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Alexander Hamilton: Tomcat Fully Refuted


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Did Martha Washington have a tomcat named Hamilton? Was Alexander Hamilton a tomcat? In this presentation, Hamilton scholar Michael E. Newton fully refutes a popular myth about the most remarkable Founding Father. Presented at Liberty Hall on July 7, 2016.

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Alexander Hamilton: Tomcat Fully Refuted

  1. 1. 1© Michael E. Newton
  2. 2. 2© Michael E. Newton
  3. 3.  Is it true? “Truth is powerful and will prevail.” Alexander Hamilton, 1774 3© Michael E. Newton
  4. 4.  Original Story On January 1, 1780, a Captain Smythe wrote: Mottled: “Marked with spots or blotches of different color or shades of color.” 4© Michael E. Newton
  5. 5.  From the dozens of books and essays retelling this story, a few examples… Repeated & Embellished 5© Michael E. Newton
  6. 6.  Gertrude Atherton’s The Conqueror (1902):  Story reported as true but Atherton changed details. Instead of a tomcat named Hamilton, Hamilton was called “Mrs. Washington’s Tom-cat.”  Printed in Tory press!  Took place in 1777.  Historical fiction, but very influential. Repeated & Embellished 6© Michael E. Newton
  7. 7.  Nathan Schachner’s Alexander Hamilton (1946): Hamilton’s “notoriety” with the ladies well known. Tomcat story printed in Tory newspaper. Also had it in 1777. Repeated & Embellished 7© Michael E. Newton
  8. 8.  Thomas Fleming’s Duel (1999): Repeated & Embellished Story reported as true. “Bigheaded, extremely amorous tomcat.” Tomcat named after Hamilton because of “his reputation as a ladies man.” 8© Michael E. Newton
  9. 9.  Arthur S. Lefkowitz’s George Washington’s Indispensable Men (2003): Repeated & Embellished Tomcat story reported as true. “Large, lusty tomcat.” Named Hamilton because of his “reputation.” 9© Michael E. Newton
  10. 10.  Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton (2004): Repeated & Embellished Again, story is reported as true. “Large, lascivious tomcat.” 10© Michael E. Newton
  11. 11.  Hamilton musical (2015) from Hamilton: The Revolution: Repeated & Embellished “Feral tomcat.” Even Hamilton agrees the story is true. 11© Michael E. Newton
  12. 12.  Hamilton: The Revolution note: Repeated & Embellished 12© Michael E. Newton
  13. 13.  Story is true. Martha Washington had a tomcat. Tomcat was “extremely amorous,” “lusty,” “lascivious,” and “feral.” For that reason, it was named Hamilton. Story was reported in the Tory press. John Adams “most likely” spread this tale. Repeated & Embellished: Summary 13© Michael E. Newton
  14. 14.  Where does one start to look for the truth? “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.” I.e., go to the original source! Is the tomcat story true? 14© Michael E. Newton
  15. 15. Tomcat Story: As First Published 15© Michael E. Newton
  16. 16.  “Thirteen is a number peculiarly belonging to the rebels.” “Lord Stirling takes thirteen glasses of grog every morning, has thirteen enormous rum-bunches on his nose…” True? The Tomcat Story 16© Michael E. Newton
  17. 17.  “Mr. Washington has thirteen toes on his feet, (the extra ones having grown since the Declaration of Independence,)…” True? The Tomcat Story 17© Michael E. Newton
  18. 18.  “Sachem Schuyler has a top-knot of thirteen stiff hairs, which erect themselves on the crown of his head when he grows mad…” True? The Tomcat Story 18© Michael E. Newton
  19. 19.  “Old Putnam had thirteen pounds of his posteriors bit off in an encounter with a Connecticut bear…” True? The Tomcat Story 19© Michael E. Newton
