BENEDICT ARNOLD WAS A HERO . . . AND THEN A TRAITOR. The worst kind of traitor. One who would turn his back on his nation and his best friend. One who would turn on his own in battle, capturing and burning Richmond, Va. at the head of British troops after his defection. But Arnold’s real problem with Congress and his superiors in the military began when a number of bad acquaintances converged in Arnold’s life. This included British Major John André, loyalist-leaning Peggy Shippen and David Solesbury Franks, a Jewish specialist in profiting from military contracts. Originally written and published by Henry Ford in his Dearborn Independent in 1921, the article avoids the political correctness so prevalent today.
BY HENRY FORD
The part taken by Jews in the wars of the United States has been a subject of considerable boasting by Jewish publicists. It is a most interesting subject. It deserves the fullest possible treatment. It is notThe Dearborn Independent’s present purpose to challenge the Jewish boast; it is, however, our purpose to fill in the omitted parts of the story, and supply the missing links in several of the most interesting episodes in American history. This will be done on the basis of unquestioned historical authority, mostly of a Jewish character, and solely in the interests of a complete understanding of a matter which Jewish leaders have brought to the front.
The first subject that will be treated in this [Dearborn Independent] series is the part of Jews in the treason of Benedict Arnold.
MOST CONSPICUOUS TRAITOR
Arnold, the most conspicuous traitor in American history, has been the subject of considerable comment of late. Among the commentators have been American Jews who have failed to make known to the American public the information which may be found in Jewish archives concerning Arnold and his associates.
To begin with, the propensity of Jewish folks to engage in the business of supplying the needs of armies and to avail themselves as far as possible of war contracts, is of long standing and notice.
An authority on this matter, Werner Sombart, says in his Jews and Modern Capitalism (50-3):
The Jews throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were most influential as army purveyors and as the moneyed men to whom the princes looked for financial backing. . . . [W]e cannot attempt to mention every possible example. We can only point the way; it will be for subsequent research to follow.
Although there are numerous cases on record of Jews acting in the capacity of army contractors in Spain previous to 1492, I shall not refer to this period, because it lies outside the scope of our present considerations. We shall confine ourselves to the centuries that followed,
and begin with England. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Jews had already achieved renown as army-purveyors. Under the Commonwealth
the most famous army contractor was Antonio Fernandez Carvajal, “the great Jew,” who came to London some time between 1630 and 1635, and was very soon accounted among the most prominent traders in the land.
In 1649 he was one of the five London merchants entrusted by the council of state with the army contract for corn. It is said that he annually imported into England silver to the value of £100,000. In the period that ensued, especially in the wars of William III, Sir Solomon Medina was “the great contractor,” and for his services he was knighted, being the first professing Jew to receive that honor.
It was the same in the wars of the Spanish Succession; here, too, Jews were the principal army contractors. In 1716 the Jews of Strasburg recall the services they rendered the armies of Louis XIV by furnishing information and supplying provisions. Indeed, Louis XIV’s army contractor-in-chief was a Jew, Jacob Worms by name; and in the 18th century Jews gradually took a more and more prominent part in this work. In 1727 the Jews of Metz brought into the city in the space of six weeks, 2,000 horses for food and more than 5,000 for remounts.
Field Marshal Maurice, of Saxony, the victor of Fontenoy, expressed the opinion that his armies were never better served with supplies than when the Jews were contractors. One of the best known of the army contractors in the time of the last two Louises was Cerf Beer, in whose patent of naturalization it is recorded that “. . . in the wars which raged in Alsace in 1770 and 1771 he found the opportunity of proving his zeal in our service and in that of the state.”
Similarly the house of Gradis, of Bordeaux, was an establishment of international repute in the 18th century. Abraham Gradis set up large storehouses in Quebec to supply the needs of the French troops there. Under the Revolutionary Government, under the Directory, in the Napoleonic wars it was always the Jews who acted as purveyors. In this connection a public notice displayed in the streets of Paris is significant. There was a famine in the city and the Jews were called upon to show their gratitude for the rights bestowed upon them by the Revolution by bringing in corn.
“They alone,” says the author of this notice, “can successfully accomplish this enterprise, thanks to their business relations, of which their fellow citizens ought to have full benefit.” A parallel story comes from Dresden. In 1720 the court Jew, Jonas Meyer, saved the town from starvation by supplying it with large quantities of corn. (The chronicler mentions 40,000 bushels.)
All over Germany, the Jews from an early date were found in the ranks of the army contractors. Let us enumerate a few of them. There was Isaac Meyer in the 16th century, who, when admitted by Cardinal Albrecht as a resident of Halberstadt in 1537, was enjoined by him, in view of the dangerous times, “to supply our monastery with good weapons and armor. ”There was Joselman von Rosheim, who in 1548 received an imperial letter of protection because he had supplied both money and provisions for the army. In 1546 there is a record of Bohemian Jews who provided greatcoats and blankets for the army.
In the next century another Bohemian Jew, Lazarus by name, received an official declaration that he “obtained either in person or at his own expense, valuable information for the imperial troops, and that he made it his business to see that the army had a good supply of ammunition and clothing.”
The great elector also had recourse to Jews for his military needs. Leimann Gompertz and Solomon Elias were his contractors for cannon, powder and so forth. There were numerous others: Samuel Julius, remount contractor under the Elector Frederick Augustus of Saxony; the Model family, court purveyors and army contractors in the duchy of Aensbach in the 17th and 18th centuries are well known in history. In short, as one writer of the time pithily expresses it, “all the contractors are Jews, and all the Jews are contractors.”
Austria does not differ in this respect from Germany, France and England. The wealthy Jews who in the reign of the Emperor Leopold received permission to resettle in Vienna (1670)—the Oppenheimers, Wertheimers, Mayer Herschel and the rest— were all army contractors.And we find the same thing in all the countries under the Austrian crown.
Lastly, we must mention the Jewish army contractors who provisioned the American troops in the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
Sombart’s record ceases there. He does not go on to mention “the Jewish contractors who provisioned the American troops in the Revolutionary and Civil wars.”
That task shall be The Dearborn Independent’s from time to time in the future.
MONEYMAKING OUT OF WAR
It is in the study of Jewish moneymaking out of war that the clues are found to most of the great abuses of which Jews have been guilty. In the present instance, it was in the matter of profiteering in war goods, that the Jewish connections of Benedict Arnold were discovered.
“Wars are the Jews’ harvests” is an ancient saying. Their predilection for the quartermaster’s department has been observed anciently and modernly. Their interest being mostly in profits and not in national issues; their traditional loyalty being to the Jewish nation, rather than to any other nation; it is only natural that they should be found to be the merchants of goods and information in times of war—that is, the war profiteers and the spies.
As the unbroken program is traced through the Revolutionary War, through the American Civil War, and through the Great War of recent occurrence [World War I—Ed.], the only change observable is the increasing power and profit of the Jews.
Although the number of Jews resident in the American colonies was very small, there were enough to make a mark on the Revolutionary War; and while there was no wholesale legislation against Jews as there was in the Civil War, there were actions against individuals for the same causes which in 1861-65 obtained more extensively.
The Journals of the Continental Congress contain numerous entries of payments made to Jews, as well as the records of various dealings with them on other scores. For drums, for blankets, for rifles, for provisions, for clothing—these are the usual entries. Most of the Jewish commissars were Indian traders (the extent to which the Jews dealt with the American Indians has not as yet been made a subject of research it deserves).
The Gratz family of Pennsylvania carried on a very extensive Indian trade and amassed a vast fortune out of it. A most curious lot of information concerning the dealings of the Colonies with the Jews is obtainable by a search through old records.
The Jews of Colonial New York were both “loyalists” and “rebels,” as the tide turned. They profited under loyalism by the contracts which they secured, and by buying in the confiscated property of those who were loyal to the American cause.
It is interesting to note that some of the purchasers of the extensive De Lancey properties were Jews. [James] De Lancey [1703-60—Ed.] was a patriot whom New York City afterward honored by giving his name to an important thoroughfare.
That same New York has recently by official action separated the name of De Lancey from that thoroughfare and substituted the name of Jacob H. Schiff, a Jew, native of Frankfort-on-the-Main.
