Are we all just 3 steps away from being a traitor like Benedict Arnold?
Posted: October 27, 2023 | Word Count: 534
Would you ever betray your country? The answer is likely, no. Everyone thinks that under no circumstances they would betray the country they love.
However, Benedict Arnold — one of America's most infamous traitors — at one point would have likely answered this question in the same way you did. Turns out, the question of loyalty isn’t as black and white as it may initially seem.
People who betray their home country are often labeled as evil, money hungry and morally corrupt. These simple explanations ignore the lessons of history and slide into the very complacency that led to traitors like Arnold.
The path from hero to treason
Benedict Arnold was indisputably brave and one of the greatest heroes in the American Revolution. Stephen Yoch’s recent book, “Becoming Benedict Arnold,” presents a first-person perspective on Arnold’s actions.
The book answers the question why Arnold become a traitor, including:
- He was politically naive and was repeatedly betrayed by those he trusted
- He was severely injured in service of his county while others gained credit for his victory
- The person he loved most encouraged him to follow his instincts and fight those who mistreated him
Yoch explains that Arnold was a successful businessman and an early member of the Sons of Liberty. He used his own personal fortune to support the Revolution and recruit a regiment to march to Boston to support the Cause. He was tactically brilliant and the men immediately under his command loved him.
Unfortunately, he did not understand the highly nuanced political reality of the American Revolution. Many Americans resented and feared the growing power of the Continental Army and George Washington in particular.
Arnold, as a protégé of Washington, became a natural target for political attacks and intrigue. Moreover, Generals like Horatio Gates and political figures like Joseph Reed, betrayed Arnold’s trust and openly attacked him, despite his demonstrated bravery.
Arnold was also severely wounded at the Battle of Saratoga where he secured the American victory. Arnold’s service was not fully recognized, while he endured a lifetime of pain.
Finally, having already endured physical pain and betrayal, he met his true love, Peggy Shippen. Peggy was a loyalist who had contacts in the British secret service that allowed Arnold a pathway to vent his frustration and betray his country.
Becoming America’s greatest traitor
According to Yoch, scholarship on traitors supports the proposition that for the most part people are not born traitors. Rather, treachery is the result of a series of actions where a person who, in normal circumstances, would never conceive of betraying their country.
Traitors become who they are because of events or actions that drive them to a previously inconceivable act. For someone to commit treason, it is usually not a single event, but a combination of wrongs, sufferings and opportunities that lead them to betray their country.
While we all hope we would not go down the path of treason in similar circumstances, it is difficult to say any of us would be immune in the face of the pain, betrayal and opportunities presented to America’s greatest traitor, Benedict Arnold.
To purchase Yoch's newest book, “Becoming Benedict Arnold,” visit Amazon.com.