson River, committed to his charge by his Excellency the Commander-in-chief, and has gone off to the enemy at New York.

“His design to have given up this fortress to our enemies, has been discovered by the goodness of the Omniscient Creator, who has not only prevented him carrying it into execution, but has thrown into our hands andre, the adjutant-general of their army, who was detected in the infamous character of a spy.

“The treachery of this ungrateful general is held up to public view, for the exposition of infamy, and to proclaim with joyful acclamation, another instance of the interposition of bounteous Providence.

“The effigy of this ingrate is therefore hanged (for want of his body) as a traitor to his native country, and a betrayer of the laws of honor.”

The procession began about four o’clock in the following order:—Several gentlemen mounted on horseback; a line of Continental officers; sundry gentlemen in a line; a guard of the city infantry; just before the cart, drums and fifes playing the Rogue’s March; guards on each side.

The procession was attended with a numerous concourse of people, who after expressing their abhorrence of the treason and the traitor, committed him to the flames, and left both the effigy and the original to sink into ashes and oblivion.1


1 Pennsylvania Packet, October 3.