MEET THE FRANKS
We enter immediately into the limits of the Benedict Arnold narrative by making mention of the Franks family of Philadelphia, of which family several members will claim our attention.
A Jewish family from England who settled in America, the Franks retained their English connections. They were in the business of public contracts, principally army contracts. They were holders of the British army contracts for the French and Indian wars, and for the succeeding Revolutionary War.
To get the picture, conceive it thus, as it is taken from Jewish sources:
• Moses Franks lived in England, doing business with the British government directly. He had the contract for supplying all the British forces in America before military trouble between the Colonies and the “home government” was thought of. He was the principal purveyor of the British army in Quebec, Montreal, Massachusetts, New York and in the country of the Illinois Indians. It was all “British territory” then.
• Jacob Franks lived in NewYork. He was American representative of Moses Franks of England. He was the American agent of the Franks Army Purveyors Syndicate—for that is what it was.
• In Philadelphia was David Franks, son of Jacob, of New York. David was the Franks’ agent for the state or colony of Pennsylvania. He was at the seat of the colonial government, the center of American politics. He was hand in glove with many of the fathers of the American Government. He was an immensely rich man (although but an agent) and carried a high hand at Philadelphia.
• At Montreal was another Franks—David Solesbury Franks—also in the business of army contractor. He was a gay young man, described as “a blooded buck,” who knew all the arts of turning an “honest” penny out of the needs of armies and the distress of nations. This young man was a grandson or grand-nephew of the Moses Franks of England, as he was a nephew of the David Franks of Philadelphia.
Here and there were other Franks, all intent on business with the government, but the four here mentioned carry along the main parts of the tale.
A moment’s digression will give us at once a view of the looseness of the liberalism of some of the Fathers of the Country, and a view of the equanimity with which David Franks of Philadelphia could pass from one role to another—a facility that cost him dearly when war came on.
John Trumbull, an artist of considerable note at the time, whose paintings still adorn the national Capitol, was invited to dine at Thomas Jefferson’s home, among the guests being Sen. Giles, from Virginia. Trumbull tells the story:
I was scarcely seated when [Mr.] Giles began to [rail]me on the Puritanical ancestry and character of New England. I saw there was no other person from New England present, and, therefore, although conscious that I was in no degree qualified to manage a religious discussion, I felt myself bound to defend my country on this delicate point as well as I could. Whether it had been prearranged that a debate on the Christian religion, in which it should be powerfully ridiculed on the one side and weakly defended on the other, was to be brought forward as promising amusement to a rather free-thinking dinner party, I will not presume to say, but it had that appearance, and Giles pushed his raillery, to my no small annoyance, if not to my discomfiture, until dinner was announced.
That, I hoped, would relieve me by giving a new turn to the conversation, but the company was hardly seated at the table when he renewed the assault with increased asperity, and proceeded so far at last as to ridicule the character, conduct and doctrines of the Divine Founder of our religion; Mr. Jefferson in the meantime smiling and nodding approval on Mr. Giles, while the rest of the company silently left me and my defense to our fate, until at length my friend David Franks took up the argument on my side.
Thinking this a fair opportunity for avoiding further conversation on the subject, I turned to Mr. Jefferson and said, “Sir, this is a strange situation in which I find myself; in a country professing Christianity and at a table with Christians, as I supposed, I find my religion and myself attacked with severe and almost irresistible wit and raillery, and not a person to aid in my defense but my friend Mr. Franks, who is himself a Jew.”
This episode throws a curious light on the character of Thomas Jefferson’s “philosophical unbelief,” the unlovely fashion of that day; it also illustrates a certain facility in David Franks.
Relations between the Colonies and the “mother country” became strained. Political feelings ran high. The lines of division between “American” and “British” began to appear for the first time. At first there was a degree of agreement among all the population, except the government officials, that a protest against governmental abuses was justified and that strong representations should be made in behalf of the Colonists. Even loyalists and imperialists agreed with that. It was a question of domestic politics. But when presently the idea of protest began to develop into the idea of rebellion and independence, a cleavage came. It was one thing to correct the empire, another thing to desert it. Here is where the people of the Colonies split.
