In which Hamilton has a torrid affair, and pays a price.
I intended to cover the Reynolds Affair in one exceedingly long post. WordPress thought otherwise, so it’s in three posts, corresponding to the three phases of the affair. But I’m publishing them all today, because if you (WordPress, I’m looking at you!) get between me and a deadline, I’ll squash you flat, dude. The references within the posts (“above” and “below” are still written as if this is one long post. Phase II is here, Phase III here.
If you’re interested enough to read all this, I suggest printing out the three separate posts, since there are dozens of cross-references.
Unless this is your first time on this site, you’ll know that I’m all about primary sources. In the case of the Reynolds affair, no one seems to have made all the relevant documents available in one place. I’ve included in these three posts excerpts from all the documents I’ve been able to find, in chronological order, with links to the full documents. They include the 52 appendices from Hamilton’s Reynolds Pamphlet (published as Observations on Certain Documents Contained in No. V & VI of “The History of the United States for the Year 1796,” In Which the Charge of Speculation Against Alexander Hamilton, Late Secretary of the Treasury, is Fully Refuted. Written by Himself – here on Founders Archives, here as a PDF), plus the documents printed by Callender in History of the United States for 1796 and a number of other documents from the Founders Archives. (My particular favorite is No. 42, by Gelston: it gives such a vivid picture of Hamilton and Monroe getting infuriated with each other.) And of course, at the end of Phase III, I’ve included an outline of Hamilton’s Reynolds Pamphlet, with excerpts.
Many details of the Reynolds affair are disputed. One Jefferson scholar, for example, goes so far as to state that Hamilton forged all the documents regarding his “amorous connection” just to clear himself from charges of speculation. (Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson [Princeton, 1950 -], cited in the Founders Archives.) I’m going to give you my interpretation up front. If events did not happen this way, then quite a number of documents had to be fabricated (sworn statements as well as letters from Maria and James), involving half a dozen people over several years. And you know what they say about a secret. See if you agree as you read through the documents.
- I think events happened more or less as Hamilton said: that James and Maria Reynolds picked Hamilton as a mark, that Maria enticed Hamilton into an affair, that her husband extorted money from Hamilton with the threat that he’d tell Eliza about the affair, and that when Reynolds got in trouble with the law, he used his receipts from Hamilton to accuse Hamilton of speculation and get himself out of jail. Hamilton doesn’t get a free pass because Maria set out to seduce him, but her constant invitations to have him visit her at late hours when she was alone suggests that she was the one pushing the relationship. (Nos. 8, 9, 12, 19.)
- I think Hamilton published the Reynolds Pamphlet because James Monroe refused to retract notes he wrote in January 1793 (No. 33 below). That explains why Hamilton begins the Reynolds Pamphlet with a rant about Jacobin (i.e., Republican) liars, and why 16 of the 52 documents attached to the Reynolds Pamphlet (including the final seven) deal with Hamilton’s attempts to get Monroe to clarify or recant his 1792-1793 statements. Based on his other writings, Hamilton really did believe that he could “overwhelm them with honesty” – that if he just explained the situation clearly enough, everyone would know that he had committed adultery and paid blackmail, but had not been dishonorable enough to speculate with government money. The Reynolds Affair (as opposed to Hamilton’s affair with Maria) is as much a Federalist-Republican political quarrel as a matter of Hamilton’s personal honor. Incidentally, I think Miranda nailed the vindictiveness and glee of Hamilton’s opponents in Hamilton: An American Musical (“The Adams Administration”).
Chronology of the Reynolds Affair
Phase I: The affair and the blackmail, 1791-1792
- 1790, January 9: Hamilton submits to Congress the First Report on Public Credit, re paying off U.S. debts and funding the ongoing operation of the government
- 1790, August: Congress passes the debt and funding programs, including assumption of states’ debts (in return for shifting the U.S. capital from New York to Philadelphia and then to the future site of Washington, D.C.)
