It’s good to see such high standards of historical literacy maintained in our nation’s capital.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, speaking on the House floor: “Maybe I should offer a good thanks to the distinguished members of the majority, the Republicans, my chairman and others, for giving us an opportunity to have a deliberative constitutional discussion that reinforces the sanctity of this nation and how well it is that we have lasted some 400 years, operating under a Constitution that clearly defines what is constitutional and what is not.”
The charitable thing to do would be to chalk this up to a verbal slip and assume she had the founding of Jamestown somewhere in the back of her mind. But since this is the same person who thought Vietnam was still divided in 2010, and who once asked someone from NASA if the Mars Rover had taken a picture of Neil Armstrong’s flag, I’m not optimistic.
The U.S. ambassador to Britain, puzzled by a plaque marking Benedict Arnold’s last residence in London, wondered why it refers to Arnold as an “AMERICAN PATRIOT.”
NBC News has found the guy who got it put there: a distant relative named Peter Arnold.
“I think he was a good guy, you see. I don’t see him in the same light as so many Americans do,” Arnold told NBC News, explaining that he didn’t mean to upset anyone with his plaque — or create a diplomatic incident.
Arnold said he has received telephone death threats — gruff American voices telling him he’s a traitor just like his ancestors. But he’s amused by them and used to other interpretations of Benedict Arnold and his deeds.
“His heart was in America and he felt that what he was doing was in the interest of America as a country and the people who lived there. And at the end of the day he didn’t think we should be divorced from England and the king,” he said. “So somebody loved us!”
I’m not sure I share Peter Arnold’s appraisal of his distant kinsman. Benedict Arnold was an extraordinarily brave man, one of the most enterprising and gifted officers in the Continental Army. If we’re going to remember Benedict Arnold as an “American Patriot,” we should do so for his exploits from 1775 through 1777. His eventual decision to offer his services to the British wasn’t exactly an act of pure principle, as Peter Arnold seems to indicate.
Having said that, I find it downright bizarre that Americans are apparently taking the trouble to contact Peter Arnold by phone and threaten him over something that happened more than two centuries ago. I’m more interested in the Rev War than most people, but there is such a thing as being a bit too emotionally invested in a subject.
If you were planning to watch some reenactors do their thing at Minute Man National Historical Park this year, you’re out of luck.
A few days ago, some idiot drove through Battlefield Memorial Park in Savannah, GA and did $25,000 worth of damage to the Soldiers Stone Monument, which commemorates one of the Revolutionary War’s bloodiest engagements. The Coastal Heritage Society is offering $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of whoever’s responsible, so if you know something and you’d like to pocket a grand, give them a call.
Bowdoin College is Maine has received a $150,000 grant to digitize a collection of Oliver O. Howard’s papers. In addition to his military exploits and running the Freedmen’s Bureau, Howard founded a number of educational institutions, including my alma mater. In fact, our museum at LMU has quite a substantial collection of Howard material.
Check out this chart of the American Revolution, with the causes depicted as the roots of a tree, various milestones listed along the trunk, and branches for each year of the war sprouting into smaller limbs for the important battles.
As the writer for Slate notes, it’s a little weird to see Arnold’s treason listed on the trunk alongside the two Continental Congresses, Washington’s assumption of command, and the French alliance. Arnold’s treachery was a big deal, but consider everything that was happening on southern battlefields that same year.
It’s also interesting to see the adoption of the U.S. flag listed on the trunk. And take note of what isn’t there—the creation of the navy, for example. Too bad the chart doesn’t have a publication date.