Today is the day a man whose name, in America, is synonymous with the word traitor was born. The name is Benedict Arnold. The date was January 14, 1741. Isaac Newton Arnold, in his “Benedict Arnold: his patriotism and his treason”, tells of the approach to capturing and handling Arnold, after his treachery had become known. In a note to the text, Isaac Arnold draws on Sir Walter Scott to help illustrate a point.
‘…Had Arnold been captured in battle his execution would have been summary and prompt, and by his own treacherous conduct at West Point he was estopped from complaining of any falsehood or treachery practiced upon him. But would it not have been more in accordance with our highest ideal of Washington – an ideal of almost immaculate nobility and excellence – if this kidnapping and gagging business, a scheme to be accomplished by treachery and breach of trust, had been left to the provost-marshal? 1
In Washington’s instructions to LaFayette, when the latter was sent to Virginia to act against Arnold, he was told “You are to do no act whatever with Arnold that directly or by implication may screen him from the punishment due to his treason and desertion, which if he should fall into your hands, you will execute in the most summary way”….’
1 1) Perhaps from an American standpoint, even this criticism may be thought over-nice. Arnold was, to the army he had deserted, an outlaw: and a sanction of the proposed abduction of higher authority than that of Sir Walter Scott might be found, when he says:
“The beast of game,
The privilege of chase may claim.
Though space, and law the stag we lend,
E’er hound we slip, or bow we bend,
Who ever recked, where, how, and when,
The prowling fox was trapped or slain?”