  20. 20.  “Mrs. Washington has a mottled tom- cat, (which she calls, in a complimentary way, ‘Hamilton,’) with thirteen yellow rings around his tail, and that his flaunting it suggested to the Congress the adoption of the same number of stripes for the rebel flag.” True?!?!?  * Grand Union Flag with 13 stripes made its first appearance in December 1775, long before Hamilton and Martha Washington first met. The Tomcat Story 20© Michael E. Newton
  21. 21.  Sarcasm! A joke! No one in 1780 would have believed any of these stories. No one now should believe them either. The Truth About the Tomcat Story 21© Michael E. Newton
  22. 22.   “The Adams Family’s Revenge Against Alexander Hamilton,”, October 8, 2015:  “Clearly…a joke.”  “The notion that Hamilton was a serial philanderer, a ‘tomcat,’ was a lie first disseminated by his wartime British enemies and later circulated by his domestic political opponents.” Stephen Knott 22© Michael E. Newton
  23. 23.   Admitting that the story was a joke, satire…  Admitting that Martha Washington had no tomcat…  Nevertheless…  Story shows that British in 1780 knew Hamilton was a “tomcat.”  Tale was published in the “Tory press” and “disseminated by his wartime British enemies and later circulated by his domestic political opponents.”  Thus, everyone knew Hamilton was an “extremely amorous,” “lusty,” “lascivious,” “feral” tomcat!  Right??? Fake but Accurate? 23© Michael E. Newton
  24. 24. First Publication 24© Michael E. Newton
  25. 25. Original Source 25© Michael E. Newton
  26. 26.  Private journal/diary of a British officer. Not a “Tory Press” or “newspaper.” Tomcat story not “disseminated” to public in 1780. Smythe’s Journal/Diary 26© Michael E. Newton
  27. 27.  Frank Moore’s Diary of the American Revolution (1860).  No record of story prior to 1860. First Appearance in Print 27© Michael E. Newton
  28. 28.   Admitting Martha Washington had no tomcat…  Admitting the story did not appear in the press in 1780 and was not known until 1860…  Nevertheless…  The tale written in 1780 calls Hamilton a “tomcat.”  Proves that Hamilton was widely known on both sides as an “extremely amorous,” “lusty,” “lascivious,” “feral” tomcat!  Right??? Fake but Still Accurate? 28© Michael E. Newton
  29. 29.  Tomcat Defined: Google 29© Michael E. Newton
  30. 30.  Which definition did Captain Smythe have in mind? Was Smythe’s fictional “mottled tomcat” just a male cat? Or was Smythe’s fictional “mottled tomcat” a “lusty” and “amorous” male cat? What did “tomcat” mean in 1780? Smythe’s Tomcat Defined 30© Michael E. Newton
  31. 31.  Tomcat Etymology: Oxford English Dictionary 31© Michael E. Newton
  32. 32.  Tom the Cat 32© Michael E. Newton
  33. 33.  Tomcat Etymology: Oxford English Dictionary 33© Michael E. Newton
  34. 34.  Chambers’s English Dictionary: 1872 34© Michael E. Newton
  35. 35.  Webster’s Handy Dictionary: 1877 35© Michael E. Newton
  36. 36.  Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: 1917 36© Michael E. Newton
  37. 37.  Tomcat Etymology: Oxford English Dictionary 37© Michael E. Newton
  38. 38.  Tomcat Etymology: Today’s Merriam Webster’s 38© Michael E. Newton
  39. 39.  In 1780, “tomcat” meant “male cat.” “Tomcat” had no sexual connotation. Smythe never meant for Hamilton to be seen as an “extremely amorous,” “lusty,” “lascivious,” “feral” tomcat! In fact, Smythe wrote that Martha named the tomcat Hamilton “in a complimentary way.” It was never meant to disparage him. Captain Smythe’s Tomcat 39© Michael E. Newton
  40. 40.  Martha Washington had no tomcat named Hamilton nor did she call him a tomcat. Tomcat story was a satirical tale written in 1780 by Captain Smythe in a private journal/diary. Tomcat story not known by public until 1860. The word “tomcat” had no sexual connotation when story written in 1780 or when first published in 1860. Tomcat Fully Refuted: Conclusions 40© Michael E. Newton
  41. 41. 41© Michael E. Newton