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“The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold” Receives 2019 History Prize

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  • The Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Jersey has named Joyce Malcolm, Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment at Antonin Scalia Law School, the recipient of its 2019 New Jersey History Prize for her book, The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold: An American Life.

    “The book,” says Malcolm, “aims to understand this conflicted man, the complicated time in which he lived and his desperate decision to betray his country.”

    While Benedict Arnold’s name has become an infamous synonym for treachery in the United States and beyond, Malcolm is quick to point out an often disregarded aspect of the man.

    “He was arguably the best officer on either side in the war. He repeatedly risked his life on the battlefield and sacrificed his fortune for the patriot cause. His exploits,” she concludes without hesitation, “led to our independence.”

    The Society of the Cincinnati, the oldest hereditary organization in the United States, is comprised of descendants of the officers of the Continental Army, and is organized into thirteen constituent societies representing the original colonies, as well as a French society. The New Jersey Society, founded by General Elias Dayton and other New Jersey officers in Elizabethtown in 1783, has counted among its membership Governors including Richard Howell, William Sanford Pennington, and Joseph Dorsett Bedle and United States Senators such as Aaron Ogden, Jonathan Dayton, and Hamilton Fish Kean.

    Since 1980, the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Jersey has made an annual award to a person chosen for “distinguished achievement in advancing the knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of American History.” Preference is given to work on the history of the United States in its Colonial, Revolutionary and Federal periods; and to work done by persons associated with New Jersey institutions or agencies.

    “I am very honored that my book The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold has been selected by the Society of the Cincinnati for this special award,” says Malcolm, who will be presented with the award, and give an address to the membership at the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Jersey’s annual fall meeting and banquet at the Society of the Cincinnati Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, 5 October, 2019.