Clinton Defenders Should Stop Using Hamilton Example

Article excerpt

President Clinton's invocation of Alexander Hamilton's affair with Maria Reynolds as part of his defense against possible impeachment is not as reckless as his behavior with Monica Lewinsky, but it is further evidence of his desperation and carelessness under increasing pressure.

Henry Cabot Lodge, in his Hamilton biography as part of the American Statesman Series, described the affair as follows: "The miserable Reynolds affair . . . in its effect showed the courage of Hamilton in a most striking manner. Drawn by his uncurbed passion into a low intrigue with a worthless woman, he found himself threatened with a black imputation upon his official integrity. At the cost of bitter grief to himself and to all whom he most loved, he published a pamphlet in which he told the whole unpleasant story. The manliness of the act, the self-inflicted punishment, and the high sense of public honor thus exhibited, silenced even his opponents; but the confession was one which must have wrung Hamilton to the quick, and it shows an amount of nerve and determination for which our history can furnish no parallel."

President Clinton obviously never learned from Hamilton's mistake or dealt with his own mistake in Hamiltonian fashion. Instead, in unmanly fashion, he manipulated his friends, punished his investigators and critics, lied in a deposition in a civil case, lied to the American people, failed to exhibit honor, provoked his opponents and, like President Nixon, gave his enemies a sword on which to impale him.

The late Broadus Mitchell, perhaps the pre-eminent Hamilton expert, referred to Hamilton's affair with Mrs. …