First Juicy Sex Scandal in America

The earliest known major sexual scandal in the United States can be traced all the way back to the 18th century! It was in 1791 that Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton began an affair with a married woman named Maria Reynolds.

Unbeknownst to Hamilton, Reynolds’ husband James knew of the affair. Eventually, he contacted Hamilton to demand more than $1,000 in hush money, which the treasury secretary paid. The affair went on for several more months, but James Reynolds finally broke his silence to government investigators in 1792 after being implicated in an unrelated financial scandal. He went so far as to claim that Hamilton had been involved in unlawful financial speculation.

When accosted by several politicians including James Monroe (who would serve as the 5th president of the United States), Hamilton not only came clean about the affair, he handed over love letters from Maria Reynolds to vindicate himself of any illegal behavior.

The matter was kept secret for several years, but it resurfaced in 1797 after James Callender, a Scottish journalist, got his hands on the love letters and published them in a pamphlet. Torn between airing his dirty laundry or letting the charges go unanswered, Hamilton took matters into his own hands and published his own pamphlet, which brought to light his dalliance with Maria Reynolds while disproving false accusations of financial impropriety.

While Hamilton’s candor helped absolve him of any corruption charges, reports of his infidelity would mar his reputation until his untimely death in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804.

It's interesting how even in the 1700s and 1800s -- when America was still a fledgling nation -- politicians were already being rocked by sex scandals. While the media certainly wasn't as pervasive and entrenched in our lives as it today, it still made for some juicy gossip -- enough to push Hamilton to come clean. Without a doubt, the story brings to mind the sexual allegations against Bill Clinton that nearly got him impeached in 1998. Interestingly, many of the words used to describe Hamilton have been associated with Clinton over the years -- good-looking, charming, extroverted, flirtatious, ladies man.

If one thing's for sure, it's that once the media gets dirt on a celebrity or politician, it can severely tarnish their reputation. While Clinton was able to bounce back, people like Bill Cosby haven't been as lucky.

No comments: