Treacherous Beauty: talk by Stephen H. Case

On Thursday, October 11, Stephen H. Case will be giving a talk on his new book (written with Mark Jacob) Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman Behind Benedict Arnold's Plot to Betray America. The talk will be in Butler Library, room 523 and begins at 6:00. While Arnold's plot is familiar, the role of his beautiful wife Margaret "Peggy" Shippen Arnold is less well-known. Born into a wealthy Philadelphia family, Peggy was one of the leading belles of that city's very social set, courted by many. One of her many beaux was Col. John André and she would prove to be the link between the British officer and her husband, American General Benedict Arnold. Far from being the innocent pawn of the men around her, she was an important player in the game.

At the time of the scandal, Peggy, only 19, was generally supposed to be ignorant of the treasonous plot. This can be seen in the letters of John and Sally Jay to their friends Robert and Mary Morris, who knew Peggy from Philadelphia. While Jay clearly does not suspect her, Sally's comment could be read as a sly hint at her suspicions.

John Jay to Robert Morris, 18 December 1780, Madrid (Collection of Columbia University): ". . . Arnold's Plot was as unexpected as its Discovery was fortunate. His wife is much to be pitied. It is painful to see so charming a woman so sacrificed."

Sally Jay to Mary Morris, 22 April 1781, Madrid (Collection of the Huntington Library): ". . . you know the ladies to whom my friendship extends, & you will oblige me by remembering me to them– the lovely Mrs. Arnold whom I admired so much, is I fear, forever banished from the society of her friends– how unpropitious has been her star!"

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