- 1790, December 13: Hamilton submits to Congress the Report on a National Bank
- 1790-1792: Ongoing disputes with Jefferson over relations with the French
- 1791, January 28: Hamilton submits to Congress the Report on the Establishment of a Mint
- 1791, February 23: Hamilton submits to Washington An Opinion on the Contitutionality of an Act to Establish a Bank
- 1791, July: Stock of the Bank of the United States sells out within a few hours of going on sale
- 1791 July: Maria Reynolds introduces herself to Alexander Hamilton; they begin an affair
- 1791, December 5: Hamilton submits to Congress the Report on the Subject of Manufactures, the final major step in his financial program
- 1791, Dec. 15: Maria’s husband, James Reynolds, begins to blackmail Hamilton; requests for “loans” continue through August 1792. (Nos. 1-22 below)
- 1791 or 1792: James Reynolds and Jacob Clingman illegally acquire from a source in the Treasury Department a list of veterans to whom the government owes money. They begin fraudulent attempts to collect the money.
- 1792, March-April: William Duer’s attempt to corner the market on 6% government bonds results in the Panic of 1792. (Duer had resigned from his post as assistant secretary of the Treasury in April 1790.)
Phase II: Reynolds accuses Hamilton of speculation, late 1792
- 1792, November: Reynolds and Jacob Clingman are arrested on orders of Oliver Wolcott, Jr., accused of scamming the U.S. government. The two had persuaded someone to perjure himself so that they could collect the back pay of a deceased war vet … who turned out to be very much alive. (Nos. 23-26 below)
- 1792, early December: Reynolds tells Frederick Muhlenberg, a Republican and the speaker of the House of Representatives, that he has information that will “hang” Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton. Muhlenberg tells fellow Republicans and Virginians Senator James Monroe and Representative Abraham B. Venable. (No. 27)
- 1792, Dec. 13: Clingman states for the record that he saw Hamilton several times at the Reynolds home; also that Reynolds said Hamilton gave him $1,100, and would give him more whenever Reynolds asked (No. 26). Monroe and Venable interview Reynolds, who says he can give information on the misconduct of “a person high in office” – but he goes into hiding as soon as he’s released (No. 28). Monroe and Venable interview Maria; she says the affair was a cover-up for speculation (No. 29A). Reynolds writes to Clingman that Hamilton has promised him money to flee (No. 29B).
- 1792, Dec. 15: Muhlenberg, Monroe, and Venable interview Hamilton, who has invited Oliver Wolcott, comptroller at Treasury, to attend. MM&V show Hamilton papers they’ve received from Reynolds indicating money given to him by Hamilton (No. 22B). Hamilton explains that the payments were blackmail over his affair with Maria. Muhlenberg, Monroe and Venable are satisfied enough to let the matter drop (Nos. 30 and 43 below).
- 1792 Dec. 18: Hamilton requests a copy of the documents that Muhlenberg showed him (No. 31A); Muhlenberg agrees, noting that Monroe has all the documents (No. 31B and 32). The documents are copied, and Monroe packs up the original documents and sends them to a “friend in Virginia” (No. 42), probably Thomas Jefferson.
- 1793 (Dec.) to 1794 (April): At the instigation of William Branch Giles of Virginia, Congress investigates Hamilton’s actions as secretary of the Treasury, and clears him of all charges
- 1795, January 31: Hamilton resigns as secretary of the Treasury; Oliver Wolcott, Jr., succeeds him
Phase III: Callender accuses Hamilton of speculation and Hamilton replies, 1797
- 1797, June and July: Publication of Part V of Callender’s History of the United States for the Year 1796 (No. 34 below), accusing Hamilton of being a speculator (based on Reynolds’s and Clingman’s statements, Nos. 24-26) and an ingrate (because Monroe had let him off, but Hamilton and the Federalists had criticized Monroe’s actions in France).
- 1797, July 5: Hamilton asks Monroe, Muhlenberg and Venable to confirm that they were satisfied with the explanation given in December 1792 (No. 36)
- 1797, July 9 and July 10: Venable tells Hamilton he had been satisfied with Hamilton’s explanation, and had no copies of the documents, so was no responsible for their publication (No. 38).
- 1797, July 10: Muhlenberg tells Hamilton he was satisfied, and had no copies of the documents (No. 39).
- 1797, July 10: Hamilton, unsatisfied with Monroe’s reply, asks him to meet and “bring with him a friend” (i.e., We’ll duel if it comes to that; Nos. 40-41). They have a heated discussion on 7/11/1797 (No. 42). Talk of a duel doesn’t die out until December 1797 (No. 48, which includes links to 15 letters).
- 1797, July 13-Aug. 2: Hamilton collects facts for his reply (Nos. 45, 49-52).
- 1797, July 25: An advertisement in a Philadelphia paper promises Hamilton’s version of the Reynolds affair.
- 1797, August 25: publication of Observations on Certain Documents Contained in No. V & VI of “The History of the United States for the Year 1796,” In Which the Charge of Speculation Against Alexander Hamilton, Late Secretary of the Treasury, is Fully Refuted. Written by Himself, a.k.a. The Reynolds Pamphlet: hereon the Founders Archives. here as a PDF
Phase I: The affair and the blackmail, 1791-1792
Here’s what we know about the Reynoldses. In 1783, James Reynolds married Maria Reynolds (b. 1768), who was nine years younger than Hamilton. The Reynolds’ daughter Susan was born in 1785. In early 1790, Hamilton presented his First Report on Public Credit and Congress (sitting in New York City) began to debate it. (See here.) It soon became clear to interested observers that the government would indeed pay off its Revolutionary War IOUs. Reynolds was hired by a New York City merchant to travel to the far reaches of Virginia and North Carolina, where he was to buy up IOUs at low prices before the veterans there learned the IOUs would be paid in full. By 1791, the Reynoldses were living in Philadelphia, the new home of the federal government. (For these details on the Reynoldses, see the Founders’ Archives introductory note to a 7/3/1797 letter by Oliver Wolcott, Jr.) James Reynolds makes a bad impression: “I verily believed him to be a rascal,” says Muhlenberg soon after meeting him (No. 27 below). According to Folwell (No. 51 below), Reynolds had been in jail in 1791, not long before Maria asked for Hamilton’s help.
Hamilton moved to Philadelphia with the government in late 1790. He lived near the Treasury Department with Eliza and their four children, ages two to eight, on a salary of $3,500 per year. (Unlike Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, he had no other source of income: he had closed his law practice when he accepted the cabinet post.) As one of President Washington’s three cabinet members, Hamilton was a prominent figure. It must have been obvious that his family was important to him and that he loved his wife, whose wealthy family also brought him political connections. Philadelphia was a small city at this point, and Reynolds could undoubtedly have found a lot of people to talk to about vulnerabilities of Hamilton and other potential marks. Alexander and Eliza were already known for their kindness to children and strangers.
A resident of Philadelphia stated in 1797 that Maria told him Reynolds wanted her to “insinuate herself on certain high and influential Characters, – endeavour to make Assignations with them, and actually prostitute herself to gull Money from them.” (See No. 51 below.) Twenty-three-year-old Maria Reynolds met Hamilton in the summer of 1791, according to The Reynolds Pamphlet (heading II in outline, in the Phase III post). Hamilton says she came to his house to tell him that her husband had left her destitute, and to beg for money to return to her friends in New York. He also says it was “quickly apparent that other than pecuniary consolation would be acceptable.” Hamilton fell for the poor helpless female. By the end of the year, Hamilton and Maria were having an affair. The hook was set: time to start reeling him in.
1. Maria Reynolds to Alexander Hamilton, 12/15/1791
This is the whole of the first letter to Hamilton from Maria that survives: a fascinating read if you can handle the lack of punctuation. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix I:
I have not tim to tell you the cause of my present troubles only that Mr. has rote to you this morning and I know not wether you have got the letter or not and he has swore that If you do not answer It or If he dose not se or hear from you to day he will write Mrs. Hamilton he has just Gone oute and I am a Lone I think you had better come here one moment that you May know the Cause then you will the better know how to act Oh my God I feel more for you than myself and wish I had never been born to give you so mutch unhappisness do not rite to him no not a Line but come here soon do not send or leave any thing in his power
2. James Reynolds to Alexander Hamilton, 12/15/1791
The same day as Maria sent the letter above, Reynolds wrote to Hamilton. He uses Hamilton’s language, the language of a gentleman (“I am determined to have satisfaction”), and he plays on Hamilton’s known weakness, portraying Maria as a helpless young female whose betrayal is all Hamilton’s fault. Behind that is the threat: I know where you live, and I’ll tell your wife what you’ve been doing. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix II:
I am very sorry to find out that I have been so Cruelly treated by a person that I took to be my best friend instead of that my greatest Enimy. You have deprived me of every thing thats near and dear to me, I discovred whenever I Came into the house. after being out I found Mrs Reynolds weeping I ask’d her the Cause of being so unhappy. She always told me that she had bin Reding. and she could not help Crying when she Red any thing that was Afecting. but seing her Repeatedly in that Setevation gave me some suspicion to think that was not the Cause, as fortain would have it. before matters was Carred to two great a length. I discovered a letter directed to you which I copied of and put it in the place where I found it. without being discovered by Her. and then the evining after. I was Curious anough to watch her. and see give a letter to a Black man in Markett Street. which I followed Him to your door. after that I Returned home some time in the evening, and I broutched the Matter to her and Red the Coppy to her which she fell upon her knees and asked forgiveness and discovered every thing to me Respecting the matter And ses that she was unhappy. and not knowing what to do without some assistance. She Called on you for the lone of some money. which you toald her you would Call on her the Next Evening. which accordingly you did. and there Sir you took the advantage a poor Broken harted woman. instead of being a Friend. you have acted the part of the most Cruelist man in existance. you have made a whole family miserable. She ses there is no other man that she Care for in this world. now Sir you have bin the Cause of Cooling her affections for me. She was a woman. I should as soon sespect an angiel from heven. and one where all my happiness was depending. and I would Sacrefise almost my life to make her Happy. but now I am determed to have satisfation. it shant be onely one [f]amily thats miserable. for I am Robbed of all happiness in this world I am determed to leve her. and take my daughter with me that She shant see her poor mother Lot. now Sir if I Cant see you at your house call and see me. for there is no person that Knowes any thing as yet. And I am tiremd to see you, by some Means or other. for you have made me an unhappy man for eve. put it to your own case and Reflect one Moment. that you should know shush a thing of your wife. would not you have satisfaction yes. and so will I before one day passes me more.
I am yours
James Reynolds. (Here)
3. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 12/17/1791
This one was written two days later. Reynolds uses language of gentlemen again (honor, satisfaction) and appeals to Hamilton as a “father and protector” – a subtle reminder that Eliza doesn’t know … yet. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix III:
I now have taken till tuesday morning to Consider on What Steps will be Best for me to take. … Respecting the matter it will be imposible for me ever to think of liveing or Reconsiling myself to Stay with a woman that I no has plased her affections on you. and you know if you Reflect one moment. that you have been the sole Cause of it. I have all Reason in the world to believe its true. I am that man that will always have Satisfaction by some means or other when treated ill. …
And its all on your account. for if you had not seekd for her Ruin it would not have happined. Could you not have Relieved the disstressed without. transgreessing in the mannor as you have done. Sertainly you did not show the man of honnor. in taking the advantage of the afflicted, when Calling on you as a father and protector in the time of disstress. … I wish to be by ourselfs where we Can converse together. for if you do not Call on me or let me no where I Can see. you at that time. I shant call on you after this. … (More here)
4. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 12/19/1791
Two days later, Reynolds switches from “I’ll tell your wife” to “I’ll take $1,000 to leave you two alone.” (Remember that Hamilton’s annual salary is $3,500: this is a very large sum.) Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix IV:
When we where last togeather you then would wis to know my Determination what I would do and. you exspess a wish to do any thing that was in your power to Serve me, its true its in your power to do a great deal for me, but its out of your power to do any thing that will Restore me to my Happiness again for if you should give me all you possess would not do it. god knowes I love the woman and wish every blessing may attend her, you have bin the Cause of Winning her love. and I Dont think I Can be Reconsiled to live with Her. when I know I hant her love. now Sir I have Considered on the matter Serously. I have This preposial to make to you. give me the Sum Of thousand dollars and I will leve the town and take my daughter with me and go where my Friends Shant here from me and leve her to Yourself to do for as you thin[k] proper. I hope you wont think my Request is in a vew of making Me Satisfaction for the injury done me. for there is nothing that you Can do will Compensate for it. your answer I shall expect This evening or in the morning early, as I am Determened to wate no longer till. I know my lot (More here)
5. James Reynolds to Alexander Hamilton, 12/22/1791
Three days later (Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix V):
Received December 22 of Alexander Hamilton six hundred dollars on account of a sum of one thousand dollars due to me. (Here)
6. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 1/3/1792
And eleven days after that (Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix VI):
Received Philadelphia January 3. 179 of Alexander Hamilton four hundred dollars in full of all demands (Here)
7. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 1/17/1792
Two weeks after the “final” payment, Reynolds is “reconciled” to living with Maria and having her see Hamilton, “as a friend.” And, by the way … you could give me a job. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix VII:
I Suppose you will be surprised in my writing to you Repeatedly as I do. but dont be Alarmed for its Mrs. R. wish to See you. and for My own happiness and hers. I have not the Least Objections to your Calling. as a friend to Boath of us. and must Rely intirely on your and her honnor. when I conversed with you last. I told you it would be disagreeable to me for you to Call, but Sence, I am pritty well Convinsed, She would onely wish to See you as a friend. and sence I am Reconsiled to live with her, I would wish to do [e]very thing for her happiness and my own, and Time may ware of every thing, So dont fail in Calling as Soon as you Can make it Conveanant. and I Rely on your befriending me if there should any thing Offer that would be to my advantage. as you Express a wish to befrind me. (More here)
8. Maria Reynolds to Hamilton, sometime between January 23 and March 18, 1792
The next three letters are undated; Hamilton puts them in this period and in this order. Maria, who has been playing the poor helpless female from the beginning of their relationship, says she’s so miserable that she may not be able to resist committing suicide if Hamilton doesn’t come visit. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix VIII:
I need not acquaint that I had Been Sick all moast Ever sence I saw you as I am sure you allready no It Nor would I solicit a favor wich Is so hard to obtain were It not for the Last time Yes Sir Rest assuirred I will never ask you to Call on me again I have kept my Bed those tow dayes and now rise from My pillow wich your Neglect has filled with the sharpest thorns I no Longer doubt what I have Dreaded to no but stop I do not wish to se you to to say any thing about my Late disappointments No I only do it to Ease a heart wich is ready Burst with Greef I can neither Eate or sleep I have Been on the point of doing the moast horrid acts at I shuder to think where I might been what will Become of me. In vain I try to Call reason to aide me but alas ther Is no Comfort for me I feel as If I should not Contennue long and all the wish I have Is to se you once more that I may my doupts Cleared up for God sake be not so voed of all humannity as to deni me this Last request but if you will not Call some time this night I no its late but any tim between this and twelve A Clock I shall be up Let me Intreat you If you wont Come to send me a Line oh my head I can rite no more do something to Ease My heart or Els I no not what I shall do for so I cannot live … (More here)
“My pillow which your neglect has filled with the sharpest thorns” – now there’s a vivid image. It occurred to me at this point that what she says is more like histrionics than hysterics. It would be very interesting to read contemporary novels and dramas for similar passages.
