“I DID have sex with that woman, but at least I didn’t steal from the government!” No, President Clinton didn’t say that, but a Founding Father whose face is in your wallet said more or less the same thing. As you’ll discover on our July 4 Revolutionary New York Scavenger Hunt, Alexander Hamilton was a political pioneer—and also a pioneer of the sex scandal.
His femme fatale was Philadelphia’s Maria Reynolds, who appealed to the new Treasury Secretary for charity. Soon he was giving her more hands than handouts. Her conniving husband, James, quickly blackmailed his cuckold. Hamilton, who had his own wife and children, paid the hush money. Later, after James was jailed for speculating in back wages owed war veterans, he implicated Hamilton.
Two Congressmen, including James Monroe, confronted Hamilton. He shocked them by admitting his affair with Maria and turning over her love letters as proof of his innocence—of financial corruption, that is.
The Congressmen promised to keep the affair quiet. But Monroe shared the letters with his pal Thomas Jefferson, who shared them with his virulent propagandist pal James Callender, who published the scandal. (Callender would eventually print the first accusations that Jefferson slept with his slave Sally.)
Hamilton accused Monroe of leaking the letters, and Monroe challenged Hamilton to a duel—averted thanks to Aaron Burr (who of course later killed Hamilton in a duel). Hamilton published a pamphlet admitting the affair to clear himself of the charges of financial impropriety. His political career never recovered.
History has been kind to Hamilton. Indeed, he is memorialized in many places visited on our hunts:
- The Revolutionary New York Hunt features several Hamilton sites, including his tomb and the site of his first office as Treasury Secretary.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art Hunts (various): Hamilton’s portrait is mischievously paired with that of political foe De Witt Clinton.
- Midtown Hunts (various): Hamilton faces arch-enemy Aaron Burr across an arch in a lobby.
- Race to the White House Hunt: His statue stands outside the Treasury Building.
- Columbia University Hunt: A statue honors alumnus Hamilton.
- The High Line at Sunset Hunt includes the site where he died after his duel with Burr.
- New York Historical Society hunt: Pistols similar to the ones used in the duel with Burr are displayed near Burr’s death mask.
Go in search of Hamilton and more secret history on a hunt!