Friday, July 1, 2016

On Peggy Shippen, Benedict Arnold, and Betrayal

On Peggy Shippen, Benedict Arnold, and Betrayal: The Shippens had become a well-known Philadelphia family by the late 1700s. As lawyers, judges, and politicians in the Pennsylvania Colony, the Shippens owed a great deal of their success to the British Crown. And when the American Revolution began in the 1770s, the family held mostly Loyalist beliefs. In effect, Loyalists like the Shippens believed the Revolution was nothing more than a movement to make the Colonists more British. Becoming independent, i.e., creating a new government and raising a new military, would not be not such a radical experiment, because so much of it would be modeled on British traditions. Nevertheless, when the Continental Army recaptured Philadelphia in 1778, Arnold and Shippen started a courtship. Despite being 20 years her senior, Arnold became exposed to a variety of British folks and folkways, mainly because the Shippens often entertained British guests. Over time, Arnold began to feel his services as a military commander would be more appreciated by the British, and thus, he defected soon after marrying Shippen. Arnold's name has since become a byword for betrayal in American English.

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