At first, Benedict Arnold was a hero in the Revolutionary War. He participated in the 1775 capture of Fort Ticonderoga; the following year, he was part of the posse that protected New York from a British invasion, and in 1777 he savored the surrender of General Burgoyne in Saratoga.
But the enthusiastic patriot did not feel appreciated. And so, he switched sides, betrayed his brothers in combat, and offered to hand over the Continental Army’s most strategic outpost—West Point—in exchange for cash, and an enemy command. His disloyalty was revealed, but not quickly enough to garner an arrest. Arnold escaped behind British lines, catapulted to the rank of Brigadier General, and proved to his former rivals that he was a terrific turncoat.
According to History.com, Arnold fought well for the British, achieving “his greatest success as a British commander on January 5, 1781” when he seized Richmond, VA.
After the war, Arnold’s military accomplishments on behalf of the British did not convey forward. Within ten years, he died in London—poor–buried in his Colonial Army garb, and forever remembered as a “traitor.”
For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold by Joyce Lee Malcolm.
The national debt is an indicator of the amount a government owes its creditors, but the ratio of liability to gross domestic product (GDP) is sometimes a more significant measure used to leverage economic growth and reflect the creditworthiness of a nation.
At present, the U.S. government carries approximately $30 Trillion dollars in unpaid obligations.
Throughout the centuries, a myriad of people have concluded that deficits generate jobs and income, but President Andrew Jackson was not one of them; for him, encumbrances were “a moral failing.” During an eight-year presidency, he vetoed spending bills, halted infrastructure projects, and “…[sold] off vast amounts of government land in the West.” On January 8, 1835, he declared America’s liabilities were paid to the penny– the only time in history.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You by Simon Johnson and James Kwak.
America’s ethnic and religious diversity began with the founding of the nation. Between the end of British rule and the start of the American Revolution, Francis Salvador was chosen–on January 11, 1775–to serve in the South Carolina Provisional Congress. He was also the first Jewish American to win an election.
History.com says Mr. Salvador “was descended from a line of prominent Sephardic Jews who made their home in London…His great grandfather, Joseph, was the East India Company’s first Jewish director. His grandfather was influential in bravely moving a group of 42 Jewish colonists to Savannah, Georgia in 1733 despite the colony’s prohibition on Jewish settlers. The Salvadors then purchased land in South Carolina.”
Salvador was a peppery proponent of American independence on the battlefield—and—government. He died in 1776 fighting against the British loyalists and their Cherokee allies.
For more information, The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Jews in Early America by Sandra Cumings Malamed.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.