On Sept. 21, 1780, General Benedict Arnold committed treason against the United States.
Arnold was regarded as an American hero during the American Revolution. His bravery and leadership at the Battle of Ticonderoga in 1775 earned him a significant amount of respect, even with the leader of the Continental Army, George Washington.
Nonetheless, Arnold had many enemies within the military. Five men of lesser rank were promoted over him and his resentment grew. He then married a second wife. His new wife liked to spend money and they garnered a substantial amount of debt. Between the debt and his lack of promotion, Arnold grew more favorable to the idea of working for the British.
After being given command of West Point fort in 1780, Arnold decided to meet with Sir Henry Clinton, the head of the British forces to discuss handing over West Point to the British forces. The conspiracy was uncovered by the Americans, however, and Arnold was accused of treason and denounced as a traitor.
Arnold escaped prosecution and joined the opposing British forces in the Revolutionary War. He would go on to become arguably the most famous traitor in American history.
- Treason is the only crime specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Why is it so serious? What is different about it?
- One of the more well-known accused traitors of today is Edward Snowden, who leaked documents revealing the NSA’s overreaching surveillance of American citizens? Do you consider Edward Snowden a traitor? Did his actions reveal necessary oversight or confidential information?
14, Sept. 2018, Still image from Star Wars, The Force Awakens [Digital image]. Retrieved from <cdn1.sciencefiction.com>.