tv American History TV CSPAN December 7, 2014 12:55pm-2:01pm EST
warning was unheeded. >> 7:50 a.m. according to the clock on the lower tower. >> historian peter henrique discusses george washington's relationship with benedict arnold. he looked at how washington's response to arnold's failed plan to deliver west point to the british offers insights about his leadership and character. he also talks about what happened to both vision and american participants after the plot was uncovered. this event was hosted in colonial williamsburg and is about one hour. >> thank you so much for that warm welcome. i am really pleased to see so many people in the audience. as i was driving down through heavy rain i said that i might
start this out to a biblical quote where two or three are gathered together and so on. unfortunately, that is not the case. that historians learn that we need to remember is that you have to checking your assumptions. if your assumptions are incorrect, it can lead you to some very wrong conclusions. i would like to illustrate that by the following story, which i hope you will find somewhat well --, rivaled as ribald as well. the smiths decided to use a surrogate father to start their family. on the data proxy father was to arrive, mr. smith kissed her goodbye and half an hour later by chance a baby photographer happened by, hoping to make a sale.
good morning, ma'am, i have come to -- no need to explain, said mr. smith, s mrs. smith, i have been spiking your. did you know that my specialty was a babies? that is what my husband and i hope. after a moment she asked -- where do we start? me, id leave it to usually try to in the bathtub, three and the couch, and in the living room we hopefully have room to spread out. bathroom? living room floor? no wonder it did not work out for harry and me. [laughter] well, if we try several oritions and i shoot for six seven angles, i am sure that you will be pleased with the results. [laughter] [applause] >> that is a lot. >> in mind line of work, a man has to take his time. i would love to be in and out in five minutes, but i am sure that you would be disappointed with
that. >> don't i know it, she said. [laughter] the photographer opened up a briefcase and pulled up baby get -- baby pictures. he said that this one was done on top of a bus. my god, she said. [laughter] said that these turned out very well because the mother was difficult to work with. she asked? i'm afraid so, he said. people were crowding around to get a goodly -- a good look, four or five deep. her eyes were my -- were wide with amazement. or foursaid, for three hours. when darkness approached i had to rush. i could hardly concentrate. finally when the squirrels began to nibble at my equipment, i had to pack it in. thataid, you mean to say they chewed on your equipment? said, and ma'am, he
if you are ready i will set up my tripod and work. tripod, she said? ma'am, i need a tripod to set my canon on. [laughter] the moral is, check your assumptions. [laughter] often puzzlesit me that there is a serious debate among historians about who america's greatest leader is . from my perspective, as most of you know to well, the evidence is simply overwhelming. george washington is america's atlas, the indispensable man in the bringing in of our independence and the sustaining critical years. in essence, he made america
possible. without his leadership and vision, there would have been no union for abraham lincoln to save later on. many factors combined to make washington such a remarkable leader. that is a topic for another talk if i am lucky enough to be invited back. foremost among his many talents was his remarkable judgment. it lay close to the core of his genius. this talent demonstrated itself in many ways. not the least of which was his ability to recognize talent in young men from various backgrounds and using those gifted men to achieve the goals he had in mind. i think of some of the names that come to mind. henry knox, nathanael greene, alexander hamilton, charlie lee, thomas jefferson, and james madison, to name some. it might surprise many of you, but in many ways, benedict arnold's name belongs on that list as well.
there are so many dramatic and implausible events connected with arnold's conspiracy and treason that the story reads more like a dramatic novel than a true history. all the elements are there. you have a brilliant but deeply disillusioned and disaffected american major general. a beautiful tory wife half his age. a british general, an extremely appealing character. a daring plot to hand over west point, america's most important fort, to the british. an almost unbelievable set of circumstances leading to the unraveling of the plot, but not before the evil plotter escapes and the young british gentleman finds himself facing death. we can't tell this story in all the detail it merits, because it is a fascinating one.
