Benedict Arnold Research Paper

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Benedict Arnold

American History

Working Thesis

Throughout the American history there have been many intriguing characters, courageous and intellectual men that fuel inspiration in the later generations preceded by those who will go down in the history unnoticed and overshadowed due to the bravery, intellect and achievements of others and finally there are those who became famous not for their acts of valor but for the wrong reasons. Benedict Arnold was born to a successful business man in 1741 at Norwich Connecticut[footnoteRef:1]; he earned himself the position of an army general in American Revolutionary war after achieving great victories for the Continental Army and exhibited great leadership, valor and warfare expertise. However, later in 1780 he switched sides and joined the British Army as the brigadier general. The success in battle of Saratoga is accredited to Arnold serving as the turning point in the war and earning him the status of most brilliant soldier in the American army[footnoteRef:2]. Although majority of the American nation fails to recognize his achievements and remembers him as a traitor, a living testament to that claim is the unnamed monument of Arnold's leg situated in Saratoga National Park[footnoteRef:3]. [1: Brandt, Clare. The Man in the Mirror: A Life of Benedict Arnold. (New York: Random House, 1994).] [2: National Park Service. Saratoga National Historical Park -- Tour Stop 7. National Park Service. Available from; Internet; accessed October 28, 2012.] [3: Carso, Brian F. Whom Can We Trust Now?:the Meaning of Treason in the United States, from the Revolution Through the Civil War. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006). ]

The thesis inquires in to the reasons why Benedict Arnold chose the path of treachery after giving a brief account of necessary historic events. Based on the key findings, the research concludes with the answer to the infamous question of whether he was a hero or a traitor.

Working Thesis

The human being is an emotionally fragile entity; it takes a life time to earn loyalty and respect of others although one wrong decision based on certain assumptions can damage the reputation while a set of wrongs can destroy it all together. Benedict Arnold was no different fueled by his desires he turned against the very nation he once loved and devoted his services to.

His early life was difficult and filled with unfortunate circumstances; out of six children Arnold's parents suffered the death of four infants due to yellow fever, this loss resulted in his father's addiction to alcohol and steady loss of family fortune due to which Arnold was taken out of the private school and sent to a church school at the age of 11[footnoteRef:4]. At the age of thirteen he was pulled out of the school and left to wander in the city of Norwich where he gained the reputation of a bully supported by his superior strength, courage and clever attitude. Arnold was most of the time in trouble hence his mother used her connections and sent him to an apprenticeship in her brother's apothecary store. It was during his apprenticeship where he learned many trades from Dr. Daniel Lathorp and while supplying goods to British forces in today's Canada he learned that considerable and legal profits can be made in wartime. During his apprenticeship he twice ran away to join army but was dragged back, at the age of 21 he refused to further serve Lathorps and wanted to start his own business[footnoteRef:5]. The wish soon came true with the help from Lathorps and he was able to set up his own store that soon saw great success due to Arnold's skills in many disciplines. He went on to acquire trade ships and begun importing goods from Caribbean and West Indies. He was in opposition to British trade laws and was among the first traders to start smuggling goods. He became rebellious but his role was tertiary in revolution politics[footnoteRef:6]. [4: Biography. "Benedict Arnold," Available at; Internet; accessed October 28, 2012. ] [5: Randall, W. "Why Benedict Arnold Did It," American Heritage; available from; Internet; accessed October 28, 2012. ] [6: Randall, W. "Why Benedict Arnold Did It," American Heritage; available from; Internet; accessed October 28, 2012. ]

Upon considering the early life and events prior to his role in continental army, one cannot ignore the fact that his personality was shaped by the unfortunate events of his childhood, a personality that remained rigid despite losing his siblings, humiliation and death of his father along with a change in social and economic status. According to Dr. Kevin Leman Childhood memories and experiences observed between five to seven years serve as formative years of a personality. Individuals who have experienced a harsh childhood are more prone to stress, personality disorders and other instabilities[footnoteRef:7]. Arnold from his birth saw a thriving family with good economic conditions and a healthy environment although in his childhood he witnessed the loss of his siblings and later on when he was ten years old he saw his father in a drunken humiliated state and the loss of fortune. Besides the loss of his siblings there are no further records of an unfortunate event during his formative years. Being a surviving child he must have considered himself as a blessed fellow who bred within him the self-confidence, righteousness and courage. His teenage years seem more disturbing but his mother supported him and his further nurturing was in hands of a businessmen. There are considerable proofs that his entrepreneurial instincts and profiteering nature was developed during his apprenticeship and later on as he experienced trade during war time his priorities became selfish and the strong natured Arnold was attracted to war with an economic motivation. A critical analysis of the above argument shows that during those times health amenities were not readily available and infant mortality rate was very high with general poverty within the society, alcoholism and acceptable education provided by church schools. Hence these factors may have influenced the personality of Arnold to a considerable extent shaping him as a rebel and self righteous man, who would later on commit treason for fulfillment of his own desires. [7: Leman, Kevin and Randy Carlson, "Childhood Memories." The way we were Focus onthe Family, (1989) [e-journal] < >]

So was he a war-liking profiteer and a selfish man, the account from history shows that even before joining the continental army his character as a business man was flawed and many accusations were made against him, although none of them were proved in the courts. After joining the army his courageous nature made him an inspiring leader as he played a crucial role in capture of British forces at the battle of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, delayed British assault in New York in the following year which prompted an interest of French army in American cause and his biggest achievement was at Saratoga where he was able to defeat John Burgoyne's army. His character was again under attack when he was accused of not providing documented proofs of expenditure made during the assault on Quebec, one of his critics John Brown explained his personality as "Money is this man's God, and to get enough of it he would sacrifice his country"[footnoteRef:8].Above mentioned events show us that his character as a business man was not to be trusted and profit making was one of the top priorities. [8: Howe, Archibald. "Colonel John Brown, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the Brave Accuser of Benedict Arnold." (Boston W.B. Clarke). Available from; Internet; accessed October 28, 2012.]

In 1777 Arnold he was ignored by the congress and political promotions were made, this frustrated him and he felt unrecognized for his bravery and leading the continental army to at least three major victories. It is important to note he resigned at least three times on the account of being ignored by the congress and due to accusations made against him. The victory and surrender of British forces at Saratoga earned him the promotion although he attributed this act of congress as sympathetic and not apologetic. One can not discount the fact that Arnold was ignored and not recognized by the authorities of that time, after doing much more than any soldier did on the battlefield. In his famous book, the seven hidden reason why employees leave, Leigh Branham explains that people who feel devalued and unrecognized wander away from the objectives of the institution and eventually leave the institution with a vindictive and frustrated view of the group[footnoteRef:9]. Maybe it was too little too late for Arnold when congress decided to restore his seniority, there is no doubt of Arnold's valor and courage although one must investigate and dig deep to understand why was he not promoted in the first place by the congress after such historic victories and ability to lead the army so effectively. The congress knew that Arnold was amongst the most feared generals within the army with a bullish attitude and self righteousness along with financial accusations…[continue]

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