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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

BADGERS MAKE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS


I have always admired Alexander Hamilton. How could you not admire a man who could write, “A well adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous” That kind of self knowledge belies the life of a boy who was abandoned by his father at the age of ten, at twelve watched his mother die in the bed next to him, and was then adopted by a cousin who shortly thereafter committed suicide. Hamilton not only survived this horror show but within ten years became one of the most successful and powerful men in America, the man who invented the American economic system. But that childhood also goes a long way to explaining how such a smart man, a happily married man and a devoted father could fall for something as old and obvious as the Badger Game.

In 1791 in Philadelphia, twenty-three year old Maria Reynolds, a lovely and avaricious mental midget, approached Hamilton, who was the Secretary of the Treasury. She told Hamilton that her husband, James Reynolds, had abandoned her and their daughter. Could the noble and handsome Secretary Hamilton provide her with the funds to return to New York? Smitten and horny, with his wife living in far off Connecticut, Hamilton agreed to deliver $30 to her rooms that evening. Let the games began.

The original badger game involved sticking a live badger in a box and then sending in a terrier. After a few seconds the owner would pull the dog out. If the dog held the badger in its jaws, it was marked as a plus. Then the badger would be returned to the box and the dog would be sent in again. This was repeated several times in front of a crowd of Neanderthals, with the shouting and betting building to a crescendo. The similarity between the original sport (outlawed in England in 1835) and the blackmail sting performed on Hamilton is that the dog could be counted on to grab the badger every time, even though the pooch was never allowed to actually keep the badger. The same goes for the mark in the human game.

Shortly after Hamilton’s first liaison with Mrs. Reynolds, Mr. Reynolds made his re-appearance in the role of the wronged husband. He wrote Hamilton, “You have deprived me of every thing that’s near and dear to me. … You have made a whole family miserable.” James was a born conman who had been one of Hamilton’s commissariats during the revolution, scrounging food, clothing and ammunition for the Continental Army despite the penury of Congress. But he was also a wife beater – if we believe Maria. Although why we should do that I have no idea.

Eventually James got to the point. “…give me the sum of (a) thousand dollars and I will leave town and take my daughter with me…”. Hamilton paid, and James then wrote, “I have not the least objections to your calling (on my wife), as a friend to both of us”. The dog now had the scent and Hamilton continued to visit Maria and pay regularly – in April, $135, in May and June, $50, in August, $200.

The game went on for two years, with Hamilton enjoying the nubile Maria in Philadelphia, while urging his wife to stay in Connecticut. Hamilton even borrowed from friends in order to keep James silent. But the end of the game was predictable, given James’ character.

James Reynolds and his partner Jacob Clingman were arrested for cheating revolutionary war veterans out of their back pay, which Congress had been cheating them out of for years. Naturally James expected his “friend” Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, to rescue him. Hamilton, however, was not willing to use his official office to cover up his personal peccadilloes. He refused to help the crook. Angry, James started singing to anybody who would listen that Hamilton had given him inside information on Government bond sales. In particular Jacob Clingman sang to Hamilton’s arch enemy, Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson thought it was Christmas. He gleefully dispatched Congressmen James Monroe and Fredrick Muhlenberg to confront Hamilton in person. And to their stunned surprise Hamilton admitted to the affair, but he denied everything else. He even provided proof in the form of letters between himself and both of the enterprising Reynolds’, James and Maria. Muhlenberg and Monroe were so nonplussed they agreed to keep the affair secret. Needless to say, Jefferson was not happy that Christmas had been canceled.

Hamilton resigned from Washington’s cabinet in January of 1795. But Jefferson had made no promise of secrecy, and he filed the information away for use at some opportune future moment, which came in 1797, which is how we know of the entire sordid tale.

Shortly after Jefferson leaked the entire story, the lovely Maria divorced her imprisoned husband James, and immediately married his partner in crime, Mr. Clingman. The newlyweds then moved to Alexandria, Virginia and dropped out of history. Her divorce attorney back in New York was Aaron Burr, who would in a very few years shoot Alexander Hamilton down in a duel. And that, one way or another, is the way most badger games end.

In contrast there was William A.E. Moore, a “friend” of President McKinley who appointed him U.S. Counsel to Durban, South Africa. Mr. Moore was in route to Durban with his wife, Fayne Strahan, when, while spending the night in Paris, he surprised the lovely Fayne “flagrante delecto” with a Russian nobleman. Mr. Moore offered to swallow his insulted pride for a mere $2,000, but the Russian chose instead to call the police. Mr. Moore’s diplomatic appointment was revoked and he was forced to return to the United States.

Then in 1898 the pair tried the same gag on Mr. Martin Mahon, proprietor of the New Amsterdam Hotel, in New York City. (a bit of a comedown this, from a Russian nobleman to a hotel owner.) This time, when William burst into the room he took the trouble to beat up the mark, poor Mr. Mahon, and steal $175 from his wallet. William then stuffed a cigar into Martin’s mouth and walked him up and down Fifth Avenue as if they were bosom buddies. Again, the mark went to the police and this time William Moore was sent to Sing Sing for several years. Fayne, meanwhile, went to South Dakota where she got a divorce. Some years later she moved to London where she took to the stage, as a chorus girl in the hit musical, “The Messenger Boy”. William was eventually released from jail and inherited $125,000 from an uncle. Last heard of he was living in luxury. And thus were the wages of sin for what today would be called “Gifters.

And in case you are thinking that these are dusty historical footnotes, a couple of years ago, in San Antonio, Texas, Ted Roberts, attorney at law, was convicted of three counts of theft for a badger scam he ran with his wife and fellow attorney, Mary Roberts. She was convicted of 5 counts of fraud. Mary trolled the internet looking for married men who were seeking sex. She engaged them in chat rooms until they either revealed their fantasies or actually met her for sex. There upon Ted would knock on the door and quietly inform the marks that he was going to sue them for “alienation of affection”, unless they agreed to “settle”.


The couple netted something around $160,000 from five marks before they were caught. Testifying for the defense past president of the Texas Bar Association, Broadus A. Spivey (No, seriously, that was his name), said that the badger game as played by the couple from law school was not illegal because it was not substantially different than a lawsuit. Under oath Broadus insisted, “Litigation is coercive.”

 I leave the story there, in case there is anybody left in this nation who does not already despise lawyers.
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