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France was an ally, and its policy likely to be friendly. It was his last card before resorting to utter treachery. Failing in it, his desperate alternative was to get some important command, the betrayal of which to the enemy might obtain for him a munificent reward.
He may possibly have had such an idea in his mind some time previously, when he sought the command of a naval and military expedition, which failed to be carried into effect; but such certainly was the secret of his eagerness to obtain the command of West Point, the great object of British and American solicitude, on the possession of which were supposed by many to hinge the fortunes of the war.
He took command of the post and its dependencies about the beginning of August, fixing his head-quarters at Beverley, a country-seat a little below West Point, on the opposite or eastern side of the river. It stood in a lonely part of the Highlands, high up from the river, yet at the foot of a mountain covered with woods. It was commonly called the Robinson House, having formerly belonged to Washington's early friend, Colonel Beverley Robinson, who had obtained a large part of the Phillipse estate in this neighborhood, by marrying one of the heiresses. Colonel Robinson was a royalist; had entered into the British service, and was now residing in New York, and Beverley with its surrounding lands had been confiscated.
From this place Arnold carried on a secret correspondence with Major André. Their letters, still in disguised hands, and under the names of Gustavus and John Anderson, purported to treat merely of commercial operations, but the real matter in negotiation was the betrayal of West Point and the Highlands to Sir Henry Clinton. This stupendous piece of treachery was
to be consummated at the time when Washington, with the main body of his army, would be drawn down towards King's Bridge, and the French troops landed on Long Island, in the projected co-operation against New York. At such time, a flotilla under Rodney, having on board a large land force, was to ascend the Hudson to the Highlands, which would be surrendered by Arnold almost without opposition, under pretext of insufficient force to make resistance. The immediate result of this surrender, it was anticipated, would be the defeat of the combined attempt upon New York; and its ultimate effect might be the dismemberment of the Union and the dislocation of the whole American scheme of warfare.
We have before had occasion to mention Major André, but the part which he took in this dark transaction, and the degree of romantic interest subsquently thrown around his memory, call for a more specific notice of him. He was born in London 1751, but his parents were of Geneva in Switzerland, where he was educated. Being intended for mercantile life, he entered a London counting-house, but had scarce attained his eighteenth
year when he formed a romantic attachment to a beautiful girl, Miss Honora Sneyd, by whom his passion was returned, and they became engaged. This sadly unfitted him for the sober routine of the counting-house. "All my mercantile calculations," writes he in one of his boyish letters, "go to the tune of dear Honora.” The father of the young lady interfered, and the premature match was broken off. André abandoned the counting-house and entered the army. His first commission was dated March 4, 1771; but he subsequently visited Germany, and returned to England in 1773, still haunted by his early passion. His lady love, in the mean time, had been wooed by other admirers, and
in the present year became the second wife of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, a young widower of twenty-six.*
André came to America in 1774, as lieutenant of the Royal English Fusileers; and was among the officers captured at Saint Johns, early in the war, by Montgomery. He still bore about with him a memento of his boyish passion, the "dear talisman," as he called it, a miniature of Miss Sneyd painted by himself in 1769. In a letter to a friend, soon after his capture, he writes, "I have been taken prisoner by the Americans, and stripped of every thing except the picture of Honora, which I concealed in my mouth. Preserving that, I yet think myself fortunate."
His temper, however, appears to have been naturally light and festive; and if he still cherished this "tender remembrance," it was but as one of those documents of early poetry and romance, which serve to keep the heart warm and tender among the gay and cold realities of life. What served to favor the idea was a little song which he had composed when in Philadelphia, commencing with the lines,
Return enraptured hours
When Delia's heart was mine;
and which was supposed to breathe the remembrance of his early and ill-requited passion.†
His varied and graceful talents, and his engaging manners, rendered him generally popular; while his devoted and somewhat subservient loyalty recommended him to the favor of his commander, and obtained him, without any distinguished mili
*Father, by his first marriage, of the celebrated Maria Edgeworth.
tary services, the appointment of adjutant-general with the rank of major. He was a prime promoter of elegant amusement in camp and garrison; manager, actor, and scene painter in those amateur theatricals in which the British officers delighted. He was one of the principal devisers of the Mischianza in Philadelphia, in which semi-effeminate pageant he had figured as one of the knights champions of beauty; Miss Shippen, afterwards Mrs. Arnold, being the lady whose peerless charms he undertook to vindicate. He held, moreover, a facile, and at times, satirical pen, and occasionally amused himself with caricaturing in rhyme the appearance and exploits of the "rebel officers.”
André had already employed that pen in a furtive manner, after the evacuation of Philadelphia by the British; having carried on a correspondence with the leaders of a body of loyalists near the waters of the Chesapeake, who were conspiring to restore the royal government." In the present instance he had engaged, nothing loth, in a service of intrigue and manœuvre, which, however sanctioned by military usage, should hardly have invited the zeal of a high-minded man. We say manœuvre, because he appears to have availed himself of his former intimacy with Mrs. Arnold, to make her an unconscious means of facilitating a correspondence with her husband. Some have inculpated her in the guilt of the transaction, but we think, unjustly. It has been alleged that a correspondence had been going on between her and André previous to her marriage, and was kept up after it; but as far as we can learn, only one letter passed between them, written by André in August 16th, 1779, in which he solicits her remembrance, assures her that respect for her and
* Simcoe's Military Journal, p. 153, 4.
the fair circle in which he had become acquainted with her, remains unimpaired by distance or political broils, reminds her that the Mischianza had made him a complete milliner, and offers his services to furnish her with supplies in that department. "I shall be glad," adds he sportively, "to enter into the whole detail of cap wire, needles, gauze, &c., and to the best of my abilities render you, in these trifles, services from which I hope yon would infer a zeal to be further employed." The apparent object of this letter was to open a convenient medium of communication, which Arnold might use without exciting her suspicion.
Various circumstances connected with this nefarious negotiation, argue lightness of mind and something of debasing alloy on the part of André. The correspondence carried on for months in the jargon of traffic, savored less of the camp than the counting-house; the protracted tampering with a brave but necessitous man for the sacrifice of his fame and the betrayal of his trust, strikes us as being beneath the range of a truly chivalrous nature.
Correspondence had now done its part in the business; for the completion of the plan and the adjustment of the traitor's recompense, a personal meeting was necessary between Arnold and André. The former proposed that it should take place at his own quarters at the Robinson House, where André should come in disguise, as a bearer of intelligence, and under the feigned name of John Anderson. André positively objected to entering the American lines; it was arranged, therefore, that the meeting should take place on neutral ground, near the American out-posts, at Dobbs Ferry, on the 11th of September, at 12 o'clock. André attended at the appointed place and time, accompanied by Colonel Beverley Robinson, who was acquainted