Four American Patriots  by Alma Holman Burton

Hamilton the Patriot, and Arnold the Traitor

The war of the Revolution went on, year after year. Sometimes the Americans and sometimes the British were victorious.

After a time, the French king, Louis XVI., sent over a fleet to help the Americans.

Then the most of the British army marched to the South. They hoped that the Tories and the negroes would rally to their aid.

But the British General Clinton tarried in New York. He had great plans about enlisting the French and Indians of Canada to conquer the North. "If only I might get possession of West Point!" he said.

Now, West Point was the strongest fort in the colonies. Its frowning walls guarded the Hudson River. The British general knew very well that he could not bring the armies from Canada unless he controlled the Hudson River.

It is sad to relate that General Clinton found a traitor in the American army who was willing to betray West Point for gold!

Benedict Arnold was a brilliant young soldier from Connecticut. He was so brave that he was promoted to the rank of major-general, and, after the British had retreated from Philadelphia, he was placed in command of the city.

When Arnold married the beautiful daughter of a rich Tory, he wanted to make her happy; but, as we shall see, he really made her the most miserable lady in the world.

He began to live like a prince, in the great mansion that William Penn had built. He gave balls and fine dinners, and rode in a coach-and-four. But he needed more money to live so well.

"I will take money belonging to the army," he said, "and then I will pay it back as soon as I can. No one shall ever know anything about it." So he spent the money of the army. It was easy for such a high officer to get all the money he wanted.

At last Arnold spent more than he could ever pay back. His dishonesty was discovered. He was tried in court and found guilty, but his bravery had been so great that his punishment was made as light as possible.

Arnold seemed soon to forget his disgrace. He still gave large dinners at the elegant home in Philadelphia. Perhaps his rich father-in-law gave him money for this.

After a time he begged to be appointed commander of West Point, and was placed in charge of the great fort that guarded the Hudson River. Alas! he had already plotted to betray it to the British!

At midnight, in a lonely spot, he met Major André, the agent of General Clinton. Only the stars looked down upon him as he told how the fort might be seized if the British would pay him gold.

Soon after this, while Arnold was completing his plot, General Washington came to West Point with General Lafayette and Colonel Hamilton. He sent word to Arnold that he would make him a visit. Washington was delayed by some officers, and Hamilton rode with his apology to Mrs. Arnold.

Breakfast was served. Hamilton was charmed with the wit and grace of Mrs. Arnold, but he saw that Arnold was gloomy and silent. Indeed, the traitor was very wretched. He feared Washington's unexpected visit to the fort might spoil all his plans.

While he sat toying with his fork and trying in vain to be gay, a swift messenger arrived. He whispered in the traitor's ear that Major André had been arrested and a map of West Point found in his boot.

The unhappy man excused himself from the table. He called his wife to another room. He explained to her that his fortunes were ruined, and, mounting his horse, he fled.

Hamilton lifted the fainting wife from the floor, called a servant to care for her, and then hastened to General Washington. Washington sent him with all speed to cut off the traitor's retreat; but Arnold was already safe in a British ship.

Major André was hanged as a spy. Arnold, the traitor, lived to put the torch and the sword to many towns of his native land.

"Whom shall we trust now?" asked Washington sadly, as he thought of Benedict Arnold. But we know that Washington trusted Alexander Hamilton, and we shall see that his trust was never betrayed.