Today in History
History's Happenings for October 2
In 1779, at the height of the American Revolution, Continental Army General Benedict Arnold was in financial trouble. He and his new wife, Margaret Shippen, liked to have a good time in Philadelphia, mainly among wealthy loyalists.
To help pay the way, Arnold began negotiating with the British Commander-in-Chief, Sir Henry Clinton, to carry out certain treasonable acts in return for money and a commission in the British Army. An outstanding opportunity existed, in that Arnold was then Commandant of West Point, a sturdy fort guarding the approaches to the upper Hudson River.
Acting as go-between for Arnold and Clinton was one British Major John Andre, a bright young man who had advanced rapidly to become Adjutant-General of the British forces in America. Unfortunately, as he returned one night to the British lines after a meeting with Arnold, disguised as a civilian and with the plans for West Point in his boots, he was captured by Continental forces. He was taken to Washington's headquarters in nearby Tappan, where he was sentenced to death by a military tribunal.
On October 2, 1780, Major Andre was hanged. General Arnold, in the meantime, made his escape to the British Army, wherein he led British troops against his former countrymen until 1781 when he sailed to England as an adviser.
With the Revolution over, Arnold's advice was no longer useful and he became viewed as the traitor he was. He was drummed out of the active military and never received anywhere close to the sum of money promised. He died in London in 1801. In America, his name has become synonymous with treason.
A father-figure of non-violent protest, Mohandas K. Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar [present Gujarat], India.
Having first studied law in England, Gandhi spent his entire adult life protesting for better treatment of his people, first in South Africa and then in India itself, where he led the surge for independence from British rule. Nearly a saint to his countrymen, he led a humble personal life, dressed in a simple loincloth and eating for subsistence only. The hunger strike was one of his most successful and oft-used weapons against oppression and violent acts.
Despite his immense popular standing, and the reverence afforded his opinions on most issues, Gandhi's efforts to maintain the peace were often unsuccessful. In the fighting between Hindus and Muslims that broke out after India finally won her independence in 1947, Gandhi again fasted for peace. A fortnight after ending the fast, on January 30, 1948, he was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic while on his way to prayer.
During his life, the Indian people gave their beloved Gandhi the name Mahatma, "great soul", a name reserved for the most revered of wise men.