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Arnold’s Crimes

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

October 9.—When we see a man who has formerly attracted esteem, at once falling into the greatest contempt, and becoming the opprobrium and shame of his country, we feel a mixture of passions in striking him off the list of honest men to degrade him with the most infamous. The good citizen is ready to reproach himself for having misplaced his esteem, and would fain strip the wretch even of those qualities that had the semblance of good and occasioned the error. It is thus we regard Arnold, whose name must now go down to posterity with the epithet traitor. We see the traitor Arnold in his degradation and misery, deprived even of the honor of having been brave. But why should we contest this advantage? Have not robbers and assassins who take from the passenger his purse and his life; have not incendiaries, parricides, and traitors, a certain species of bravery? We may leave, then, to the traitor Arnold this quality, which can only serve to place his crimes in a stronger point of light. His treason, avarice, hypocrisy, ingratitude, barbarity, falsehood, deception, peculation, and robbery, all these are the base and black crimes of this conspirator.

1. Treason. He solicited the command of the bulwark of America on purpose to deliver it, with his benefactor and general, into the hands of the enemy.

2. Avarice. Should we give a particular account of the bargain he concluded, and the disputes about the price at which he sold himself and country, even Britons themselves must blush at the infamy.

3. Hypocrisy. The traitor Arnold had the face to speak of religion in his address to the Americans. He had so totally sold himself to the English, and was so entirely lost to every moral sentiment, as not to perceive that Providence itself had patronized the cause of our independence, by discovering his plots in a manner next to miraculous.

4. Ingratitude. He aimed to plant a dagger in the bosom of his country, which had raised him from the obscurity in which he was born, to honor which never could have been the object even of his most sanguine hopes.

5. Barbarity. He intended to deliver up the fortress of America to the Britons, and at the same time, to cover his own perfidy, he designed there should be all the appearance of a sincere assault, in which many brave men must have fallen victims to his treason, and only to screen him from the shame of it.

6. Falsehood. Falsehood to his own officers and troops, falsehood to his general, falsehood to his country, false passports, and false oaths, from the beginning to the end of this horrid business.

7. Mean deception. What subtleties and dissemblings, what evasions and lies did he employ to conceal his plot! A villain who had stolen the purse of his master could not be reduced to so ignominious a situation. If the fortune of war should ever throw him into our power, he would doubtless protest that his design in going over to New York, was only to deceive the Britons, and to obtain a command by which he might better serve the Americans by betraying their enemies.

8. Peculation. His papers contain the most authentic and incontestable proofs of this crime; and that he never regarded his important employments but only as power which enabled him to pillage the public with impunity.

9. Robbery. He robbed his country at the time of her deepest distress. He robbed his own soldiers when they wanted necessaries. He robbed a poor helpless woman of a pittance she had earned by service for his army. He robbed his own friends, who trusted and had greatly served him.

This is the man to whom we are told the Britons have given the rank of a general in their army. This may be true, perhaps they are capable of such an act. But if there is an officer of honor left in the British army, he will sooner resign his commission, or die by his own sword, than serve under, or rank with, Benedict Arnold.1


1 Boston Independent Chronicle, Dec. 8.