9. Maria Reynolds to Hamilton, sometime between January 23 and March 18, 1792
And also: my only fault was loving you. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix IX:
I have kept my bed those tow days past but find myself mutch better at presant though yet full distreesed and shall till I se you fretting was the Cause of my Illness I thought you had been told to stay away from our house and yesterday with tears I my Eyes I beged Mr. once more to permit your visits and he told upon his honnour that he had not said anything to you and that It was your own fault believe me I scarce knew how to beleeve my senses and if my seturation was insupportable before I heard this It was now more so fear prevents my saing more only that I shal be misarable till I se you and if my dear freend has the Least Esteeme for the unhappy Maria whos grateest fault is Loveing him he will come as soon as he shall get this and till that time My breast will be the seate of pain and woe. …
P S. If you cannot come this Eveneng to stay just come only for one moment as I shal be Lone Mr. is going to sup with a friend from New-York. (More here)
10. Maria Reynolds to Hamilton, sometime between January 23 and March 18, 1792
Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix X:
[A]las my friend want what what can ask for but peace wich you alone can restore to my tortured bosom and do My dear Col hamilton on my kneese Let me Intreatee you to reade my Letter and Comply with my request tell the bearer of this or give her a line you need not be the least affraid let me not die with fear have pity on me my freend for I deserve it I would not solicit this favor but I am sure It cannot injure you and will be all the happiness I Ever Exspect to have But oh I am disstressed more than I can tell My heart Is ready to burst and my tears wich once could flow with Ease are now denied me … [More here]
11. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 3/24/1792
In late March, Reynolds wrote to Hamilton again. He refers to families and to loving wives – a reminder that Eliza could be told of this affair. He hints that Hamilton has it in his power to make everyone happy, including poor little Maria. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XI:
On my entering the Room the last evening. I found Mrs Reynolds in a setuvation little different from distraction and for some time could not prevail on her to tell me the Cause. at last She informed me that you had been here likewise of a letter she had wrote you in a fright. which she need not have don as I Never intended doing any thing I told her but did it to humble Her. for the imprudent languge she made youse of to me. and You may Rest ashured sir. that I have not a wish to do any thing that may give you or your family a moments pain I know not what you may think of me. but suppose yourself for a moment in my setuvation. that your wife whom you tenderly love. should plase her affections on another object and here her say. that all her happiness depends intirely on that object. what would you do in such a Case. would you have acted as I have don. I have Consented to things which I thought I never could have don. but I have dun it to make life tolerable. and for the sake of a person whose happiness is dearer to me than my own. I have another afliction aded to the Rest that is almost insupportable. I find when ever you have been with her. she is Chearful and kind. but when you have not in some time she is Quite to Reverse. and wishes to be alone by her self. but when I tell her of it. all her answer is she Cant help it. and hopes I will forgive her. shurely you Cannot wonder if I should Act ever so imprudent. though at present if I could take all her Grief upon myself I would do it with pleashure. the excess of which alarm me untill now. I have had no idea of. I have spent this day at her bed side in trying to give her the Consolation which I myself stand in need of. she also tell me. you wish to see me tomorrow evening and then I shall Convince you. that I would not wish to trifle with you And would much Rather add to the happiness of all than to disstress any … (More here)
12. Maria Reynolds to Hamilton, 3/24/1792
The same day as Reynolds sent the above letter, Maria sent another. She’s still threatening suicide. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XII:
Read this all
My dear friend
In a state of mind wich know language can paint I take up the pen but alas I know not what I write or how to give you an idea of the anguish wich at this moment rends my heart yes my friend I am doomed to drink the bitter cup of affliction Pure and unmixed but why should I repine why pour forth my wretched soul in fruitless complainings for you have said It you have commanded and I must submit heaven tow Inexorable heaven Is deaf to my anguish and has marked me out for the child of sorrow oh my dear friend wether shall I fly for consolation oh all all consolation is shut against me there is not the least gleme of hope but oh merciful God forgive me and you my friend Comply with this Last Request Let me once more se you and unbosom Myself to you perhaps I shal be happier after It I have mutch to tell wich I dare not write And wich you ought to know oh my dear Sir give me your advice for once In an affair on wich depends my Existence Itself Think not my friend that I say this to make you come and se me and that I have nothing to tell you for heaven by wich