Mr. Jacob Franks [was] royalist and loyalist. New York was, of course, royalist and loyalist. As army contractor for the British government, he had no choice. Mr. David Franks, down in Philadelphia, was a little nearer the heart of the new American sentiment and could not be so royal and loyal as was his kinsman [to the] north.
In fact, David Franks tried to do what is modernly called “the straddle,” attempting to side with the empire and with the Colonies, too. It was natural. His business was in Philadelphia. He may also have wished to remain as long as possible in the position of a spy, and send information of the state of public feeling to the royalists. Moreover, he was received in good society and his reputation for wealth and shrewdness won him attentions he could not otherwise have commanded.
So, in 1765 we find him joining the merchants of Philadelphia in the pact not to import articles from England while the hated Stamp Act was in force. In 1775 he favors the continuance of the Colonial currency.
He was enjoying his accustomed life in the city—and his acquaintance with the Shippen family, into which the dashing young Benedict Arnold married.
There is a strange intermingling of all the tragic figures of the play: Benedict Arnold marries the girl for whom Major John André wrote a parlor play. Major André, during his period of captivity as an American prisoner of war and before his exchange, was often at the home of David Franks. And David Solesbury Franks, at his post as agent of the Franks syndicate at Montreal, is placed by a strange turn of the wheel of destiny in the military family of Benedict Arnold for a considerable period preceding and including the great treason.
So, for the moment let us leave the Jewish family of Franks—all of them still stationed as we first described them: Moses in England, Jacob at New York, David at Philadelphia, David S. at Montreal—and let us scrutinize the young American officer Benedict Arnold.
These facts would most of them be lost, had they not been preserved in the Jewish archives, by the American Jewish Historical Society. You will read any history of Benedict Arnold without perceiving the Jews around him. The authors of the accepted histories were blind.
The principal defect in Arnold’s character was his love of money. All of the trouble that led up to the situation in which he found himself with reference to the American government and Army, was due to the suspicion that hung like a cloud over many of his business transactions. There have been attempts to paint Arnold as a martyr, as one who was discouraged by the unmerited slights of the Continental Congress, as a victim of the jealousy of lesser men, as one from whom confidence was unjustly withheld. Nothing could be further from the facts.
He was a man to whom men were instinctively drawn to be generous, but so general was the knowledge of his looseness in money matters that, while admiring him, his brother officers acted upon the [self-]protective instinct and held aloof from him. He was tainted by a low form of dishonesty before he was tainted with treason, and the chief explanation of his treason was in the hard bargain he drove as to the amount of money he was to receive for his guilty act. Arnold’s own record makes this clear. Let us then take up his career at a certain point and see how the “Franks strand” and the “money strand” weave themselves through it like colored threads.
Extraordinary efforts have been made in recent years to extenuate Arnold’s treason by the recital of his daring services. These services need not be minimized. Indeed, it was his great achievement of the winter march to Montreal and Quebec in 1775-6 that seems to begin the chapter of his troubles. To rehearse this feat of courage and endurance would be to tell a tale that has thrilled the American schoolboy.
It was at Montreal that Benedict Arnold came into contact with the young Jew, David Solesbury Franks, the Canadian agent of the Franks army purveying syndicate. And the next thing known about young Franks is that he returns to the American Colonies in the train of Benedict Arnold as an officer of the American Army.
How this change was effected is not explained in any of the records. There is a moment of darkness, as it were, in which the “quick change” was made, which transformed the young man from Montreal from an army contractor for the British into an officer of Arnold’s staff.
But as it is impossible for every fact to be suppressed. There are here and there indications of what might have been, what indeed most probably was, the basis of the attraction and relations between the two. It was very probably—almost certainly—the opportunities for graft which could be capitalized by a combination of Gen. Arnold’s authority and young Franks’s ability in the handling of goods.
From the day they met in Montreal until the hour when Gen. Arnold fled, a traitor, from the fort on the Hudson, young David Solesbury Franks was his companion.
In one of the numerous courts-martial that tried Gen. Arnold for questionable dealings in matters pertaining to Army supplies, Franks, who was aide-de-camp to Arnold, and by rank a major, testified thus:
“I had, by being in the Army, injured my private affairs very considerably and meant to leave it, if a proper opportunity of entering into business should happen. I had several conversations on the subject with Gen. Arnold, who promised me all the assistance in his power; he was to participate in the profits of the business I was to enter in.”
This testimony was given by Maj. Franks in 1779; the two men had met in the winter of 1775-6, but, as the records will show, Maj. Franks was always Gen. Arnold’s reliance on getting out of scrapes caused by questionable business methods in which Arnold’s military authority was used quite freely.
Maj. Franks admits that he was to enter business and Gen. Arnold was to share the profits. On what basis this arrangement could exist, is another point not known. Arnold had no capital. He had no credit. He was a spendthrift, a borrower, notorious for his constant need of money. The only credible inducement for Franks to accept a partnership with him was on the understanding that Arnold should use his military authority to throw business to Franks. Or, to state it more bluntly, the “profits” Benedict Arnold was to receive were payments for his misuse of authority for his own gain.
It was at Montreal that Arnold’s name first became tainted with rumors of shady dealing in private and public property. Gen. George Washington had laid down the most explicit instructions on these matters, with a view to having the Canadians treated as fellow-Americans and not as enemies. Gen. Washington had cashiered officers and whipped soldiers who had previously disobeyed the order against looting and theft.
Gen. Arnold had seized large quantities of goods at Montreal and had hurried them away without making proper accounting of them. This he admits in his letter to Gen. Schuyler:
“Our hurry and confusion was so great when the goods were received, it was impossible to take a particular account of them.” This means only that Arnold seized the goods without giving the Canadian citizens proper receipts for them, so that he had in his hands a large amount of wealth for which he was under no compulsion to account to anybody. This mass of goods he sent to Col. Hazen at Chambley, and Colonel Hazen, evidently aware of the conditions under which the goods were taken, refused to receive them.
This disobedience of Col. Hazen to his superior officer, especially in a question relating to goods, made it necessary for Arnold to take some self-protective action, which he did in his letter to Gen. Schuyler.
Meantime, a very ugly rumor ran through the American Army that Gen. Benedict Arnold had tried to pull a scurvy trick of graft, but had been held up by the strict conduct of Col. Hazen.
Moreover, it was rumored (and the fact was admitted by Arnold in his letter) that in the transfer the goods were well sorted over so that when they finally arrived a great part of them was missing.
All the principal facts were admitted by Arnold, who used them, however, to throw blame on Col. Hazen. He even went so far as to prepare charges against Col. Hazen, forcing the matter into a court-martial. The court was called and refused to hear the witnesses chosen by Gen. Arnold on his behalf, on the ground that the witnesses were not entitled to credibility.
Whereupon Gen. Arnold flouted the court, who ordered him arrested. Gen. Gates, to preserve the useful services of Arnold to the United States Army, dissolved the court-martial, to that extent condoning the conduct of Arnold. Before the court martial ended, however, it informally acquitted Col. Hazen. Here then, almost immediately, as it would seem, upon his new connection with David Solesbury Franks, Benedict Arnold is involved in a bad tangle concerning property which had come into his possession irregularly and which disappeared soon after. His attempt to throw the blame on an officer whose disobedience was the factor that disclosed the true state of affairs, failed. It was his bold scheme to forestall an exposure which must inevitably have come.
While it is true that on this Montreal case, no verdict stands recorded against Benedict Arnold for the theft of goods, it is also true that the American Army became suspicious of him from that day.
Had Arnold been innocent then and had he kept his hands clean thereafter, the Montreal episode would have been forgotten. But as a matter of fact such affairs came with increasing frequency thereafter, all of them, strangely enough, involving the same man whom he associated with himself at the time of that first exposure.
The story of this man’s relations with Arnold all through the period ending with the great treason, may now be taken up with greater consecutiveness, for now their formerly separate courses run together.
HENRY FORD, founder of the Ford Motor Company, was a man of many talents. he was an inventor, a writer, a publisher and a business innovator, among other things. This article first appeared in Ford’s newspaper The Dearborn Independent, on Oct. 8, 1921.