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The Story of Two Warriors
George and Arnold
As we celebrate the founding of our nation, I want to tell you a story about two veterans of the Continental army. Both men were great generals, both were willing to sacrifice their lives to build a new nation of free people. Without these two generals we might not be living in a free nation today.
But as we look at the lives of these two men we see a divergence, one, General George Washington, leaves a legacy of greatness and becomes the father of our nation. The other's name became synonymous with treason, that soldier is General Benedict Arnold.
There are many lessons we can learn from these men, but I want to discuss just one of those lessons and why I think these two men ended up on such different paths.
Benedict Arnold was one of George Washington's favorite soldiers. Washington admired Arnold and knew he was one of his best generals and a brave warrior. But even though Arnold was a brave warrior and a master strategist he had a weakness. His weakness was seeking honor and recognition and he allowed his weakness to become a driving force in his life.
When Congress passed him over for a promotion he became angry. Then, when he was wounded in battle and given the position of Military Commandant of Philadelphia he sank deeper into anger and resentment because he felt the position was beneath him. The rest of his story is well know to us all as he became the most famous traitor.
But Washington had a similar weakness. He was often described as hypersensitive to any slight or offense. So why did two men with many of the same strengths and weaknesses end up with very different histories.
One reason I believe they ended up on different paths is because of who they choose to have around them and specifically who they married.
I'm reminded here of the old adage about choosing your friends carefully. You know “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch”. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 we are warned, “Do not be deceived: “Bad Company ruins good morals.”
Arnold married Peggy Shippen, Peggy was considered one of the most beautiful women in all of Philadelphia, she came from a family that was considered American aristocracy. Peggy insisted Arnold provide her the lifestyle “she deserved” which put Arnold in deep debt. When Arnold couldn't provide her the life she wanted she helped “stoke the fire of her husband's grievances”. (Nathan PhilBrick, Valiant Ambition)
Arnold eventually died alone in Canada as a man without a country – he had nothing and his name is forever associated with treason.
Washington on the other hand married Martha Custis.
Martha also came from a wealthy family but she never craved wealth and status. There is no evidence from letters or other history that Martha ever complained about the financial crisis George's dedication to his new country created.
So why am I talking about the spouses of these two veterans?
My experience is that the people you choose to be around and specifically your spouse is the most important person to help you serve with honor and distinction.
Imagine how the story might have been different if Peggy had helped Benedict overcome his anger. How different would their lives had been if instead of feeding his dissatisfaction and resentment she had helped him move past the slight, and work to rise to the top again.
Or imagine how the story, and maybe the future of our nation, could have been if Martha had complained to George because he had to sell much of the land she brought to their marriage just to pay their bills.
Without my wife’s uncompromising adherence to principles I would have given up principles for a little reward long ago. But I know that if I betray a core principle to gain some short term reward that I must face her. I don't mind you being disappointed in me, but I could not handle her disappointment.
My association with the Freedom Caucus has also served to make me a better legislator. Within the caucus we hold each other accountable for our actions, our votes, and our political positions.
Some of you are going to be called into politics, you must ensure you have a network of people around you to hold you accountable. You must give your group and your spouse permission to be brutally honest, and, the most difficult for me, you must be willing to heed their warnings even if you don't see the danger.
I hope the story of these two generals will give you something to think about. Our nation is entering a time when our way of life is under attack. To win this battle we must have principled warriors.
You are our only hope, your actions, your decisions, who you support and the decisions you make will determine if the country George and Martha Washington gave us — remains.
As General Washington would say, “may the hand of Providence be upon you”