The Neutral Ground: The André Affair and the Background of Cooper's The Spy

By Bruce A. Rosenberg | Go to book overview

6
This Is a Spy!

Now it happened that André's worst-case scenario would be realized. The road he traveled was patrolled by several irregulars: seven in number, they were former militiamen out to perform a little ad hoc patriotism. Apologists have described them as patriots defending the area from Cow-boys; others have claimed that they were going to stop any likely traveler who came in sight, and liberate him of his property ( Decker 1959, p. 74). André was just such a victim. He had the bearing of a gentleman, was wearing white-topped boots, and was riding a valuable horse. While Isaac Van Wart and David Williams remained off to the side of the road, John Paulding stepped into the middle of it, leveling his musket at the stranger.

Once again, and most ineptly, André proved himself unable to cope with the ordinary demands placed on spies. When Paulding asked him where he was going, André (according to Paulding; Hatch [p. 242] thought his testimony the most responsible) responded with, "My lads, I hope you belong to our party." This was really a reckless comment considering his situation, probably made because from the first André assumed that his assailants were Cow-boys loyal to the crown; it was reckless because he had no idea who had stopped him, particularly so since all he had to do was produce Arnold's pass entitling him to go to White Plains. When Paulding rejoined by asking him what "party" that was, André put his own head in a noose: "The lower."

James Fenimore Cooper Notions of the Americans summarizes (and evaluates) the situation this way. "As there was nothing immediately in view about the person of Major

-41-

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The Neutral Ground: The André Affair and the Background of Cooper's The Spy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Part One - Major André 1
  • 1 - Hanging is for Spies 3
  • 2 - The Gentleman's Code 9
  • 3 - The Blackest Treason 15
  • 4 - A Gentleman's Education 19
  • 5 - The Arnold Enlistment 27
  • 6 - This is a Spy! 41
  • 7 - Posthumous Encomia 51
  • Part Two - James Fenimore Cooper 61
  • 8 - The André Affair and the Spy 63
  • 9 - André and Cooper 73
  • 10 - Cooper and the Spy Novel 83
  • 11 - The McDonald Papers 87
  • 12 - The Neutral Ground 95
  • Part Three - The Spy 103
  • 13 - An American Novel 105
  • 14 - Dramatis Personae 113
  • 15 - The Neutral Ground 135
  • References 147
  • Index 153
  • About the Author 157
  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of Popular Culture 158
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