Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father of the United States, one of the most influential interpreters and promoters of the Constitution and founder of the financial system of U.S. He was also chief of staff to George Washington, during whose presidency his infamous sex scandal with Maria Reynolds broke out. The Hamilton-Reynolds sex scandal was the first prominent sex scandal in American political history.
In 1791, Maria Reynolds approached Alexander Hamilton claiming that her husband James Reynolds had abandoned her and her daughter; and requesting monetary help to move to New York City, where her family lived. Hamilton personally delivered the money to Maria later that night. Soon the married 34 years old Hamilton began an illicit affair with 23 years old Maria Reynolds, which lasted for at least 3 years.
Over the course of the affair, James Reynolds was aware of his wife’s unfaithfulness. Although the common practice those days was to seek retribution in a pistol duel, James Reynolds preferred to blackmail money from Hamilton by threatening to inform Hamilton’s wife. Hamilton eventually paid Reynolds more than $1,000 in blackmail over several years to continue having sexual relations with Maria without his interference.
Later James Reynolds was arrested for counterfeiting and he attempted to get out of his troubles by his knowledge of Hamilton’s sex affair. He contacted several prominent members of the Democratic-Republican Party, including James Munroe, and said he could expose a top level official for corruption. They interviewed Hamilton with their suspicions but instead of admitting any misconduct in public office, Alexander Hamilton revealed his affair with Maria Reynolds. He also turned over his love letters from Maria to them. James Monroe and his colleagues however didn’t make the letters public and said that the matter was settled.
However, Monroe took the love letters and sent them to his close personal friend, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson and Hamilton were self-described nemeses and five years later Jefferson started rumours about Hamilton’s private life. The final nail in the coffin came when a pamphlet publisher obtained the letters and printed them in his newspaper. Also corruption charges against Hamilton resurfaced. In response Alexander Hamilton printed his own 95 page pamphlet in which he denied all corruption charges but openly admitted to his relationship with Maria Reynolds and apologized for it. This public revelation damaged Hamilton’s reputation for the rest of his life.
Hamilton resigned from office in 1795 and returned to the practice of law in New York. However he still remained influential in politics and his opposition to President Adams re-election in 1800 was instrumental in Adam’s defeat. As of his rivalry with Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton later disclosed information through a newspaper about Jefferson’s affair with an enslaved woman owned by him, named Sally Hemings.