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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

THE MEANING OF TRAITOR

BRYCE ON POLITICS

- Another history lesson for our youth; Benedict Arnold and today's terrorists.

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234 years ago today (Sep 24th), Benedict Arnold deserted the American Army and joined the British during the Revolutionary War. By doing so, he became the national icon for the word "traitor." I mention this because 18th century American history is rarely taught anymore in High Schools, and Arnold's name has slowly been fading into obscurity. Ask your children or grandchildren about Arnold and you will likely get blank stares.

Arnold's story is rather interesting. Born in Connecticut, he became a successful businessman and developed a lucrative trade between New England and the West Indies. In 1775 he was appointed Captain in Connecticut's militia. With the outbreak of war in Massachusetts, his company marched to Boston and helped defend the city from the British siege. Arnold was ambitious and participated nobly in several raids. He is perhaps best known for the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. In the Autumn of 1775 he and his troops embarked on a difficult mission through the wilderness (present-day Maine) to assault Quebec City. He lost almost half of his men due to inclement weather. Due to the layout of the city, its defenses, and Arnold's diminished manpower, he failed to take the city and shattered his left leg in the process, which would bother him for the remainder of his life. For his efforts though, he was commissioned a brigadier general.

He was assigned other responsibilities, including the defense of Rhode Island. Despite his successes, he was passed over for promotion while others took credit for some of his accomplishments. He was accused and investigated for financial corruption, and eventually cleared of the charges. Nonetheless, he was embarrassed and tried to resign his commission, but Washington rejected it.

Arnold re-injured his left leg at the Battle of Ridgefield (CT). After recovering from it, he rejoined General Washington's troops at Valley Forge. There, as a sign of loyalty to the fledgling country, Arnold joined other soldiers in the first recorded Oath of Allegiance:

I "Benedict Arnold Major General", do acknowledge the UNITED STATES of AMERICA to be Free, Independent and Sovereign States, and declare the the people thereof owe no allegiance or obedience to George the Third, King of Great-Britain; and I renounce, refute and abjure any allegiance or obedience to him; and I do "swear" that I will, to the utmost of my power, support, maintain and defend the said United States against the said King George the Third, his heirs and successors, and his or their abettors, assistants and adherents, and will serve the said United States in the office of "Major General" which I now hold, with fidelity, according to the best of my skill and understanding.
- Sworn before me this 30th, May 1778 at the Artillery and Tank Valley Forge
Hinay B.E. Alslels

At this point, Arnold was held in high esteem by his troops, and trusted by Washington who put him in charge of the defenses at West Point and the Hudson River, the main waterway going into New York. However, Arnold became disenchanted with the Colonial cause. He disliked the alliance with France and the Congress' rejection of Great Britain's 1778 proposal to grant self-governance with the colonies. Frustrated and discouraged, he opened secret negotiations with the British to switch sides. The plan was to diminish the defenses in the area and allow the British to capture West Point, a very strategic location overlooking the Hudson.

The plot was foiled when American forces captured Major John André, the British spy chief, who was caught carrying papers revealing the plot. Learning of André's capture, Arnold fled down the Hudson River to the British sloop-of-war "Vulture." Alerted to the plot, Washington had sent soldiers to apprehend Arnold, but he narrowly escaped. For his part, André was hanged.

Now on the British side, Arnold was given a commission as a brigadier general in the Army. He would go on to lead British forces against his former countrymen on raids in Virginia and his home state of Connecticut.

After the war, Arnold would return to the merchant business operating out of Saint John, New Brunswick. He would eventually move to London in 1791 where he died just ten years later at the age of 60. Arnold's body was buried in London, but was accidentally moved a century later to an unmarked mass grave.

Following the war, Arnold's name quickly became synonymous with "traitor." Benjamin Franklin typified the country's sentiments when he wrote, "Judas sold only one man, Arnold three millions."
In Arnold, we see a man who was bold, ambitious, and a talented leader. Despite taking the Military Oath of Allegiance though, he reneged on his obligations in search of self interests. Regardless, his name will always be linked to betrayal.

Now, 234 years later, we are embroiled in another conflict, this time in the Middle East with ISIS, a militant Muslim extremist group. Its soldiers are recruited from around the world, including Americans who are leaving to fight in Syria and Iraq, and are willing to wage war against American soldiers and their allies. Make no mistake, these people are just as traitorous as Arnold, and should be treated as such in return. No, they shouldn't be welcomed back to our country with open arms. They shouldn't be allowed back in the country at all. Consider this, had Washington's troops captured Arnold, he would have likely joined André on the hangman's gallows. Traitors have no place in these United States.

Such is our history lesson for today.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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