i want to focus on primarily washington's connection and how it reveals aspects of his character, personality, and leadership skills as he deals with benedict arnold and the treason. the horrendous nature of benedict arnold's treason has led many people to ignore or minimize his contributions to the cause of american independence. in fact, they were very substantial. in my view, the two most significant refers to his actions at lake champlain. my wife and i are lucky enough to have a place on lake champlain. friends in the audience were happy to have them visit us this summer. this was in 1776. it is not a military victory, but it stopped the british from coming down like champlain, postponed their invasion for a
year, which turned out to be absolutely crucial. in that following year, 1777, benedict arnold deserves tremendous credit for his daring and decisive contributions that led to the surrender of general burgoyne's army in october 1777, a victory equal importance to yorktown. washington early recognized benedict arnold possessed a unique set of talents. a british historian accurately summarized what washington saw in arnold. to a boundless energy and enterprise, he united quick insight into a situation. washington and arnold were never
personally close in the way he would be with lafayette or henry knox. but washington is constantly working closely with arnold and seeks to help him. there is no doubt benedict arnold has the kind of personality, he's egotistical, arrogant, supersensitive to any perceived slights to his honor. dismissive of legislative oversight of the military, and that earns him a great many enemies.
if you have not seen the pbs show, the new ken burns production, it is well worth your time and effort. interestingly, fdr characterized long and macarthur in fdr's words as the two most dangers men in america, particularly interesting in connection with macarthur. he explained his goals to an aide. f.d.r. said we must tame these fellows and make them useful to us.
george washington is going to do what he can to tame benedict arnold and make him useful to the cause. washington victim don't do anything hasty. we can resolve this problem and he urged washington -- these are washington passwords to arnold. "take comfort in a consciousness that you have not deserved the treatment for your exertions for the country." this is a paraphrase of washington's most famous quote from his favorite play by joseph addison. washington uses it to benedict arnold. i found benedict arnold used it as well. it is a quote cato says to his aide.
i think it is an excellent quote. no matter what we do, we cannot guarantee it will work. we will do more, we will deserve it. that is what he is saying to arnold. stay with it. you know you have done the right thing. take comfort in that. behind the scenes, washington works tactfully to get arnold his promotion so that he will stay in the service. he has to do it carefully. arnold is dismissive of legislators. george washington is not. one of his greatest contributions is civilian control of the military. but he writes behind the scenes to friends in virginia, for example to his good friend richard henry lee, he writes about arnold and says this.
he urged lee to speak with fellow delegates to avoid the loss of such a good officer. as burgoyne's action took place, and the need for the militia, washington wrote hancock urging arnold be sent north to do the job. in part of the letter as he expressed it -- action, with its promise of glory, exhilarated arnold. with his commission given back to him, he gives up his threat
to resign and the stage is set for him to play in very dramatic moments in the battle at saratoga that leads to burgoyne's defeat. in this tremendous victory were over 5000 men are forced to surrender, it leads directly to france's recognition of the united states as an independent country. rather ironically, it leads directly to benedict arnold to go down the road to conspiracy, to treason, and to infamy. had benedict arnold been among the slain, he would have gone down to posterity not as a nefarious villain but as a remarkable military hero. if he had died at saratoga, there is a new book out i recommend.
it is called "sons of the father." it is washington and his proteges as a result of the conference at west point. it has some very good chapters. the one on jefferson i think is the best of all. mentioning jefferson, i am excited i am going to have a chance to re-interview thomas jefferson, aka bill barker, in april of next year. put april 15 on your calendar and come back. i will come through the wormhole and try to talk to him about his relationships with washington. if he had died, of course he does not die, he was severely injured. the same left leg that was almost destroyed at the battle of quebec earlier in the war. he survives for the story to unfold. washington wrote him letters of condolences, urged him to get better.
