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George Washington and Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Two Patriots

Publisher: Regnery History • 2012 • 320 pages

One man was the father of his country. The other’s name has become synonymous with treason. But in fact, they lived remarkably parallel lives — with one crucial difference. During Bill Clinton’s depraved and hedonistic Presidency, the leftist media establishment bleated daily that character didn’t matter, and certainly wasn’t essential for effective leadership. But conservatives always knew that wasn’t true – and now comes a book that proves it in an unusual and provocative way: “George Washington and Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Two Patriots” by military historian and former Superintendent of West Point General Dave R. Palmer.

The lives of Washington and Arnold, Palmer shows here, were interconnected in numerous ways. They took similar paths to military prominence. From 1775 through 1777, they were America’s most celebrated warriors. They were both valiant in battle and had the respect of their countrymen and of each other. Why, then, did Washington go on to glory and Arnold to disgrace?

Palmer, who has written seven books on military history and is a specialist on the Revolutionary War period, details with novelistic vividness exactly how and why Arnold and Washington’s amazingly similar backgrounds, family influences, childhood experiences, and “self-made” status led to strikingly different results in their lives. His narrative has a huge sweep: it’s a remarkable picture of the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary periods in American history, encompassing the First Continental Congress (which Washington and Arnold both attended), the tumultuous political and military struggles that culminated in American independence, and much more — including the myriad ways, small and large, in which Washington and Arnold crossed paths in both love and war. Through it all, Palmer reveals just what Washington had, and what Arnold lacked, from their earliest days – qualities that ultimately led them to take such different paths.

It’s not just a gripping historical work. George Washington and Benedict Arnold also contains important implications for contemporary politicians and voters. As Palmer puts it, “Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your character. Your character becomes your destiny. The lives of George Washington and Benedict Arnold bear profound witness to the proposition that character is destiny.” Armed with Palmer’s insights, Americans will be better equipped to choose more people like George Washington — and fewer like Benedict Arnold — for our leaders in this age, which promises to be just as full of challenges to our freedom as the one which made the Father of Our Country and unmade the Great Traitor.

From the riveting story of a traitor and a hero:

  • How in four well-defined steps Arnold went from hero to traitor
  • How Washington worried that Arnold’s treason would accelerate the downward slide of America’s determination to continue the long war — and how the opposite proved to be the case
  • Arnold’s thoroughgoing narcissism and egocentrism — and how they contributed to his fateful decision to betray his countrymen
  • How both Washington and Arnold had to depend solely on their own abilities and resourcefulness from a very early age
  • Why Arnold emerged from his youth with an abiding sense of shame and resentment
  • Why both Arnold and Washington were drawn early to the cause of American independence
  • How Arnold exaggerated his own exploits in his report on the attack on British troops at Fort Ticonderoga
  • The two principal actors in the new nation’s astonishing military victories of 1776 over the largest British force the world had ever seen: George Washington and Benedict Arnold
  • “Desperate diseases call for desperate remedies”: Washington’s bold stroke that restored American fortunes after a series of disastrous defeats seemed to herald the end of hopes for independence
  • “General Washington fills his place with vast ease and dignity, and dispenses happiness around him” — and other assessments of Washington by those who knew him well
  • “General Gates despises a certain pompous little fellow”: Arnold’s protracted personal conflict with General Horatio Gates, and how it helped lead him to his fateful choice of treason
  • Arnold the patriot: his heroic march to Quebec: compared by Thomas Jefferson with the most celebrated military marches of antiquity
  • The magnificent strategic opportunity that Washington saw, and exploited brilliantly, in crossing the Delaware river
  • The detractors who tried to discredit and destroy the careers of both Washington and Arnold — and the two men’s vastly differing responses
  • Washington’s kind letter to Arnold trying to calm him after the Continental Congress initially passed Arnold over for promotion — and Arnold’s intemperate reaction
  • Effusive praise of Arnold’s abilities as a general from John Hancock, John Adams, and others
  • Perceived slights from his colleagues and superiors that ultimately led Arnold to begin contemplating treason
  • The exact point at which caring for his personal interests overtook Arnold’s sense of duty to country
  • Washington’s appointment of Arnold as military commander of the Philadelphia region: why, despite Arnold’s previous heroic exploits, it was the worst personnel decision made by Washington in the entire war
  • The numerous illegal and unethical acts Arnold committed in the run-up to his outright betrayal of his country
  • How Arnold’s quest for vindication against his detractors ultimately hardened into an implacable thirst for vengeance
  • Arnold’s messages to the British — providing military intelligence, information on America’s relationship with the French, analyses of Patriot morale, and more, including news of Washington’s plans and whereabouts
  • Arnold the traitor: How he desperately tried — and failed — to stop Washington’s march to Yorktown and stave off the imminent American victory
  • The personal gift Washington sent to Arnold to show his high esteem for his service — and his stunned response to news of Arnold’s treason
  • How Arnold’s treason actually helped the Patriot cause

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