Historically Yours – Alexander Hamilton – His Backroom Trysts

Wanted! A psychologist to examine the behavior of our nation’s first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton to determine what would cause a happily married man, who had reached the highest level of our nation’s political power, to engage in a sordid relationship that could at any moment destroy his reputation? When confronted with a scandal involving his ongoing adulteress relationship with a married woman, Hamilton, leader of the Federalist Party, said that his behavior was a terrible moral error, but his conduct thereafter was a badge of honor. He may very well have slept on the couch for several months. So what else is new in history? Hamilton, born on the West Indian island of Nevis, was the illegitimate son of a fallen woman and a deserting father. The penniless boy was to become America’s financial genius and appointed Treasury Secretary at age 34. Washington followed Hamilton’s advice on all financial matters, including establishment of The Bank of New York, which preceded our Federal Reserve System. Hamilton advanced America into a great industrial society with a strong federal government. A minority, led by Jefferson and Madison, mobilized against Hamilton for the direction he was taking our country, believing our future should be an agrarian society with strong states rights and a weak federal government. This should have made Hamilton especially watchful of his public and personal reputation, including his relationship with his beloved wife Eliza (Schuyler) and their then four children.

Eliza never expressed anything less than a worshipful attitude toward her husband.

In one of history’s worst cases of bad judgment, Hamilton entered into a sordid relationship with a woman named Maria Reynolds. Fact of fiction have blended the story of Maria so that it is difficult to tell if she and her husband James were simply con artists perpetrating an extortion racket against Hamilton or she was simply a perilously unstable attractive woman whom Hamilton could not resist. She approached Hamilton for assistance and thus began their ongoing backroom trysts. Time after time, James came to Hamilton for hush money, threatening public disclosure. Repeatedly, Hamilton not only made payments, but also continued seeing Maria. Ultimately, his political enemies revealed their entire story, including allegations that Hamilton not only had a mistress but his payments to James were tied in with illegal manipulation of federal securities for a profit. In a public confession, Hamilton apologized for his sexual misconduct but rightfully proclaimed innocence of any illegal scheme.

Hamilton fell from the heights. His reputation was never the same. Worse than anything, he also lost the worshipful attitude of his beloved wife. Four current historical psychologists, who studied the infamous Hamilton-Burr duel, concluded that his fall from grace in his public confession was an important factor in his acceptance of the challenge. It was a challenge that Hamilton came prepared to lose.

Sources: Smithsonian.com, “Alexander Hamilton’s Adultery and Apology,”: Wikipedia, “Alexander Hamilton,”: Historic Valley Forge, “Alexander Hamilton,”: Archive of Our Own, “Alexander Hamilton as Summarized By Me,” by Ron Chernow, chapter 9: Wikipedia, “Burr-Hamilton Duel,”.

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