I declare knows that I have woes to relate wich I never Exspected to have known accept by the name Come therefore to-morrow sometime or Els In the Evening do I beg you to come gracious God had I the world I would lay It at your feet If I could only se you oh I must or I shall lose my senses and It is not because I think to prevail on you to visit me again no my dear Col Hamilton I do not think of It but will when I se you do just as you tell me so doant be offended with me for pleadeing so hard to se you If you do not think it proper to come here Let me know by a line where I shal se you and what hour you need not put your name to It or mine Either Just direct Mr or Els leve It blank adieu my Ever dear Col hamilton you may form to yourself an Idea of my destress for I cant desscribe It to you Pray for me and be kind to me Let me se you death now would be welcome …[More here]
13. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 4/3/1792
Ten days later, Reynolds is asking for a “loan”, and it’s clearly not the first time. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XIII:
I hope you will pardon me in taking the liberty I do In troubling you so offen. it hurts me to let you Know my Setivation. I should take it as a protickeler if you will Oblige me with the loane of about thirty Dollars. I am in hopes in a fue days I shall be In a more better Setivation. and then I shall Be able to make you ample Satisfaction for your Favours shewn me. I want it for some little Necssaries of life for my family. sir you granting the above favour this morning will very much Oblige your most Obediant and humble Servant … (More here)
14. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 4/7/1792
Four days after the above request for $30, Reynolds sent the next request. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XIV:
I am sorry to inform you my setivation is as such. I am indebted to a man in this town about 45. dollars which he will wate no longer on me. now sir I am sorrey to be troubleing you So Offen. which if you Can Oblige me with this to day. you will do me infenate service … [More here]
15. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 4/17/1792
Ten days later: Maria says she loves you and wants to leave me. I need your advice; I’ll come to your office to talk. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XV:
I am sorry to be the barer of So disagreeable. an unhappy infermation. I must tell you Sir that I have bin the most unhappiest man. for this five days in Existance … She has treated me more Cruel than pen cant paint out and Ses that She is determed never to be a wife to me any more, and Ses that it Is a plan of ours … now Sir I hope you will give me your advise as freely as if Nothing had eve passed Between us I think it is in your power to make matter all Easy again. and I suppose you to be that Man of fealling that you would wish to make every person happy Where it in you power I shall wate to See you at the Office if its Convenant. … [More here]
16. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 4/23/1792
Six days later, Reynolds was back to requesting “loans”. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XVI:
I am sorry I am in this disagreeable sutivation which Obliges me to trouble you So offen as I do. … I must Sir ask the loan of thirty dollars more from you, which I shall esteem as a particular favour … the Inclosed is the Receipt for the thirty dollars. I shall wate at your Office. … [More here]
17. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 5/2/1792
Barely a week later, Reynolds is forbidding Hamilton from seeing Maria, because Hamilton doesn’t want to be seen entering their home! Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XVII:
I must now for ever forbid you of visiting Mrs. R any more I was in hopes that it would in time ware off, but I find there is no hopes. So I determed to put a finell end to it. if it sin my power. for I find by your Seeing her onely Renews the Friendship, and likewise when you Call you are fearful any person Should See you am I a person of Such a bad Carector. that you would not wish to be seen in Coming in my house in the front way. all any Person Can say of me is that I am poore and I don’t know if that is any Crime. So I must meet my fate … I am in hopes in a short time to make you amends for your favour Rendered me … [More here]
18. Maria Reynolds to Hamilton, 6/2/1792
A month after Reynolds told Hamilton never to visit again, Maria is appealing to Hamilton to return, and hinting again that it may be the last time. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XVIII:
I once take up the pen to solicit The favor of seing again oh Col hamilton what have I done that you should thus Neglect me Is it because I am unhappy But stop I will not say you have for perhaps you have caled and have found no opportunity to Come In at least I hope you have I am now A lone and shal be for afew days I believe till Wensday though am not sartain and would wish to se you this Evening I[f] poseble If not as soon as you can make It Convenent oh my dear freend how shal I pleade Enough what shal I say Let me beg of you to Come and If you never se me again oh If you think It best I will submit to It and take a long and last adieu (More here)
19. James Reynolds to Hamilton, June 1792
In the Reynolds Pamphlet (as Appendix XIX), this request for a “loan” of $300 follows Maria’s letter of 6/2/1792.
