Me? I Loved Him

Me? I loved him. Four simple words spoken by three women. One who married him. One who wrote him. One who saw him at night. This is the story of these women: Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler-Church, and Mary/Maria Reynolds.

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2. The One He Saw At Night- Maria Lewis/Reynolds/Clemont/Mathews

 

 

Maria’s life wasn’t as well as Elizabeth’s.

Maria Lewis was born on March 30, 1768 to Richard Lewis and Susanna Van Der Burgh. She had five siblings and a half brother. Only two of her five siblings survived to adulthood.

The Lewis’ were not well off. Maria’s father was a merchant and a laborer who couldn’t even sign his own name on a sheet of parchment. Her mother, however, could write her name. Therefore, Maria had very poor education, but she was literate enough to write a letter (with some punctuation and grammar mistakes, as identified in her later letters).

Maria was just one of six mouths to feed. She mainly had to fend for herself, getting as much of a meal as she could get. Her childhood was cut short.

On July 28, 1783, at only the age of fifteen, she married James Reynolds. Reynolds had served in the Revolutionary War in the commissary department and was several years older than young Maria. They had one child, a daughter named Susan born three years later.

Soon the love she had initially felt for James had grown into fear. It is unclear whether or not he was truly abusive to her or not, but she panicked. Maria was terrified harm would come to her daughter, who she loved more than anything in this life.

So Maria, twenty-three, appeared on Alexander Hamilton’s doorstep. She bit her lip nervously, fighting back tears as the treasury secretary of the U.S. opened his door. “May I help you?”

“Sir, I’m sorry to approach you at your home when you must be so busy!” She began her monologue, her heart beating in her chest. “My husband, an abusive and wicked man, had abandoned me! Please sir, you are a man of honor, please help me!”

Due to Alexander’s political office, he could get her a new home and money to start new. As they reached the boarding house Maria was using, she quickly ushered him into her bedroom and closed the door.

Alexander wrote later, “Some conversation ensued from which it was quickly apparent that other than pecuniary consolation would be acceptable.”

During that summer, Maria and Alexander continued the affair. Elizabeth and the children were in Albany visiting Philip Schuyler and his wife, so they had free range. A short time in the affair, Maria told Alexander James had asked for reconciliation, and she accepted. They both agreed to end the affair and they parted ways.

Or so they thought. Or so he thought.

James Reynolds’ plan was working. He told his wife of what was about to occur. Maria was terrified, so in an act to prove she was truly sorry and was a victim, she sent a last letter to Alexander.

 

“I have not tim to tell you the cause of my present troubles only that Mr. has rote 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 unhappiness do not rite to him no not a Line but come here soon do not send or leave any thing in his power.”

 

This is exactly how the letter read that Maria sent Alexander. Soon, James sent Hamilton threatening notes and commanded Alexander pay compensation. He obeyed, paying $1,000 and officially discontinuing the affair.

But that wasn’t the end.

A man named James T. Callender wrote and published a collection of pamphlets called The History of the United States for 1796. In it he promised to uncover public wrongdoing on Hamilton's part. Alexander, not wanting to let the charges of public misconduct lie, he made his biggest mistake.

He wrote “The Reynolds Pamphlet”, a nearly 100-page-long account of Hamilton and Maria’s affair and the role of James Reynolds. After the pamphlet was released, Maria was publicly scorned and made into a piece of the first public sex scandal in U.S. history. She moved to Britain out of fear. There she was a housekeeper for Dr. Mathews. They later fell in love and married (Maria had divorced James Reynolds before the pamphlet was released).

About four years after the death of Alexander, Susan came to live with her mother. Maria got what many never expected she would get: Maria Mathews was at peace. She became religious, joining the Methodist Church and finally put the past behind her. She lived out her days in happiness with the family she had always dreamt of having. "She enjoyed...the love and good will of all who knew her,” an acquaintance of hers had recalled. At the age of 60, Maria Mathews passed away. She would forever be known as the one Alexander had visited at night, but in the end, she wasn’t. The girl who lived in a poor, poor family, fighting for food and respect, had become a God-fearing woman and a loving wife and mother.

This is the story of Maria Lewis, Maria Reynolds, Maria Clemont, and finally Maria Mathews, the name she was truly proud of.

 

 

 

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