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The scorching summer heat washed over Philadelphia, a city still developing only ten years after having won independence from Great Britain. Political debates took place for hours at a time, the government was being revised and the Treasury Secretary under Washington was overworking himself as per the norm. His troubled wife had begged him to abandon his work for the summer, and to join her at her father’s estate. But, it seems the dear Alexander Hamilton was far too dedicated to supporting and establishing the new United States Constitution to break away. Night after night he remained sleepless, overworking himself as his attention focused upon the eighty-five essays he would construct. As the days past, Alexander found himself missing his family, his wife especially. Loneliness and desire would consume the man until the day I came to his doorstep.
I peered at the other, mustering up the courage to speak. I couldn’t help but be overcome with anxiety. It felt as if I was being watched, paranoia now filling my very being. What if I was being monitored by someone in cahoots with my husband. Oh, what pain he’d inflict upon me if he was informed that I am seeking divorce. James wouldn’t allow me to leave so easily, I had been in his imprisonment for eight years. I endured every form of torment he indulged in, never attempting escape. But, what more could I do? I simply couldn’t take the abuse any further, I needed to ensure that Susan and I were safe. Before me stood Alexander Hamilton, the Treasury Secretary under General Washington and a supposed excellent lawyer. “Mr. Hamilton, sir, I do not wish to be a bother. I know you are occupied with you work and, to bother you would be an unkind thing to do. Albeit, I am afraid Mister has abandoned me, left me without the means to go on. You are a man of honor, sir, can you help me?”
I searched his face for some sort of reaction to my plea, feeling tears swell in my eyes as time passed. How could he reject me in this time of need? Couldn’t he see that I was entirely helpless? Moments pass before he welcomed me into his home, taking his attention away from his previous work. Quietly, as obedient as ever, I followed Alexander to a side room away from his family. Bookshelves lined the walls, full of literature of all sizes. Crumpled up papers littered the floor, rough drafts being abandoned for whatever was current lying upon his writing table. I turned my attention to the man, watching him shut the door before sitting across from me We wasted no time getting into the matter at hand. “Do tell me, Mrs. Reynolds, when did your husband leave?”
I paused, taking a moment to think about when James could have left the home. “I suppose some time this morning before I awoke, or last night while I lay caught in slumber.”
“Have you any idea as to where he may have gone?”
“I haven’t the slightest, unfortunately.”
A sigh emits from the man, sliding past parted lips before he speaks. “You have stated that he left you without the means to go on. Has he done this before?”
How was I to answer that question? It was a sensitive topic and one with far too much to tell in my case. “He has left before, but he has always come home within a timely manner. I cannot say that Mister is the kindest of men, sir. I finds such joy in inflicting pain upon me, it is horrid. I feel imprisoned within my own home, his torment has gone on for far too long. I am well aware of how difficult procuring a divorce is, but I am more than willing to take that risk.” Perhaps, skin covered with bruises and scars would be cognet regarding his decision to help.
I needed a lawyer to make this dream of having my divorce go through. It was so tricky to ensure that it would, seeing as how it wasn’t entirely legal yet. I needed someone who was going to help Susan and I to safety, someone who could provide monetary aid. Hopefully, this man was to be that savior I desired. “Unfortunately, Mrs. Reynolds, I am without the funds to provide with at the moment. I can collect money and return to your abode come nightfall.”
The suggestion seemed logical enough, and I was quick to agree to the terms. I gave him the address to the boarding house in which I currently resided. It was nothing compared to the grand estate he lived in, but it was home for the time being. We said our goodbyes, parting ways with a plan in place. I couldn’t help but be overly giddy at the thought of finally leaving my husband. As hours passed, I awaited Alexander’s arrival.
Come nightfall, Alexander made his trek to the boarding house, money in pocket with the intention of handing it over. I was positively ecstatic to see him, quickly inviting him inside. Wishing to seek a more private conversing area, I led the man to my bedroom. Even within the home, I truly couldn’t risk anyone else finding out such was happening before we even had a chance go through with it. I found comfort upon my bed, now sitting upon the mattress as money was handed over. It was quite a hefty sum, coming to about $30. I had never seen so much money in my life, and here was willingly handing it over. Truly, Mr. Hamilton was an honorable man. I was eternally grateful, providing plentiful gratitude before indulging in discussion.
“Mrs. Reynolds, I understand that you are in a difficult spot. But, my services cannot come for free. I can only help you so much, but payment is essential.”
That certainly was a problem, one that shattered my idea of a happy divorce. I began making promises I couldn’t keep, wishing to keep his help. “I can assure you, sir, I will be quick to pay you as soon as I can receive some source of income. I will not leave you without payment, your kindness will be repaid in full.”
Alexander was silent for a moment or two, expression changing as he drummed up a plan. Though, I was hardly expecting his suggestion. “Perhaps, Mrs. Reynolds, other than pecuniary consolation would acceptable.”
I was left in shock, having not expected my lawyer to speak in such a way. Was he not an honorable man? A man of faithfulness and family shouldn’t speak in such a way. But, it would be a fine form of payment for his services. It isn’t asi if James hasn’t forced me into such work before. Whenever we were low on funds, James would end up forcing both Susan and I into prostitution. Although never sent to a brothel, nor never considered proper harlots, but the act of coitus for money still took place behind locked doors. Although, the suggestion of adultery was unexpected, I didn’t hinder my didn’t agreement to the terms. Truth be told, I had grown fond of Alexander during the short hours we spent together. Never had another man been so kind to me, I honestly began to fall for the man.
That day began our illicit affair that would transpire over the period of a year, though it was far from secretive. It wasn’t long before word had gotten back to my husband, and he was quick to return home. He was now well aware of my unfaithfulness and with whom it took place. But, his acquisitiveness got the best of him, and he allowed the affair to continue. He ignored the custom that was for the wronged husband was to seek retribution with a duel. He was a con artist in the making, knowing just how much Alexander had to lose if his sinful acts became public knowledge. Instead, James would demand monetary compensation.
Alexander and I continued to see each other as often as possible, my love for him only growing. Come autumn of 1791, his letter addressed to James arrived. Within it was a request to end the affair, having felt guilt for indulging in adultery. But, how could we end it now? I was yet to receive my initial desire of a divorce. How could my newfound love leave me helpless yet again?
Months passed and December came, bringing two letters in its wake. Both would arrive to the Hamilton household, requesting immediate response. One from myself and one from James, both speaking of similar subjects. I warned my dearest that my husband knew of the affair and what he wished to do about it. I spoke of the blackmail James had threatened to ensue and what Alexander should expect. James’ letter was far different from my, it held more spite and malicious intentions. Within the letter was his threat to tell Alexander’s wife of the affair if he didn’t pay him.
James always was a con artist, getting whatever he wanted by using his wits. Blackmailing important people to receive their money was far from unusual. In our eight years of marriage, I had seen it done two other times. Alexander had the misfortune of being the next victim in James’ scheme. But, I simply couldn’t stay away. I need to see Alexander again, I needed to feel happy once more. It had become more than obvious, I was lovestruck.
Alexander was the sun, and I was Icarus; destined to fall for him. I wrote a letter as quickly as I could, begging him to take me back. I feel for him more than myself, and I would rather die than cause him any pain. I was lucky enough to be invited back, with intentions of the affair continuing. And so, it did. Off and on for the span of a year, until May 2nd of 1792, Alexander and I were together once more. It seemed as if nothing could ever bring me down again. That’s when James decided to end it once and for all.
He collected his final amount of money from Alexander, now coming to a total of over $1300 paid for this illicit act to transpire. It was all over, I could no longer solicit Alexander’s help. Yet, I was still stuck within my prison of a marriage. Nothing had changed, all I had gotten was a brief break from my horrible life. I was trapped, James having took the money Alexander gave. He wasted it on harlots of every sort, cheap whiskey and anything he could acquire to smoke. As funds began to dip again, his anger spiked. I was back into the cycle of being a punching bag for my husband. Maybe I was destined to never escape.
Only seven months had passed since my relations with Alexander ended, though it felt like an eternity. But I was alone now, with a daughter to care for and no money to use. James was gone yet again, having been sent to jail on charges of participation in a scheme involving unpaid back wages. All was quiet and calm without him there, but even in prison he found a way to ruin my life. James used his knowledge of the affair to bargain his way out, knowing that Alexander would have to choose between two reputation killing things. He’d have to choose between revealing the information of our affair or falsely admitting complicity to the charges. Either way, his reputation he worked so very hard to build would be tarnished. It wasn’t long before word spread that Alexander had been accused of embezzling money from the American government.
All was seemingly calm, there was no harassment or words spoken about what had transpired. This all halted not long after accusations were published in the paper. On August 25th, I was faced with was seemed like a horror novel. There it was, just staring back at me from the pages of the paper. Alexander had decided to combat any and all accusations about him with the truth. Little did he know, this would ruin both of our lives. He publish a ninety-five page pamphlet entitled “Observations On Certain Documents.” It was a tell-all collection of all that had happened.
Alexander denied all claims of corruption and provided his own proof. He spoke of every encounter we had, every letter that was exchanged. He let the whole world know the truth, in order to defend a reputation he had made. I was painted as a villain, himself the victim. I felt my chest tighten, my heart aching as I read every word. It became evident that he never truly loved me, and I had allowed lust to cloud my judgement. Never should anyone have to feel such betrayal from a supposed loving man.
His candor was admired, but he ruined his own life with such honesty. Things were far worse on my end. I couldn’t walk the streets without being stared at, or having insolent comments thrown my way. What ever had I done to deserve such treatment? All I wanted was a lawyer to help ensure my divorce would go through, I never wanted to hurt anybody. My focus would return to Susan in the months following, wishing for her to experience no backlash. I was quick to try again, now soliciting the help of one Aaron Burr.
He was an acquaintance of Alexander, and the second best lawyer in all of Philadelphia. As I approached his doorstep, I felt fear fill me once more. God, how I hoped he wouldn’t turn me down in this time of need. After all that had happened, I couldn’t take anymore rejection. I knocked upon the wood, took a step back and awaited an answer. Moments based before the door opens, and I come face to face with the man who would change my life.