MARIA REYNOLDS (1768 - 1832)
In 1789, as Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton is suspected of being too close to his intriguing sister-in-law, chic Angelica Church, who in turn infers he’s in an intimate “confidential” relationship with the British intelligence agent, Major George Beckwith – who, with Major Andre, is known for facilitating Gen. Benedict Arnold’s treason.
Les liaisons dangereuses will extend their confidences from sexual to influential financial speculations. In their trading Treasury securities on kinky privileged information, Hamilton employs a money-laundering confidence man, James Reynolds, who he’ll make a pimp, and Maria (pronounced Mariah), the attractive wife, who he’ll publicly denounce a Daughter of Eve – inspiring John Adam’s infamous description of Hamilton as “The bastard brat of a Scottish peddler possessed of a superabundance of secretions which he could not find whores enough to draw off.”
While Hamilton’s slanders of Aaron Burr were frequently sexual, it was his philandering that constituted what was known as ‘The Maria Reynold’s Affair’, the nation’s first sex scandal. In 1791, caught out by James Monroe, Hamilton contends the monies in question he’s paid to the Reynolds in sexual blackmail; compensating the cuckold, covering up his affair with Mrs. Reynolds, and diverting attention from his wife’s family finances. When things get ugly, Hamilton challenges Madison to a duel, Burr intervenes, diffuses the situation, effects Maria’s divorce from her husband and, some say, becomes her consolation and Hamilton’s nemesis.
In 1797, when the Maria Reynold’s Affair’s splashed all over the flash press, it is Jefferson conspiring against him, as he will Burr, that presses Hamilton to excuse himself with hisObservations on Certain Documents. In it, he won some sympathy by putting the onus on the woman who took advantage of him but not everyone bought it:
“What shall we say to the conduct of a man who could deliberately write and publish a history of his private intrigues, degrade himself in the estimation of all good men, and scandalize a family to clear himself of charges which no man believed! Such a man is unfit to administer the government.” Noah Webster on Alexander Hamilton
Paper, paint, nylon, plastic, copper.