In 1761 Benedict Arnold had opened a general store in New Haven, CT. With the sale of family property in 1764 Arnold became a merchant trader and began to travel to Canada and to the West Indies, where it is believed he became a Freemason.
On April 10, 1765 Benedict Arnold affiliated with Hiram Lodge No .1 in New Haven, where the minutes read: Brother Benedict Arnold is by Right Worshipful [Nathan Whiting] proposed to be made a member of the Right Worshipful Lodge and is accordingly made a member in this Lodge .
In 1767 Benedict Arnold married Margaret Manseld, the daughter of a fellow Freemason, Samuel Manseld. Benedict Arnold aggressively joined the fight against the British. His wife Margaret died on June 19, two months after the Revolution began. Arnold then spent the next four years fighting valiantly for the Revolution.
Arnold was a proud but enigmatic character. Brother Mason Dr. Joseph Warren was widowed in 1773, leaving four children. After the death of Warren at Bunker Hill, his children were orphaned. Benedict Arnold came to their relief, true to his Masonic obligation. He had become friends with Brother Warren while in Massachusetts, and in April, 1778, Arnold contributed $500 towards their education. He also persuaded Congress to apply a pension to support them from the date of the father’s death until the youngest child reached the age of consent.
In June of 1778 he was given command of Philadelphia. It was here in Philadelphia that he met his second wife, Peggy Shippen, who was a Loyalist and who was formerly loved and courted by British Major André. Peggy’s ambition is credited as one of the main reasons for Arnold s treason.
So, on August 30, 1780, General and Bro. Benedict Arnold conspired with British General Clinton to surrender West Point for 20,000 pounds, equivalent to one million dollars today.
The British courier was Major John Andre, who had courted Arnold’s wife in Philadelphia.
As Andre tried to cross to the British lines, he was searched, found with the blue prints for West Point in his boot and executed. His capture was by three Patriots: John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart, and David Williams. Paulding and Williams would later become Freemasons, with Paulding joining Cortlandt Lodge No. 34 in Cortlandt, N Y in the 1790s and Williams joining Lotus Lodge No. 31 in 1827, serving as its first Junior Warden.
André was killed by hanging, as regulations relating to a spy required, but he presented so sympathetic a figure that Colonel Alexander Hamilton (Bro. Washington’s aide-de-camp) was moved to comment, “He died universally esteemed and universally regretted.”
Arnold escaped on the ship Vulture, and later fought for the British against the Revolution. As with the case of most traitors, the British never fully trusted him. They did place him in command of 1,600 troops on a mission to burn Richmond, Virginia. He died in poverty in London in 1801, and his wife Peggy and their four children returned to Philadelphia in disgrace.
Bro. George Washington wrote September 26, 1780:
“Treason of the blackest dye was yesterday discovered! General Arnold who commanded at West Point, was about to…give the American cause a deadly wound if not fatal stab… Its’ discovery affords the most convincing proof that the Liberties of America are the object of divine Protection.”
On May 16, 1781 Solomon s Lodge No. 1 passed a resolution which states: “Ordered that the Name of Benedict Arnold be considered as obliterated from the Minutes of this Lodge, a Traitor. His signature in the list of visitors to the Lodge on June 12, 1771 is crossed out in a way that allows identification of the name beneath. Next to the statement of the 1781 resolution is a small drawing of a hand, with a finger pointing at the word Traitor.
On May 8, 1783, Yale President Ezra Stiles stated:
“A providential miracle at the last minute detected the treacherous scheme of traitor Benedict Arnold, which would have delivered the American army, including George Washington himself, into the hands of the enemy.”
As Arnold was on his deathbed, he asked to be buried in the uniform of the American Continental Army, and asked God for forgiveness in betraying the cause of liberty.
Arnold’s body is entombed in the basement of St. Mary’s Church in Battersea, London.