Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Treasury secretary, one of George Washington’s closest advisers, the star of the Broadway musical, was involved in one of the sleaziest extramarital affairs in political history. It was even worse than the one involving Stormy Daniels and President Donald Trump.
Hamilton, who was married, was serving in Washington’s Cabinet when a young married woman (Maria Reynolds) showed up at the door of his home one evening and told him she needed help. She had no money; her husband was out of work and out of town. She had heard Hamilton was the sort of gentlemen who might assist a lady in distress.
Hamilton helped Mrs. Reynolds repeatedly over a period of a year and also gave her money. One day James Reynolds showed up and asked Hamilton for some money himself. The husband and wife team were running a con game and Hamilton was trapped. Pay the bribes or risk being exposed. Hamilton apparently did not have a fixer.
Eventually, Mr. Reynolds got arrested for his involvement in another financial scam and decided to play a get out of jail card. He contacted Hamilton’s political enemies, who included future President James Monroe (a pal of Thomas Jefferson’s), and said he had some dirt to peddle.
Reynolds told his jailhouse visitors that Hamilton had not only had an adulterous affair with his wife, but also had paid Reynolds hush money with government funds.
A deal was cut, but before making the scandal public Monroe and his buddies thought it would only be fair to give Hamilton a chance to explain. They were gentlemen, after all.
So, they went to Hamilton’s home, and he confessed he had been duped by the sexy Mrs. Reynolds and her sleazy husband. In fact, he continued having sex with Mrs. Reynolds even after Mr. Reynolds began blackmailing him. He was duped over and over again.
While he had given money to both the husband and the wife, Hamilton insisted had never paid them with government funds. He had used his own money.
Being gentlemen, Monroe and his pal promised to keep his secret, since he had not abused his government office. But along the way Monroe had secretly made copies of love letters he obtained between Hamilton and Mrs. Reynolds.
Thomas Jefferson, Monroe’s good friend and Washington’s secretary of state, hated Hamilton. And Hamilton hated Jefferson. In fact, both men believed the other was determined to turn their new country into a dictatorship.
Using pseudonyms, they authored scathing attacks against each other in newspapers, sometimes revealing Cabinet discussions with President Washington.
The president called them on the carpet and begged them to quit the public bickering for the good of the young nation. They agreed. They apologized. And then they went right out and did it again.
Jefferson and his buddies even hired a newspaper editor to get dirt on Hamilton and publish it. And somehow those secret letters about Hamilton’s affair ended up in that editor’s paper. He published the story about the blackmail and the allegation that Hamilton had used government money to pay the bribes.
Outraged, Hamilton decided to respond by publishing a pamphlet more than 90 pages long. It included a detailed explanation of the sexual affair, an admission that he paid bribes and documentation to prove the money did not come from the government coffers but his own funds.
He distributed thousands of copies of the pamphlet to the public, but didn’t bother telling his wife about the affair before going public.
She forgave him. His father-in-law forgave him. And George Washington forgave him. Hamilton and Jefferson were involved in the first great U.S. political scandal and spearheaded the first political parties.
This is how our government began. This is how our Founding Fathers behaved. Happy Independence Day.
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