During the winter of 1792-93, Congress was investigating financial dealings of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury.
Hamilton had made secret payments to James Reynolds, a convicted swindler whose release
from prison had been allowed by the Treasury Department. Hamilton was forced to admit to
members of Congress that he had made the payments, but characterized them as bribes to
prevent public disclosure of adultery Hamilton had committed with Reynold's wife, Maria.
Those encounters occurred in Reynold's bed while he was away and in Hamilton's bed while
his wife was away.
Paying for Reynolds' silence was only part of the cover-up. Hamilton had Mrs. Reynolds burn incriminating correspondence and promised to pay for the Reynolds' travel costs if they would get out of town. When the members of Congress, including future president James Monroe, heard the confession, they decided the matter was private, not public, and no impeachable offense had occurred. They conspired with Hamilton and among themselves to keep it all a secret. President Washington, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson (who hated Hamilton) and House minority leader James Madison were all aware of the confession but did not make it public.
In 1797, a disgruntled former clerk of the House leaked the story to a muckraking journalist, and the whole nation heard about it. What was the result? In 1798, then-President Adams and former President Washington nominated Hamilton to be inspector general of the new U.S. Army, second in command to Washington himself. The other founding fathers still remained their respectful silence, and Hamilton was confirmed by the Senate.
Note: Some historians believe that Alexander Hamilton fabricated the affair and bribes to cover-up his illegal activities of selling insider information to a select number of friends. A sex scandal was easier to cover-up than a national banking scandal.
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