Alexander Hamilton: Tomcat Fully Refuted

According to historians and Hamilton biographers, Martha Washington in 1780 had a “tomcat” that she named Hamilton because this cat was “extremely amorous,” “lusty,” “lascivious,” and “feral.” They also write that this story was reported in the Tory press and therefore the entire world knew about Hamilton being a tomcat.

On July 7, 2016, at Liberty Hall Museum as part of CelebrateHAMILTON 2016, Michael E. Newton fully refuted this popular myth about Alexander Hamilton:

Conclusions:

• Martha Washington had no tomcat. This story was written as sarcasm, a joke, by someone who was not there.
• This story was written in a private journal. It was not published until 1860.
• “Tomcat” in 1780 meant “a male cat.” The earliest record of “tomcat” having a sexual connotation was in 1927.
• Original author of this story wrote that Martha Washington named the tomcat Hamilton “in a complimentary way.” It was never meant to disparage him.
• Conclusion: Hamilton was no tomcat, nor was he accused of being one in 1780, as alleged.

 

This presentation received much attention in the press:
This AP story was picked up by NBC, The Washington Times, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, Salon, Entertainment Weekly, New Delhi Times, and hundreds of other news sources.

 


 

Full text (unformatted) from the slideshow:

Tomcat Fully Refuted
Michael E. Newton
Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years

Is it true?
“Truth is powerful and will prevail.”
Alexander Hamilton, 1774
Original Story

From the dozens of books and essays retelling this story, a few examples…

Gertrude Atherton’s The Conqueror (1902):

Nathan Schachner’s Alexander Hamilton (1946):
Repeated & Embellished
Thomas Fleming’s Duel (1999):
Repeated & Embellished
Arthur S. Lefkowitz’s George Washington’s Indispensable Men (2003):
Repeated & Embellished
Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton (2004):
Repeated & Embellished
Hamilton musical (2015) from Hamilton: The Revolution:
Repeated & Embellished
Hamilton: The Revolution note:
Repeated & Embellished:
Summary
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.
Is the tomcat story true?
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!
Tomcat Story: As First Published
The Tomcat Story
“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
“Mr. Washington has thirteen toes on his feet, (the extra ones having grown since the Declaration of Independence,)…”
True?
The Tomcat Story
“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
“Old Putnam had thirteen pounds of his posteriors bit off in an encounter with a Connecticut bear…”
True?
The Tomcat Story
“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 Truth About
the Tomcat Story
Sarcasm! A joke!
No one in 1780 would have believed any of these stories.
No one now should believe them either.
Stephen Knott
“The Adams Family’s Revenge Against Alexander Hamilton,” TheFederalist.com, 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.”
Fake but Accurate?
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???

First Publication
Original Source
Smythe’s Journal/Diary
Private journal/diary of a British officer.
Not a “Tory Press” or “newspaper.”
Tomcat story not “disseminated” to public in 1780.
First Appearance in Print
Frank Moore’s Diary of the American Revolution (1860).

No record of story prior to 1860.
Fake but Still Accurate?
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???
Tomcat Defined: Google
Smythe’s Tomcat Defined
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?
Tomcat Etymology:
Oxford English Dictionary
Tom the Cat
Tomcat Etymology:
Oxford English Dictionary
Chambers’s English Dictionary: 1872
Webster’s Handy
Dictionary: 1877
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: 1917
Tomcat Etymology:
Oxford English Dictionary
Tomcat Etymology:
Today’s Merriam Webster’s
Captain Smythe’s Tomcat
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.

Tomcat Fully Refuted:
Conclusions
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
Final Conclusion:
Alexander Hamilton was no tomcat!