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If This Be Treason, Make The Most of It: Benedict Arnold, Nationality and Stacking Bills

July 3, 2013

Gen. Benedict Arnold

In our episode about the traitorous bastard Benedict Arnold, we discuss the story of a Continental General who sold out his fledgling country to the British and joined their fight. But the background is a little more complicated without intrusive dick jokes and Banger stories, right?

A lot more complicated, it turns out. It’s difficult to parse the odd nationality situation in the American Revolution, which was a highly international and intercontinental affair. The American colonists were essentially all traitors to the British crown, as both emigrants from Britain as well as those born in the colonies were legally considered full-fledged citizens. Resident aliens, such as the various French, German, Polish and other immigrants, had different national identities, given the arcane nature of British naturalization laws and, like, the fucking weirdness of Holy Roman Empire citizenship. It’s this whole fucking thing that’s not worth going into.

German Troops

German troops of the American Revolution.

And let’s just confirm that African slaves were totally fucked no matter which “side” they were on.

A soldier of the Ethiopian Regiment in action.

A soldier of the Ethiopian Regiment in action.

And, yep, Native Americans got the barbed shaft from both sides, but mostly from the colonists. Did you know the American Revolution involved genocide (often euphemized as “scorched earth”)?

The map of the Sullivan Expedition to burn down Iroquois settlements.

The map of the Sullivan Expedition to burn down Iroquois settlements.

But additionally, the American Revolution wasn’t “The American Revolution” when it started. Colonists living in municipally separate colonies on North America’s east coast felt their rights as citizens were not being upheld and their representation was subpar. When the ~one-third of American colonists took up arms against their home country, they began a domestic military rebellion. However, many foreigners from Poland and German states flocked to the colonies to lend support to the cause, as did, say, Americans organize Abraham Lincoln Brigades to help fight for ideological reasons in the Spanish Civil War.


ALB soldiers pose for a photo in Spain.

But even further, state participation in the American Revolution by the French and Dutch crowns, motivated more by the desire to see the British bogged down in an expensive colonial military adventure than any of the idealism of the Declaration, further complicated matters. The Dutch had spent the last 150 or so years wresting their own independence from the Spanish and establishing a global empire of trade. They had already spent plenty of money and blood in fighting naval wars with the British over maritime interests, having lost, among others, New Netherlands (modern-day New York) to their tea-drinking foes. The French were still smarting from the loss of another power struggle in Europe that had spilled abroad (the Seven Years War/The French and Indian War) and were seeking ways to undermine the recent British gains in Africa and India.

Dutch merchants (soldiers) waterboarding the shit out of British merchants (soldiers).

Dutch merchants (soldiers) waterboarding the shit out of British merchants (soldiers).

Hunh. Powerful international colonial entities investing heavily in small wars abroad to bog down and undermine their rivals’ financial and military solvency. I am reminded of something, but just can’t quite place it.

Proxy wars are always great.

Proxy wars are always great.

All of this is to say the story of Benedict Arnold is fairly complicated. We have a British citizen turning against his nation and king for both financial and ideological reasons, then feeling personally insulted and undermined by the hodgepodge rebellion he joined, and finally selling out that rebellion to return to the status quo… for financial gain.

Essentially, Benny A.’s villainy stems from his placelessness. While it could be easy to lend him sympathy over his sad sack life and the slights against his reputation and honor, it’s harder to see many of his other actions outside of financial interest. While he did campaign for better treatment of veterans and better funding of the Army by the civilian Congress, his intention to sell military plans to the British was sure to get those same colonial soldiers killed, wounded or captured. And he was looking to make a quick buck out of it, too.


How’s that silver workin’ out for ya now?

I liked this story better when we could just make a dick joke when it became too complicated.

If you haven’t listened to our Benedict Arnold ep, what the hell are you doing reading this boring nonsense? The episode is a solid one hour, nine minutes of history and bullshit from your Inside Jobs gang.

If you haven’t already, it would be super helpful of you to rate us on iTunes. It is annoying and a dumb hassle, but remember: we’re not in this for the money, we’re in it for the ideals of liberty (money)!

You can also get in touch with us via any of the following:

Twitter: @insidejobscast
Hotline: (413)-225-1963



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