said i will find a good spot for you when you do. in may of 1778, i think a significant date because it is right after france recognizes us as an independent country, washington gives to benedict arnold -- washington had received a valuable set of epaulets from an important frenchman. he gave a pair to benedict arnold as a testimony of my sincere regard of your conduct. i think in a way he is recognizing to arnold arnold's great importance in that victory. george washington as a man of wise judgment. but george washington is a man. like every man, he screws up from time to time and makes bad judgments. he made an horrendous this
judgment when he decided to take an addict arnold and give him command of the city of philadelphia after general howe's army withdrew in 1778. one historian exaggerates but makes the point when he said, "had washington deliberately planned to crucify arnold, he could not have treated him more cruelly." to put this man with his condition in this situation sets the stage for trouble. you have got to remember benedict arnold is extremely embittered by what happens in the aftermath of saratoga where horatio gates gets all the credit he feels he deserves. from his perspective, he sacrificed virtually his life to the cause. one of many quotes from arnold. having made every sacrifice of fortune and blood to become a cripple in the services of my country -- he is disillusioned with
republican government. it seems, from his perspective, it is run by a group of shortsighted and corrupt officials. feeling this way, concerned with advancing his own economic interests, and arnold is always concerned about that, especially after he starts courting the beautiful peggy shippen, the teenage daughter of a wealthy loyalist family. arnold soon runs aground or afoul with civilian authorities and finds himself facing numerous violations. arnold is going to clash. the president of the consulting a counsel is a man by the name of joseph reed, a very interesting figure in his own right, one of washington's early aides, later critics, not a man
to trifle with. he despised arnold. there is clashes that lead arnold to be court-martialed on a number of charges, which absolutely outrageous arnold. the court-martial takes a year before it can even be held. he is found guilty on two of eight counts, not super serious. one of them was allowing a pass for his ship, he is in control of the port of philadelphia. he lets that should go and does not let others go. he used public wagons for his own private use. he is found guilty of those two charges. george washington has to publicly censure him, which he does in april of 1780. while many see the conviction and washington's condemnation in april orders of the army, that
is the trigger for arnold's treason. in actual fact, it opened up a secret correspondence with the british promising much if they would give him much. it is worth remembering arnold enters into this treasonous negotiation shortly after he signs -- this is a photocopy of his oath of allegiance -- denying loyalty to the king, at the end promising to serve the united states in the office of major general with fidelity according to the best of my skill and understanding. sworn in 1778 with henry knox as a witness. arnold's complicated dealings with the british are beyond the scope of this talk, and frankly beyond the scope of my ability,
as is the role of his very interesting, beautiful wife, peggy shippen, who was only a teenager when she marries benedict arnold. many people see her as a prime figure. certainly she is involved. the degree she is involved, take your pick. there is a new book i just read in connection with this talk, "treacherous beauty." it sounds like something you would pick up for a romantic read on an airplane, but it is not a badly researched book. it is interesting arnold begins his overtures one month after he marries peggy and uses her connections as the intermediaries to make the contact with the british.
now washington was naturally disappointed that arnold was guilty. he had to follow what the court-martial said to do. but he wrote arnold a letter in which he said i will furnish you as far as in my power the opportunity of regaining the esteem of your country. washington had not given up on him, knew of his leadership abilities on the field, and offers benedict arnold command of the left-wing of the newly reconstituted american continental army. this is a plum assignment. arnold's reaction to the proposal astounds washington, and only made sense in retrospect. later, he vividly remembered what happened. arnold's countenance changed. leaving lingering effects of his
injury, washington learned he would not accept and would prefer a less active role, command of the key fort at west point. he lobbies with general philip schuyler, who had the ear of washington, for this position. it is interesting schuyler writes to benedict arnold, it is another example of how much washington admires what arnold has done for the country. schuyler writes back to arnold and says washington expressed a desire to do whatever is agreeable to you. but once in command of that vital stronghold which prevented
the british ships from sailing upriver and splitting the new nation in two, arnold puts into motion the final stages of his treasonous correspondence with the commander of the british forces, sir general henry clinton. they faced a meeting with clinton's operatives to give them the plans for the fort, finalized the price for the treason, which is extremely high, and insured to the british this is not some kind of tricky counter espionage plot, but arnold is really arnold in what he is planning to do. arnold had developed a connection with one of the more puzzling and interesting figures of this story, a young lawyer by the name of joshua smith. his 31 years old. his brother was the chief justice of new york state, william smith.
smith is one of these figures that is very controversial. arnold's aides were convinced he was a tory, that arnold and he were engaged in some sort of illegal trade or something. smith conducts -- let me see, if i move over here, this is a good map. can you hear me ok? let's see if i can fool around with my -- there we go. i don't know how well you can read that. is that clear or not? i don't know whether we can make it any clearer. we will have to do the best we can. this is smith's home 15 miles south of west point. he meets with smith there and tells smith to get a pass and go out.
this is where major john andre is on the british ship, bring him on shore with the pass, and they will hopefully finalize the deal and trade. arnold tells smith the reason you're going, you are going to meet a british merchant by the name of john anderson. john anderson is going to help us. this is the robinson house, the home of a tory that benedict arnold had taken over for his headquarters, even though it is on the side of the river. what he expects to do, he says we are going to make a deal to get robinson's house back to him, which in some way, completely unclear to me, is going to help the american cause. under that ruse, smith goes out with a pass and brings back major john andre thinking he is
a british merchant by the name of john anderson. andre is in fact the 30-year-old adjutant general of the british army in charge of their espionage and a particular favorite of general clinton. they come ashore. they meet, discuss the plan, then go to smith's house, continue to discuss. it is ultimately determined the vulture, this british ship, had been driven downstream, that andre cannot go back by water. he is going to go back by land instead. that sets the stage for these dramatic moments that are going to occur.
