Why Did Benedict Arnold Defect?

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    It wasn’t clear why BA decided to become a traitor. I inferred it was because he was owed money by the US and got passed over.
    Any further insight?
    Also re the Declaration of Independence I heard that one of the drafts had ” life, liberty and property”
    What was the basis for the change to “pursuit of happiness”? What is it supposed to mean?


    1) Arnold never said why he defected, so we have to try to draw inferences. Being passed over, being stiffed, and being prodded by his Loyalist wife are obvious factors pushing him in that direction. Soon enough, he had a British generalship and significant command.

    2) That phrase is from Locke, and it was used by Mason. Forests of trees have been spent trying to answer why Jefferson substituted “the pursuit of happiness,” and I’ve never been completely persuaded that anyone had given a convincing answer.


    Thanks Kevin
    I am glad you are as clueless (but more well read) as I am on these matters!
    Love all the lectures. I am almost done with the American Revolution.
    What’s next?


    Stand by. There are more good things coming.


    Do you agree with the Revisionist view presented by Becky Akers in her new book about Benedict Arnold?


    No, I think the traditional view is correct.


    In fact, Arnold detailed his reasons for switching sides in a newspaper piece on October 11th, 1780, entitled “To The Inhabitants of America.” You can find it on the web.

    Much more info on this subject here: http://benedictarnold.info/epilogue.htm


    Okay, right: he did write that letter. Notice that it makes no mention of the grievances he mentioned in private and which I mentioned above, as it would have been unfitting for him to bring up such personal matters in this context. Historians all mention his wife’s prodding, Congress’s unmet financial obligations to him, and the thwarted attempt of General Washington to give him promotion to the Continental Army’s second-highest rank.

    I suppose I should amend my previous comment to say that Arnold gave us no *candid* statement of his motivations–unless you accept that his motivation was entirely on the level of high politics. A chacun son gout.

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