ARNOLD, Benedict (1741-1801). Autograph letter signed ("B. Arnold," with large flourish), to T. Freiling, Gloucester Place, Portman Square [London], 7 August 1800. 2 pages, 4to, lengthy recipient's docket on page 2.
THE DIFFICULTIES OF A PRIVATEER: MISSING LETTERS AND INSURANCE LOSSES. The traitor and former British officer--actively engaged in various mercantile ventures, including privateering-- apologizes for reporting "another missing letter. One of his associates, "Capt Pendrake Neale, who Commands a Privateer of mine wrote...to me from Crooks Haven in the W[es]t of Ireland...This letter I am informed by one of his officers (who wrote to me from Cork...) was sent by post the day it was written..., but has never come to hand, and is of consequence. I will therefore take it as a particular favor if you will be so good as to direct enquiry to be made for it from the Postman who delivered letters in Portman Square..." In a previous mishap, "the miscarriage of the letter from Plymouth that I made application about before, has occasioned a loss to me of more than ten Thousand pounds St[erlin]g. Capt. Neale having therein advised me of two very rich prizes that he had taken, which I should have insured into port had I received his letter, but the miscarriage prevented the Insurance being made, and the prizes worth upwards of £15,000 have since been retaken by the Enemy."
Privateers thrived during the early years of the Napoleonic wars, but Arnold's privateering ventures never brought the great windfalls he expected. Arnold suspected that his captains were making handsome profits at sea but not turning them over to him" (W.S. Randall Benedict Arnold, p.611). The "missing" letters he complains of here may well have been a trick of the duplicitous captains. Less than a year after this letter, Arnold died and "was buried without military honors. No dukedom, no knighthood, no salute of cannons, only an unmarked grave" (Ibid, 613).