Running a government, especially during a time of revolution, is a pretty complicated set of tasks. Among the obvious are motivating people, moving them in the same direction, keeping tabs on the opponent, sometimes organizing and supplying a military, and so on. Plus, feeding traitors’ livestock. Wait, really?
It’s true. Today, just poking around, I came across a fascinating tidbit. It’s the transcript of a receipt paying for “Keeping Two horses Late the Property of Benedict Arnold Confiscated.”
The American Revolutionary government of Pennsylvania, as with other states, confiscated a lot of property from suspected loyalists. In fact, one historian has argued that the American Revolution succeeded in New York in no small part due to the state’s redistribution of real estate from those deemed not sufficiently dedicated to the Revolutionary cause.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took a lot of property. That property came in all sorts of forms. Pennsylvania claimed Benedict Arnold’s real estate, his horses, a chariot, and all sorts of other goods. Until those could be distributed through auction, they became the property of the state. They thus required stabling and feeding. The state footed (hoofed?) the bill.
The bill to take care of the horses formerly belonging to the Revolution’s most notorious turncoat is a good reminder of just how complicated governance is, and, it seems, has always been. And the same is true for the study of the American Revolution. There’s always more to learn.