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TREASON OF ARNOLD--HIS CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE ENEMY-HIS
NEGOTIATIONS WITH ANDRE—PARTING SCENE WITH WASHINGTONMIDNIGIT CONFERENCE ON THE BANKS OF THE HUDSON-RETURN OF ANDRE BY LAND-CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIS CAPTURE.
We have now to enter upon a sad episode of our revolutionary history—the treason of Arnold. Of the military skill, daring enterprise, and indomitable courage of this man-ample evidence has been given in the foregoing pages. Of the implicit confidence reposed in his patriotism by Washington, sufficient proof is manifested in the command with which he was actually entrusted. But Arnold was false at heart, and, at the very time of seeking that command, had been for many months in traitorous correspondence with the enemy.
The first idea of proving recreant to the cause he had vindicated so bravely, appears to have entered his mind when the charges preferred against him by the council of Pennsylvania were referred by Congress to a court-martial. Before that time he had been incensed
. against Pennsylvania ; but now his wrath was excited against his country, which appeared so insensible to his services. Disappointment in regard to the settlement of his accounts, added to his irritation, and mingled sordid motives with his resentment; and he began to think how, while he wreaked his vengeace on his country, he might do it with advantage to his fortunes. With this view he commenced a correspondence with Sir Henry Clinton in a disguised handwriting, and, under the signature of Gustavus, representing himself as a person of importance in the American service, who, being dissatisfied with the late proceedings of Congress, particularly the alliance with France, was desirous of joining the cause of Great Britain, could he be certain of personal security, and indemnification for whatever loss of property he might sustain. His letters occasionally communicated articles of intelligence of some moment which proved to be true, and induced Sir Henry to keep up the correspondence; which was conducted on his part by his aide-de-camp, Major John André, likewise in a disguised hand, and under the signature of John Anderson.
Months elapsed before Sir Henry discovered who was his secret correspondent. Even after discovering it he did not see fit to hold out any very strong inducements to Arnold for desertion. The latter was out of command, and had nothing to offer but his services; which in his actual situation were scarcely worth buying.
In the mean time the circumstances of Arnold were daily becoming more desperate. Debts were accumulating, and creditors becoming more and more importunate, as his means to satisfy them decreased. The public reprimand he had received was rankling in his mind, and filling his heart with bitterness. Still he hesitated
on the brink of absolute infamy, and attempted a halfway leap. Such was his proposition to M. de Luzerne to make himself subservient to the policy of the French government, on condition of receiving a loan equal to the amount of his debts. This he might have reconciled to his conscience by the idea that 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 subsequently 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 attach