Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


Married to a Traitor

Benedict Arnold, the most infamous traitor in American history, did not act alone.

thEiR diFferENceS

For in his charming, young, well-connected, and Loyalist wife, Margaret "Peggy" Shippen, he had his co-conspirator. Passionate Tory she was, but that is not the whole story. However much we'd like to convict her of some grand conspiracy to trap a colonial general with her wiles, marry him, and then lead him into treachery, the story may very well be a less sinister one: man and woman fall in love, marry, and woman influences man. Regardless of motive, this we do know: Peggy's influence—unconscious or deliberate—helped to change a Patriot war hero into a Loyalist traitor.

"He had, let it be remembered, no domestic security for doing right - no fireside guardianship to protect him from the tempter. Rejecting, as we do utterly, the theory that his wife was the instigator of his crime - all common principles of human action being opposed to it - we still believe that there was nothing in her influence or associations to countervail the persuasions to which he ultimately yielded. She was young, gay and frivolous; fond of display and admiration, and used to luxury; she was utterly unfitted for the duties and privations of a poor man's wife. A loyalist's daughter, she had been taught to mourn over even the poor pageantry of colonial rank and authority, and to recollect with pleasure the pomp of those brief days of enjoyment, when military men of noble station were her admirers. Arnold had no counselor on his pillow to urge him to the imitation of homely republican virtue, to stimulate him to follow the rugged path of a Revolutionary patriot. He fell, and though his wife did not tempt or counsel him to ruin, there is no reason to think she ever uttered a word or made a sign to deter him [1]."

The story is really not a new one. It's the same one that played out in Eve with Adam and Sarah with Abraham. Those women of old, and countless women since then, sabotaged the course of their own lives, the lives of their husbands, and the lives of innumerable others through one small choice or suggestion. And while Adam, Abraham, and Benedict all clearly bear the responsibility for their sin, the role of their wives in their sin is unmistakable.

I may never deliberately manipulate my husband. I may never consciously encourage him to sin. But the fact remains that I have the chief influence in my husband's life, and if I act or speak out of fear, selfishness, or pride, I could very well aid my husband in sin.

"If Benedict Arnold had died in his greatest achievement on the battlefield, he would have died a hero’s death....But in following his greatest achievements with the greatest of betrayals, he lived and died only one thing in the minds of all Americans: a traitor of reprehensible proportions (from Lauren's excellent post The Traitor Within)."

Even ascribing the best of intentions to Benedict Arnold's wife and recognizing the responsibility Benedict bears for his own choices, Peggy likely could have been the difference that made her husband a hero instead of a persona non grata. I'm painfully green at this wife business, and history is just another reminder to me of how considerable my influence is in my husband's life. How desperately I desire for his heart to safely trust in me, with him knowing that my influence is for good and not evil! (Proverbs 31:11-12)

[1] Griswold, Rufus W., William Gilmore Simms, and Edward D. Ingraham. "Major-General Benedict Arnold." Washington and the Generals of the American Revolution. Vol. 1. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1848. 264-65. Google, 2 July 2007. Web. 23 June 2015.

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  1. It is interesting how the authority figure is always the responsible party, but we as the non-authorities are often the rudders. I remember dad telling me once several years ago that we - the young people - in church had a much bigger role in the character of our church than we realized. I was shocked, but in observing the triumphs and, sadly, failures of other churches, I saw he was right. In many ways, although I can't relate to your specific role, it's the same responsibility! :)

    1. Yes, good thoughts! You're right--these concepts relate to anyone under authority, though in different nuances.


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