Well, Nathaniel’s done it again. The author of Mayflower, In the Heart of the Sea, and a handful of other well researched, historical gems, has once again caused me to think. His latest rant Valiant Ambition, takes us through the life of Benedict Arnold, the good, bad, and ugly. Benedict was a stud general. He was fearless to the point of careless. He won early battles and inspired many. He was competent beyond question. However, George Washington was so blinded by Benedict’s battlefield behavior that he missed the character deficits. Throughout history, we’ve seen highly competent teammates brought down by hubris, arrogance, and pride. General George missed this one, badly.
America missed this. The Continental Congress missed this. General Gates missed this. Good. Yes, good.
You see, the unintended consequence in 1780 when Benedict betrayed America for his love of, well what else, money, wasn’t what Clinton or Lord Cornwallis imagined. Instead of Benedicts intelligence turning the war further toward the Brits, here’s what happened. Benedicts betrayal woke us up. You see, prior to his unthinkable lapse of judgement, the Continental Congress was all hung up on, well what else, money. George Washington was begging and begging the politicians to pay our warriors. Nobody wanted to pay for a standing army. So, we let our finest, well, starve! We turned against George III because he was taxing our bunnies but couldn’t quite see the irony in not paying our warriors. Yeah, before Benedicts betrayal, the American people were divided and acting like 13 colonies, not one. Nobody wanted to be inconvenienced till Benedict went and did the unthinkable…
The unintended consequence of Benedict Arnold’s betrayal was it woke us up and got us thinking differently about this freedom thing. Instead of a bunch of fractured, self absorbed individuals fighting the Brits, 13 colonies stopped fighting each other, Continental Congress stopped fighting with George, and George’s Army of the North stopped fighting local militiamen/women. We came together. End of story. We become independent. We won. We ONE.