arnold says to smith give anderson your coat. he is dressed in a british uniform. why would a british merchant be dressed in a british uniform? it is a fairly good question to ask, i would think. but he puts on smith's coat and begins his road back by land to british controlled new york with a pass from benedict arnold to guide him through any stops on the way. near the town of tarrytown, after smith takes him halfway and goes back home leaving him alone, he is stopped by a group of three men. heroes or highwayman depending on who you read. they stopped him.
andre makes a fatal and hard to understand mistake. seen one of these men were wearing a jager coat like the hessian soldiers were, in the excitement of the moment, andre says i am with the british. these men were with the americans. once he realized that and tried to bribe them, they did not accept the bribe. later they got medals from the continental congress. in retrospect, you should have said you are with the americans. if they are with the british, you could convince them. if you're with the americans, you get by. but he did not. that quick moment, as washington expressed, only an unaccountable deprivation of mind in a man of the first abilities led to the unraveling of the conspiracy. ultimately, washington could only understand it as divine
providence to save the american cause. he later expressed it -- they bring arnold to colonel john jameson, shows him the pass. he is not the brightest bulb on the tree. he reads the pass and says someone is forging benedict arnold's name and wants to let benedict arnold know this is going on, so he sends the pass to arnold. initially, he was going to send andre to arnold. luckily, one of the more experienced officers came by, benjamin tallmadge, and said no, keep andre with us and send the correspondence to george washington.
you have two things going on at once. a note going to arnold saying someone is forging your name and the papers on the way to washington who is in connecticut coming back from a meeting. he is going to stop at west point to examine the fort. some people think arnold was hoping to capture washington as well is give away the fort. it is conceivable but probably unlikely. washington himself downplayed the likelihood. but sadly, the messenger missed washington with the papers and had to go all the way to the robinson house. the other guy with the note gets to arnold. he reads it and realizes the plot is off. that allows them just enough time to kiss his bride who has
recently given birth to their first child. he races out and gets them into bro hymn to the british warship. by the way, to show the nice guy arnold is, he offers them two gallons of rum a piece if they can get him there quickly because he has to get to washington. he says you can join the british navy or become prisoners of war when they get there. they would not join but were prisoners. soon they were released. in the meantime, washington is coming to west point. arnold is not there. again, he thinks in retrospect, as i am quoting washington as he later recounted, the impropriety of his conduct when he knew i was to be there struck me forcibly. but it is only when he arrives at the robinson house and the messenger comes, then it dawns on him. sometimes we have information coming.
if you think one way, you miss things. then everything is clear in retrospect. if you don't suspect something, you can see how something like this would happen. all of a sudden, everything falls into place. the realization that major general benedict arnold, who washington have done so much for and had such confidence in, have gone over to the enemy hit george washington with the force of a body blow. remember, he prided himself on his ability to judge men. he once wrote to lafayette, i am mortified when i find myself mistaken. he was mortified. he took arnold's betrayal not only against the country but as a personal betrayal. for a moment, despair overtook the great general. "who can we trust now?" he said.
according to lafayette's a collection as recorded, whether these are exaggerated it is hard to know. but according to owens' recollection of what lafayette said, the great general fell on his friend and sobbed aloud. lafayette said i believe this was the only occasion throughout that long and sometimes hopeless trouble that washington gave way, even for a moment under a reverse of fortune. almost immediately however, and this is the key point, his excellency's remarkable ability to think clearly in times of crisis and danger took over. this is another one of his many talents.
most people in times of tension, gunfire, excitement, you don't think clearly. washington somehow has the ability to do that. he immediately moves to strengthen the fort for the possible attack. he explores vigorously how widespread the treason was and is. interestingly, over time it was demonstrated not a single other officer or soldier was involved in arnold's plot. once he learned that, he worked hard to stop a witch hunt. in the moment, you are nervous and fearful. we can understand fear. look at ebola. you get nervous. if he did it, who else is guilty? there is a rumor an american general, robert howell, might be disloyal. washington quickly moved to squelch it and wrote words that are well worth remembering. in another interesting footnote,
arnold's aide, when washington finds he is innocent, he is a very capable man, he makes in his personal secretary as a testimony and he is the man in charge of organizing washington's war records, which historians are so eternally grateful for as they work through the revolutionary war. the incident also illustrates washington's force of personality, his capacity for anger, and his ability to make tough if controversial decisions.
he never got over his anger. when an aide later said i think arnold is suffering mental hell for what he did, washington know back and said i am mistaken if at this time arnold is undergoing the torment of a mental hell. by the way, the later accounts of arnold in great britain just before he dies putting on his american uniform, saluting the flag. as you might guess, pure b.s. [laughter] washington desperately wants arnold to pay with his life for his betrayal. whether he okayed a back channel deal, you want to save andre? give us arnold.
i don't think washington did it. but somebody did it. from clinton's point of view as much as he wants to give them arnold and save andre, you cannot give away the most important person that ever betrayed the country. who else would betray the country? it comes to naught. washington does authorize a daring plot by a lieutenant to pretend to desert the american forces. he is almost not doing it. joining arnold's regiment, following arnold around, learning his habits with the idea to kidnap him, bring him back. washington did not want him assassinated. he wants to make a public example by hanging arnold if he could do so. as he expressed it, no
circumstances will obtain my consent of simply being put to death. the plot narrowly fails. it is kind of sad. maybe benedict arnold said providence was on his side. i don't know. but they just missed him. he escaped. he ravages connecticut and virginia during the war and is never captured, will outlive washington before dying in great britain in 1801. certainly, joshua smith, who i mentioned before, feels the full force of washington's anger. he writes a memoir in the early 1800's about what happens to him. you have to treat it carefully, but it is an interesting memoir and reveals the tougher side of washington. this man has a tough side. he could not do what he did, part of the reason for his success, without a certain toughness. when smith is brought face to face with the various
commander-in-chief in the midst of what is going on, smith presented, "i am innocent. benedict arnold asked me to do it. he is the general. i did it. i didn't know anything about this." washington was not buying it. he warned smith, "nothing could save him but a full confession, including the identities of all his accomplices." he told smith i have the authority to hang you right now. he did not, but washington is capable of shading the truth if it is going to make an important point for his cause. later on, smith chastises washington for what he did. he called him his prosecutor and chastises him for his theory and revenge, later declaring washington anxiously mediated my destruction. i don't have time to go into this in great detail.
a lot of people think smith is innocent. washington did not. he was court-martialed on the available evidence. he was found not guilty. washington wrote the head of the legislature in new york, i'm going to have to let smith go unless you charge was something else. they got the hint. they charged him quickly. he was in prison for nine months. he escapes, gets to new york city, goes to great britain ultimately, seeks compensation as a loyalist. was he guilty? i think he was myself, at least guilty of knowing what is going on. when you read the court-martial records, smith is a remarkably smart guy. i say, does it make any sense to a remarkably smart guy that the british are somehow openly going to try to help william robinson get his home back in a way that is going to promote the patriot cause? as i indicated earlier, the idea a british merchant, i'm going on
the american side, could i wear your uniform? [laughter] it is not logical. one person said the choice seems either smith was guilty of treachery or stupidity. he was not stupid. you can draw your conclusion from that. the real challenge facing washington involves this remarkable british adjutant general john andre. for our purposes, you need to remember three things. first, andre's guilt under the rules of war is virtually impossible to refute. andre does not come ashore under a flag of truce.
