Benedict Arnold’s Wrong Foundation By Bill and Scarlett Stough
Few things are as important to what we accomplish and how we are remembered as personal character. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, copyright 1961, defines character as: “Moral vigor or firmness, esp. as acquired through self-discipline.”  Character has also been described as what we are when no one is looking. To a Christian, the character of Jesus the Christ is the one we seek to imitate. We desire to be motivated by the same principles and values that motivated him. He is the foundation of the character we seek to build upon. Godly character is living by and being motivated by moral and ethical principles. A person without moral and ethical principles seeks to gratify his own pleasures and ambitions as Benedict Arnold did.

General Benedict Arnold was hailed as a hero after the Battle of Saratoga (September/October of 1777.) He was wounded, but recovered. If he had died then, he would have been remembered and admired as a great hero of the American Revolution. Instead he is remembered as a traitor. What went wrong?

After he was wounded, Benedict Arnold moved to Philadelphia and bought the country estate of Mount Pleasant--one of the finest mansions in America. The 38 year-old Arnold met and married 18 year-old Peggy Shippen. The wedding took place April 8, 1779. She came from a “loyalist” family (British sympathizers) who maintained ties to the British. Arnold and his young wife entertained lavishly and spent freely on parties given to entertain loyalists.

Benedict Arnold’s behavior became too much for the Philadelphia patriots and they court marshaled him in the winter of 1780. His penalty was limited to a reprimand from his superior General George Washington. Washington still believed in Arnold and offered him a field command. Arnold requested command of West Point. Washington did not know that Arnold was in secret communication with the British.

West Point was the most strategic place on the American continent. It was a narrow place on the Hudson River upstream from New York City. Approximately half of the population of the “colonies” lay to the east, and half to the west of the Hudson River. Had the British controlled the Hudson river they could stop trade as well as prevent Washington’s army from maneuvering. Arnold planned to turn West Point over to the British.

Even before he assumed command of West Point Arnold wrote a letter to Sir Henry Clinton of the British high command that said: “20,000 pounds sterling I think will be a cheap purchase for an object [West Point] of such importance.” The letter was sent July 15, 1780, two and a half weeks before Washington made Arnold the commander of West Point. When the treason was discovered, Arnold fled to the British. But Arnold was never fully trusted by them even though they made him a Brigadier General. A man who would betray once could do it again.

Benedict Arnold moved to London after the Revolutionary War. He was never accepted by British society and died deeply in debt. He was buried in a community vault in a small church in a poor section of London.

Like Washington, Arnold had ability to lead and did well. Both had setbacks and both were criticized. George Washington became known as the father of our country. But the name Benedict Arnold is synonymous with treason and he died as a man without a country.

Some of Arnold’s choices parallel those of King Solomon who married foreign wives who worshipped idols instead of the Creator God. Solomon built temples for their idols. As Solomon grew old his wives turned his heart away from serving the living God. (I Kings 11:1-4) His character was perverted over a long period of time.

God wants his children to develop the faithful character of his Son, Jesus. When we turn to him, he will build his character in us. 

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:3-11)

Benedict Arnold lost his chance to enter history as a hero and one of the founders of the United States of America because he loved worldly things and thought it was less risky to throw in with the British. But those who follow Christ do risk everything that people of this world value. But if we hang together with Christ to the end, we will receive a welcome into his kingdom and a reputation for faithfulness as citizens of his kingdom. Let us “make every effort” to build and develop the character of the Son of God in our lives.

Some of the information used in this article was taken from the history channel’s “The American Revolution”  series.


Volume 3 Issue 8 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review | In the Days of Your Youth

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