“Old Bill” Suggests—
In all the scorn which has been heaped on Benedict Arnold, no one seems to have considered (unless Gamaliel Bradford did so indirectly) the more sympathetic viewpoint of him as to some extent a chip on the current of circumstance. For the benefit of 100 per centers, it might be added that such insight damns him even more.
He was not a man of fine sensibilities, whatever his outward pride may have been, for in wooing Margaret Shippen of Philadelphia he seems to have used identical phrases, perhaps too good to be left out of his espistolary ammunition, with which he had protested love to Miss DuBlois of Boston less than six months before.
He was 38 years old, an age at which conduct is often a balance between improving character and receding inhibitions. He had power and position as military governor of the city. His bride was the the beauty of the period, 19-year-old daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family, a happy, refined and somewhat tempermental young feminine spendthrift.
He bought the beautiful Mount Pleasant estate, entertained largely, and was very popular. But he was living far beyond the means of a revolutionary general and soon faced the dilemma of changing radically his mode of life or raising money outside his military pay. Presently he was tried by court-martial for dubious transactions which would be classed today as plain peculation.
Washington was persuaded to put him in charge of the key fortress of West Point, in spite of his record, for he was an able soldier. The error Washington, or his information service, made was in not recognizing that Arnold’s desperate need for money still continued.
Any man who is living beyond his means, unless he has extraordinary strength of character and some special motive, is about as trustworthy as a cornered wolf.
ROYAL F. MUNGER.