Here’s a prediction. As Benedict Arnold means treason to Americans, Donald Trump will someday mean corruption. And politicians who support him will be painted by the same brush.
Tale of a War Hero
Benedict Arnold was a successful merchant and an accomplished general in George Washington’s army. He repeatedly distinguished himself for courage and intelligence. And he was wounded serving his country in the War for Independence. George Washington trusted him and gave him command of West Point. But Arnold had several legal problems, and his fellow officers accused him of corruption. Still, a warrior bruised by scandal was nothing new. If Arnold had died in 1779, we would remember him as a hero of the American Revolution.
Instead, General Arnold turned against his comrades in arms. In 1780, frustrated by his legal troubles and jealous of rival generals, he conspired with the British to surrender West Point — in exchange for a cash payment, among other rewards. Washington’s men discovered the plot, and Arnold fled to the British. Then he fought on as a British brigadier general, against the men he had once led.
Legacy and Lexicon
The War for Independence was the pivotal event in Arnold’s life, and betrayal was his pivotal contribution. So despite his many achievements, we remember Benedict Arnold for nothing else. And in the American lexicon, his name means treason.
I think future historians will remember the administration and impeachments of Donald Trump as pivotal events in the evolution of American democracy. Whether we pivot toward degraded democracy or not, history will see through the distractions thrown up by the President’s defenders and past the passion of his followers. I predict that, as time goes by, Donald Trump will come to mean corruption in the American lexicon. And those with power to block or remove him will be remembered for their choice — for standing with democracy, or not.
- Detail of a color mezzotint of American Revolutionary War General Benedict Arnold, 1776, by Thos. Hart
- President Donald Trump, December 5, 2019
© 2020, 2022 by David W. Tollen
Except he was vindicated every single time. Have another pint, idiot.
out of curiosity if Trump is so guilty, why does he remain free and not in a jail cell? he was impeached by traitors in the house of representatives that are all coincidentally either dems or rhinos. I think you are massively on the wrong side of history here on this posting and will regret it in the future.
As a decendent of B.Arnold and a President Trump supporter i am so confused about this comparison. Trump is the greatest President in recent history!
It would be difficult for me to disagree more — but I love that you’re a B.A. descendant! Great to have that family history. (I have no known ancestor anyone’s ever heard of, though my wife and sons descend from the Pilgrims on the Mayflower.) Thanks for writing …
The shine is wearing off DJT and his MAGA cult as of this late fall day in 2022. The middle has soundly rejected him and his false claims of a stolen election. His fawning and very vocal subjects are all that is left. I think he will go down in history as a self-serving man. But, a man who was able to connect with and manipulate millions of men and women by speaking to their frustrations with their lives. As if he had any clue what it was like being middle-class or poor in this country. However, he knew what people wanted to hear as a good salesman does. And whether on purpose or to save his own hide, he has shaken our democracy to the core by calling into question the one thing that separates us from tyranny. Fair and free elections. So I would say Trump is right up there with Benedict Arnold in every way.