7 Facts About The Founding Fathers That’ll Make You Rethink American History

Published July 3, 2014
Updated July 25, 2022

Alexander Hamilton Was Caught In The Nation’s First Political Sex Scandal

Portrait Of Alexander Hamilton

Wikimedia CommonsAlexander Hamilton would publish a 100-page confession on his affair that took the public by storm.

Alexander Hamilton was famously antagonistic. He was so contentious that that he was shot to death in a duel against his political rival, Aaron Burr, who he simply could not stop provoking for nearly two decades.

But Hamilton’s weaknesses weren’t limited to pride. He was also unfaithful to his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, who remained loyal to him even after he humiliated her and left her near destitute when he died.

In 1797, Hamilton published the Reynolds Pamphlet, a 100-page confession that recounted his affair with a married woman named Maria Reynolds.

According to the report, Reynolds had approached Hamilton at his Philadelphia home in the summer of 1791 asking for help after her husband had abandoned her. By Hamilton’s own admission, “Some conversation ensued from which it was quickly apparent that other than pecuniary consolation would be acceptable.”

They proceeded to have a sexual fling for the next few months, but when Mr. Reynolds returned and learned of the affair, he and his wife concocted a scheme to swindle Hamilton out of some cash. Hamilton wound up paying the couple $1,300 or one-third of his salary. This would be the equivalent of $25,000 today.

When the couple took their blackmail to Hamilton’s political rivals, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, he decided to reveal the truth himself in a public confessional.

Reynolds Pamphlet

Wikimedia CommonsA copy of the Reynolds Pamphlet.

The press went haywire and even flooded papers with the rumor that Hamilton was sleeping with Schuyler Hamilton’s sister, Angelica Schuyler, as well. This was loosely based on a cheeky remark Angelica Schuyler made in a letter to her sister, which read:

“[I love him] very much, and if you were as generous as the old Romans, you would lend him to me for a little while.”

Unfortunately, Hamilton’s wife bore the brunt of the scandal and was blamed for her husband’s infidelity. “Art thou a wife?” wrote one newspaper. “See him, whom thou hast chosen for the partner of this life, lolling in the lap of a harlot!”

The founding father infamously died in his 1804 duel against Burr, a challenge that could have easily been avoided had he simply apologized. Instead, he was shot and killed because of his own pride.

To assess the integrity of the founding fathers retrospectively could be a fool’s errand as the actions of these men were in part, products of their time. Nonetheless, they were troubling individuals who owned people, raped them, or were utterly unscrupulous.

As such, perhaps it’s best not to view these men as figures carved in stone but as flawed individuals with shades of gray.

After learning about seven awful things that the founding fathers did, read up on the true story of who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Then, learn the most fascinating fact about each U.S. president.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
Leah Silverman
A former associate editor for All That's Interesting, Leah Silverman holds a Master's in Fine Arts from Columbia University's Creative Writing Program and her work has appeared in Catapult, Town & Country, Women's Health, and Publishers Weekly.