if he had, he would have returned the same way. he was clearly engaged in the espionage plot, and he was definitely captured behind enemy lines out of uniform, which made him a spy and not a prisoner of war. the accepted punishment for espionage was hanging. but there are two complicated factors. one is, as i indicated, he is the absolute favorite of sir henry clinton. clinton loved andre the way washington loved lafayette, to give you a comparable sense of importance. he is going to move heaven and earth if he can to save him. indeed, clinton had written andre, under no circumstances are you to get out of uniform. andre does things he was not supposed to do. but the other complicating factor is major andre himself. this young man is clearly a
remarkable individual, almost the epitome of a british enlightened gentleman. alexander hamilton writes a letter to john laurens about what happened, a 13-page letter that is a great primary source. john laurens was a fascinating figure, shot and killed in an obscure skirmish near the end of the war. you would think he is in love with the guy. andre did this sketch of himself just before he was taken out to be executed and gave it to his
prison guard. andre united a peculiar eloquence of mind and manners. goes on and on. when hamilton writes his fiancee, he says i wish i could be like andre. andre knows he is doomed. he only has one request. he writes a moving letter to george washington, "shoot me like a soldier, don't hang me like a common thief or spy." as most of you know, washington hung him in a very emotional hanging. this is a contemporary drawing. benjamin tallmadge wrote great diaries, a very interesting person. he said he was never moved by any men as much as he was moved
by meeting andre, who he was in charge of as prisoner. he wrote, when i saw him swinging, it seemed for a time i could not support it. all the spectators seemed to be overwhelmed by the spectacle, and many were suffused with tears. washington is severely criticized for this. washington, in clinton's mind, this is premeditated murder. inexcusable and never to be forgiven. a widely read poem at the time said this about washington. pretty tough.
washington is a stickler for discipline. once you start violating the rules, you open a pandora's box of other problems. he admired andre as a person. he has no ill will towards andre. he thinks he is the victim of circumstances. he is not a guilty man. he never interviewed andre. he did not respond to his letter, to give him hope of until the last minute rather than ruin him earlier than that. he did not go to his execution either. he wrote andre has met his fate.
but washington felt he had to hang him, and he had the courage to do so. to view washington through the events surrounding arnold's treason, i think gives us just one more little window into the character of america's matchless man. the story reveals a very human side of washington. he made serious errors of judgment regarding arnold. he revealed his anger, and forceful at times, almost frightening persona in his treatment was joshua smith and his desire to punish arnold. he was a man of tumultuous and violent passions. but the incident demonstrates why he is such a remarkable leader. he was able to master his passions. he thought calmly and clearly in a time of grave crisis.
he quickly moved to strengthen the fort, to learn how widespread the treason was and prevent witch hunting in the aftermath. he had the strength of character to make the hard but ultimately correct decision regarding andre and was willing to take the criticism for his action. benedict arnold's treason in 1780 is only one of a number of events that threatened america. this is a very dark time for the american revolution. this is what robert morris called what washington had, a patience in suffering. washington was able to inspire his men, he can still inspire us. keep the faith. convinced in time, we keep the faith, with providence's help, the glorious cause will not be lost but will be victorious.
he could not know that only a little more than a year from this time yorktown would occur, and the tide would turn and independence would swing the american way. happily, george washington was a man who not only deserved success, he achieved success. for that, we are forever in his debt. thanks for your good intentions. [applause] anyone who needs to get up and leave, that is fine. we usually have a time for question and answer. you can ask any question you want. there are lots of questions i cannot answer. i don't mind you asking. we are being taped by c-span.
i don't know what they are going to do with the first joke. [laughter] but anyway, if you have questions, there are people with microphones. they will bring it to you and you can ask the question in the microphones of they will be able to hear it clearly. we will go from there. if you do have questions, raise your hand and people will pass things along to them. >> i know this is a lot of conjecture i am going to ask you. but without benedict arnold winning or at least succeeding at valcour island and also helping determine what happened at the battle of saratoga, do you think america would have won the revolutionary war, without those two things i just mentioned?
>> jim always likes to ask impossible questions. to me, it is always a good question, what if? i find it so hard to figure out what happened. i find it hard to determine what would have happened if something else had occurred. certainly, saratoga was crucial. french support for america is essential for us to win our independence in a formal end of the war fashion. i think the british could have ultimately given up and not won the war, but we would not have gotten the treaty of paris acknowledging american independence. the likelihood of a more divisive group of little countries would be much more likely. in that sense, it is very important. i'm not a military historian. i don't know enough specifically
on andre's contributions, whether we could have won saratoga without him, certainly major contributions. it was a crucial event. he played a crucial role in it. i think that is worth remembering. >> just curious. after the war, i assume arnold remained in great britain. but how was he accepted? was he treated with honor and respect or looked at as somebody who had acted treasonous leak toward his country and used by the british? >> the question is what happened afterward, how did the british treat him? he was to become a general in the british army. but there are secret orders they have the right to arrest necessary.
no one likes a traitor. they will use him. no one likes him. john andre has a wonderful crypt over him in london in memory of him. he becomes a hero for his patriotism. arnold is a wheeler dealer. he gets investing in land in new brunswick and elsewhere. he runs into trouble and ends up with an illegitimate child that undoubtedly caused peggy heart ache. she stays with him throughout his life. he does get a significant amount of money, even in failure, and a pension. but his life is not a happy one. there is a letter she wrote. her life with him does not turn out to be very happy either. although she certainly loved him, and they have a close, loving relationship in the early years of their marriage.
there is a question here. >> [indiscernible] wasn't peggy involved in this conspiracy? i mean, it sounds like [indiscernible] >> it is a fair question. george washington felt sorry for her. what was peggy's role? no one is sure. with the discovery of the clinton papers, there is a book on the secret history of the war, it makes it clear that peggy shippen was involved to a degree. she is not involved where benedict arnold wants to be a good patriotic soldier and, "betray them or i will not sleep with you." she does not have that power. but she is a tory peer she feeds on his frustration. the fact that he does it so soon after marriage and although he writes a letter to washington saying peggy is absolutely
innocent, it is clear it is a lie. she acts crazy. george washington comes in. she has a child at her breast. it is not clear whether she bares her breast. screaming, she says, "there are people coming out of the ceiling at me." aaron burr says she is guilty, but he knew a lot of women. washington is sympathetic to her, allows her to go back to her family in philadelphia from which she then goes and joins arnold. for the most part, we know more now than the people did at the time. in terms of actual judgment, there is another case where he did not judge correctly. in the framework of the 18th century, he did almost the
inevitable response to her distress. any other questions? there is one here. >> i know very little about -- i was going to say hamilton. arnold. i want to know why was he not promoted in the beginning? what happened that he did not get his promotion? is anything written that maybe he was just a sociopath or psychopath? >> i would not say he was a sociopath or a psychopath. my son who is a psychology professor describes man as the justifying animal. benedict arnold has a remarkable ability to justify everything he did. you read his letters, as a man of honor, he is always talking in terms of honor at this seemingly despicable lack of
honor thing. look, benedict arnold was mistreated. the question about it. he got the short end of the stick. there is state jealousies involved. he rubs people the wrong way. it is a complicated story which i don't know all the details of. the main thing is, the fact that you are mistreated in the army, that does not justify you becoming a traitor to the enemy. there is a book by james kirby martin, a friend of mine, on benedict arnold. probably the best overall view of arnold. he is much more sympathetic to arnold than i am. he basically feels arnold becomes convinced the american government is a failure, republicanism cannot work. if it cannot work, the french
are likely to take us over. the better course of action is to reassess our relationship with great britain. when he signs some of his early correspondence with great britain, he signed the name monk. general monk was a british general after cromwell's civil war broke up, one of his generals who went back to the crown and restored richard ii and became a hero. in his mind, he sees himself doing a restoration to the proper relationships since the system is not going to work. that is the way he sees it. he cannot get over the personal, and he is a very greedy man. you read these letters, the way he negotiates for money, in terms of modern money, we are talking about millions of dollars he hopes to get. it is not at the time, but if you try to ratchet it up. the book i like best is an older
book by willard wallace called "traitor's hero." i think that is a good treatment. there is a book by a retired military general on arnold and washington. that has some interesting points in it as well. if there is another question? >> what role do you think played into benedict arnold's treacherous behavior was based on his inability to pay his troops? >> to pay his troops? i can't answer that with absolute specificity. he is constantly complaining about that and sometimes
advancing his own things and wanting to be reimbursed. it is just a general, growing disillusionment of a man who sacrificed almost his life, and these were not minor leg injuries. these are severe injuries where he will walk -- be crippled for the rest of his life. than to be treated, from his perspective, so poorly, kind of justifies his actions. might have time for one or two to questions and then i will close shop because it is just about 6:30. >> i just wanted to ask you [indiscernible] what question would you ask of washington and benedict arnold, if you had a chance to talk to both today? >> probably if i had a chance to talk to general washington, i would not specifically ask about benedict arnold. i would ask him much i have screwed up my interpretation of you, so i could get it right in
the future. and benedict arnold, you know, guilty. [laughter] it is always a joy for me to come. you are a friendly, knowledgeable group. i hope i have the chance to keep coming back in the future. thanks. [applause] >> with live coverage of the u.s. house on c-span and the , here we comean2 home and that coverage by showing you the most relevant hearings and public offers offense. on the weekends, c-span3 is home to american history tv. the civil war's 150th anniversary, american artifacts,
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