I am now under the necessity of asking a favour from you Which if Can Oblige me with the loan of three Hundred dollars it will be in my power to make five hundred Before the Next week is out. and if you Can oblege me with it, you may rely on haveing of it again the last of Next Week. if I am alive and well. the use I wont it for is to Subscribe to the turn pike Road …[More here]
20. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 6/23/1792
Within a few weeks, Reynolds was asking for a loan of $50. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XXII:
Your Goodness will I hope overlook the present application you will infenately Oblige me if you Can let me have the Loan of fifty dollars. for a few days. what little money I had I put into the turnpike Scrip. and I dont like to sell At the low advance the[y] are selling at. at present. as its very low. if you Can Oblige me with that much in the morning sir you shall have it in a short time again and you Will very much Oblige your Humble and Obed. Serv. J. R. (More here)
21. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 8/24/1792
Two months later: I’ve just bought a house, and if I furnish it I can rent the rooms to boarders, and why don’t you lend me $200? Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XXI:
When I Conversed with you last I mentioned that I was going to moove. Sence that I have mooved I have taken a very convenant house for a boarding house. but being disappointed in receiving Some money. put it intirely out of my power to furnish the house I have taken. I have four genteal boarders will come to live with me, as soon as I Can get the Rooms furnished. dear Sir, this is my Setuvation. I am in no way of business. the Cash last lent me inable me to pay my Rent. and some little debts I had Contracted for my Familys youse. now sir if I Can ask a favour once more of the loan of two Hundred dollars. I will give you Surity of all I process. for the payment of what I owe you. without your assistance. this time dont know what I shall do. Mrs. Reynolds and myself has made a Calculation. and find with that much money will inable us to take in four boarders. and I am in hopes in the mean time will. something will turn up in my favour. which will enable me to keep myself and famy. dear Sir your Complying with the above will for ever, lay me under the greatist Obligation to you and I will, you may Rest ashured. Repay it again as soon as it is in my power … [More here]
22A. James Reynolds to Hamilton, 8/30/1792
This one is probably a follow-up to the request above for $200. Reynolds Pamphlet, Appendix XXII:
you will I hope pardon me if I intrude on your goodness thinking the multiplycity of business. you have to encounter With. has been the cause of my not hereing from you. which induces me to write the Second time. flatering myself it will be in your Power to Comply with my Request. which I shall make it my whole Study to Remit it to you as soon as its in my power your Compyance dear Sir will very much Oblige your most Obed. and Humble Servant… [More here]
22B. Hamilton to James Reynolds, undated, 1792
Callender’s History of the United States for 1796 quotes the following five notes from Hamilton to Reynolds.
i. This one was in a disguised handwriting that Hamilton admitted was his:
To-morrow what is requested will be done. Twill hardly be possible to day. [Quoted here, printed p. 218, p. 233 of the PDF]
ii. Also without date, and in a disguised handwriting similar to the previous item. Callender speculates it must have been written in June 1792:
It is utterly out of my power I assure you, pon my honour, to comply with your request. Your note is returned. [Quoted here, printed p. 219, p. 234 of the PDF]
iii. Another without date, in a disguised handwriting similar to the above:
Inclosed are fifty dollars. They could not be sent sooner. [Quoted here, printed p. 220, p. 235 of the PDF]
iv. Without addressee, date or signature, but in Hamilton’s hand:
I expected to have heared the day after I had the pleasure of seeing you. [Quoted here, printed p. 220, p. 235 of the PDF]
v. Addressed to Reynolds, dated “Monday,” in a disguised hand:
The person Mr. Reynolds enquired for on Friday, waited for him all the evening, at his house, from a little after seven – Mr. R. may see him at any time to-day, or to-morrow, between the hours of two and three. [Quoted here, printed p. 220, p. 235 of the PDF]
You will not believe the implications Callender pulls from these notes … see Phase III (No. 34.E below).
- I occasionally add comments based on these blog posts to the Genius.com pages on the Hamilton Musical. Follow me @DianneDurante.
- The usual disclaimer: This is the sixty-second in a series of posts on Hamilton: An American Musical. My intro to this series is here. Other posts are available via the tag cloud at lower right. The ongoing “index” to these posts is my Kindle book, Alexander Hamilton: A Brief Biography. Bottom line: these are unofficial musings, and you do not need them to enjoy the musical or the soundtrack.
- Keep in touch! Members of my email list get a weekly message with four recommendations in fields such as sculpture, painting, literature, nonfiction, movies, architecture, and decorative arts. To be added, send your email to DuranteDianne@gmail.com. You can also sign up for the RSS feed of this blog, follow me on Twitter @NYCsculpture, or friend the Forgotten Delights page on Facebook.