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

By Bruce A. Rosenberg | Go to book overview

7
Posthumous Encomia

And then the post-mortem rituals began. By 1821 the story of André's capture and execution had become something of an American folk epic (Pickering's Introduction to the 1971 edition of The Spy, p. 22). Cooper wrote about it in his 1828 Notions of the Americans. The British and the Tories and those who thought like them were outraged; the wrong villain had lived, and Washington had condemned to death the one noble man in the whole business. Americans agreed for the most part; the scoundrel in the affair had escaped, and André, noble and manly, had paid with his life. An illustrated broadside of 1780 depicts "A REPRESENTATION of the FIGURES exhibited and paraded through the Streets of Philadelphia, on Saturday, the 30th of September, 1780." A two-faced Arnold rides in a cart towards a large fire, a dark Satanic figure threatening him with a pitchfork. The text exults that the "Omniscient Creator ... has thrown into our hands ANDRE": and then as a contrast, for this little drama needs some noble figure to offset the infamous traitor: "ANDRE was gen'rous, true, and brave." The actual character of each actor was little known, and the artist/publisher (and almost immediately the public) created dramatic contrasts for themselves.

Arnold free and André hanged: it was one of the great ironies of the war. Yet, as later expressed by Cooper, most patriots felt that the results were lawful and necessary. The knowledgeable may have mourned the necessity of the execution, but did not flinch in their support of Washington's decision. He had correctly done his duty in support of the Republic; and André had done nothing to justify escaping from this lawfully inflicted fate.

-51-

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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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