Saint John New Brunswick
Benedict Arnold


"The Greatest Rascal That Ever Was"

Benedict Arnold is the most infamous traitor in American history.
He didn't make too many friends during his six years in Saint John, either.
Louis Quigley delves into Arnold's litigious dealings in the Loyalist city.

Benedict Arnold   COURAGEOUS and gallant saviour of the American Revolution, one of the legitimate Fathers of the United States of America? Or despised scoundrel, and traitor to the patriots of the fledgling country?
   As difficult as it may be for present-day Americans to accept, Benedict Arnold was quite probably both. Without him, the new country would almost certainly have died at birth. For in those early revolutionary days, Benedict Arnold was a major star, an inspirational and shining example to the patriots. That fate would later decree differently makes for one of the most fascinating sagas in history.
   Doubtless, Benedict Arnold's name could have been enshrined among the greatest heroes in the history of the United States. He might even have become president. Instead, his name even today is synonymous with treachery. He is remembered as a turncoat, and in the more than two centuries that have passed, he has had few defenders.
   CANADIANS should have a special interest in Benedict Arnold because, for six years after the American revolution, he and his family lived and worked in Saint John, N.B. Even there, controversy followed him, and it was there that he was forced to concede one of the few defeats in his lifetime.
   In the spring of 1783, from the heights of Fort Howe, in what is now Saint John, soldiers of His Majesty, George the Third, had been scanning the horizon for more than a week, Then, the first sail was sighted in the bay, just beyond Partridge Island. This was to be the beginning of one of the most tumultuous and chaotic episodes through summer and autumn, a flood. And when the last boat had disembarked the last of its human cargo, thousands of women, men and children had been put ashore. (At that time the settlement was known as Parrtown, County of Sunbury. Province of Nova Scotia.) The site was mostly untamed wilderness, yet the settlement's population was to quadruple in less than one year.
Residence of Benedict Arnold, King St.   One of the early settlers recorded her emotions as she began to prepare for her future life. (She would, incidentally, one day be the grandmother of Sir Leonard Tilley, a Father of Confederation.) She wrote:
   I climbed to the top of Chipman's Hill and watched the sails disappear, and such a lonely feeling came over me that, although I had not shed a tear through all the war, I sat down on the damp moss with my baby in my lap and cried.
   Six weeks later, another new arrival, Sarah Frost, wrote: "This morning it looks very pleasant on the shore..." Later the same day, she observed:

How the Street Looks Today   It is now afternoon and I have been ashore. It is, I think, the roughest land I ever saw... But this is to be the city, they say!... We are all ordered to land tomorrow and not a shelter to go under.
   They were refugees, the Loyalists. Like refugees everywhere, most were probably near exhaustion, overwhelmed by a bizarre mix of emotions: despair, fear and hope, as ill-prepared for their new country as it was to receive them. They had gambled that Great Britain would win, and they had lost. And, because of their loyalty to the Crown, they had been the targets of abuse by the vengeful and zealous patriots. With their properties and possessions seized, most faced personal ruin. A few were heartened to see the British flag high on the hill, but most saw only a bleak and uncertain future.
   They were an ideal mix of immigrants, versed in public service, the law, medicine and community planning. Many were skilled tradesmen and merchants. For the most part hard-working, God-fearing, and determined, they were, within two short years, greatly dissatisfied with dominance by Halifax and, over the objections of the colonial governor, successfully petitioned King George, to proclaim the sovereign province of New Brunswick separate but equal to Nova Scotia, and to enact a charter creating the City of Saint John as Canada's first incorporated city. Some of the Loyalists moved on to the new capital of Ste. Anne's, now Fredericton; others homesteaded in the river valley.
   BARELY two years after the first Loyalists had landed, a brig arrived in the same harbour, carrying its owner, Benedict Arnold. He also planned to build a new life in Saint John, and he was equally hard working and determined. But that's just about where the similarity with the Loyalists ended.
   He was not a refugee, but an immigrant - a unique immigrant at that. And he was far from destitute. He had come from England, though he had lived most of his life in the American colonies. His military bearing was evident, but he was battle-scarred, walking with a slight limp, often with a cane. One leg was shorter than the other, the result of war wounds. In height he was not more than five feet nine inches and his features were not exceptional, but his weathered face, large clear blue eyes and his boundless energy were somehow magnetic. Emotions such as fear, despair and even hope appeared to be foreign to him. And there was one other characteristic which set him apart, probably more than all the others: it was his reputation, which had preceded him, His name was known throughout North America, Great Britain, and continental Europe. Infamous rather than famous, he was admired by few and reviled by most.
   Born in Connecticut in 1741, he grew up in the pre-revolutionary American Colonies and, as prospects for a war of independence from Great Britain loomed, he offered his services to the patriots. He rose rapidly and eventually attained the most senior rank, Major-General of the Continental Army. He played a major role in some of the most notable victories achieved by the revolutionaries, such as the battles of Ticonderoga and Saratoga. In the course of those events, he was praised by General Washington for his leadership and outstanding personal bravery, while simultaneously becoming embroiled in a number of controversial issues which questioned his integrity and which resulted in unfavourable public discussion.

   "The General's laudable efforts to promote the interests of this infant colony have during his short residence been very productive to its commercial advantage."

   Gradually, Arnold came to believe that his services were not adequately appreciated and, always conscious of his image and his role in history, he decided to throw in his lot with the British. He defected in 1780, and was almost immediately appointed to the rank of Brigadier General of the British Army. He fought several successful campaigns on the British side. When in 1783 the Americans emerged victorious in the war, Arnold and his family moved briefly to England, but he eventually decided that economic prospects were much more favourable on the American continent, and in 1783 he moved to Saint John. En route, he visited briefly in Halifax.
   In Halifax he met an old acquaintance, lawyer Samson Blowers, who wasted no time in sending the news of Arnold's imminent arrival to his old friend and classmate, Ward Chipman, in Saint John. As the wording of Blowers' message implies, Arnold was not held in high esteem:
   Dear Chipman: ... Will you believe General Arnold is here from England in a brig of his own, as he says, reconnoitring the country. He is bound for your city, which he will of course prefer to Halifax, and settle with you. Give you joy of the acquisition.

S.S. Blowers

Riverview, N.B.