“The Reynolds Pamphlet”

You wouldn’t immediately guess at the titillating details from the publication’s official title: “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.”  But in addition to attacking his attackers as partisan hacks and defending his government service, Hamilton spared few details in admitting his affair with Mariah Reynolds to explain his payments to John Reynolds were hush money, not a slush fund to speculate with on Hamilton’s behalf.

In the end, Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow writes, “Hamilton’s strategy [with the Reynolds Pamphlet] was simple: he was prepared to sacrifice his private reputation to preserve his public honor.” Despite his hopes to save his reputation with his honesty, the damage to his political career was immediate and is likely a key reason Alexander Hamilton never ran for president.

One interesting musical theme in this song that I hadn’t noticed but the commenters at Genius.com did: “The bass line in this song is the same from Washington’s introduction in ‘Right Hand Man’ when he asked for assistance, just extra slow and angry. That song gave us Hamilton’s entrance into political relevancy and greatness, and here we see his fall.” (I relistened and it’s true; turns out those Geniuses are smart.) Give a listen.


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