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Chew, Joseph (fl. 1780) [Joseph Chew's discussion of a letter from Benedict Arnold]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05533.02 Author/Creator: Chew, Joseph (fl. 1780) Place Written: s.l. Type: Autograph note signed Date: 2 October 1780 Pagination: 1 p. ; 18.5 x 9.5 cm.

The note, signed by Chew, explains how the accompanying letter (no longer present) was kept undercover, "This Letter was delivered as a Blank Sheet of Paper put over one or two newspapers - which by wetting with a Proper Composition made it Legible." Also describes the writer of the letter and how he has been persecuted, claiming, "... the writer was a Colo. in his Majestys Service during the War that Ended in 1763... Since which he has been thoroughly persecuted." Benedict Arnold, who served in the French and Indian War, may have been the writer Chew was referring to. The date is written in pencil, probably not contemporary and possibly inaccurate.

This note had been attached to GLC05533.01, leading earlier writers to conclude that the letter Chew was discussing was that written by John André. The description cannot possibly apply to André, however; as he was only 12 years old "during the war that ended in 1763."

Instead, this may be a description of Benedict Arnold, who served in the French and Indian War, was well respected in Connecticut, knew Beverley Robinson, and considered himself "thoroughly Persecuted." (Robinson was the noted Loyalist officer from whose home Benedict Arnold escaped to the British after his treasonable designs had been uncovered.) If so, then the letter originally accompanying this note may have been an early attempt by Arnold to make contact with British officials; this note may constitute Chew's recommendation of the would-be spy. Arnold probably had at least a passing acquaintance with Chew, a fellow Connecticut merchant seaman (see GLC03301) who had supplied George Washington with intelligence during the French and Indian Wars.

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