Libertines seeks to understand why public figures sometimes take extraordinary risks, sullying their good names, humiliating their families, placing themselves in legal jeopardy, and potentially destroying their political careers as they seek to gratify their sexual desires. From Hamilton to Trump and the many in between, each case of sexual misconduct in this book shows the seamy side of political lives, with calculations about covering discretions or portraying them favorably occurring only after the fact.
J. Michael Martinez is the author or editor of 15 books on American history and law including the Rowman & Littlefield titles A Long Dark Night: Race in America from Jim Crow to World War II (2016), Terrorist Attacks on American Soil: From the Civil War Era to the Present (2012), Coming for to Carry Me Home: Race in America from Abolitionism to Jim Crow (2011), and Carpetbaggers, Cavalry, and the Ku Klux, Klan: Exposing the Invisible Empire during Reconstruction (2007).
Table of Contents
Prefatory Matter (dedication, epigraph, table of contents)
Introduction and Acknowledgments
Chapter 1: “My Real Crime is An Amorous Connection with His Wife”: Alexander Hamilton and Maria Reynolds
Chapter 2: “Dreams of Freedom in His Slave’s Embrace”: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
Chapter 3: “She is as Chaste as a Virgin”: Andrew Jackson and the Petticoat Affair
Chapter 4: “You Have Dishonored My House, and You Must Die!”: Daniel Sickles and Philip Barton Key II
Chapter 5: “I Never Kissed Miss Tilton, I Never Told a Lie!”: Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and Elizabeth Tilton
Chapter 6: “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa? Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!”: Grover Cleveland’s Illegitimate Son
Chapter 7: “It’s a Good Thing I’m Not a Woman. I Would Always be Pregnant. I Can’t Say No”: Warren G. Harding, Carrie Phillips, and Nan Britton
Chapter 8: “She had the WAYS; he had the MEANS”: Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxe
Chapter 9: “If Anybody Wants to Put a Tail on Me, Go Ahead. They’ll be Very Bored”: Gary Hart and Donna Rice
Chapter 10: “This Shadow Life Made a Mockery of My Marriage”: Bob Packwood
Chapter 11: “I Did Not Have Sexual Relations with That Woman, Miss Lewinsky”: Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky
Chapter 12: “Out of Respect for My Family, and Out of a Specific Request from the Levy family, I Think It’s Best That I Not Get into Those Details”: Gary Condit and Chandra Levy
Chapter 13: “If Only He’d Hired a Hooker Like a Normal Congressman”: Anthony Weiner
Chapter 14: “Who Would Have Thought That 90 Seconds with Donald Trump Would Turn into 90 Percent of My Life?”: Donald Trump’s Sex Scandals
About the Author
Historian Martinez asks why American politicians keep getting caught with their pants down in this brisk roundup of sexual imbroglios. Covering more than 200 years of U.S. history, from Alexander Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds to Donald Trump’s tryst with Stormy Daniels, Martinez sketches the origins, unmasking, and ramifications of each scandal…. This sober-minded survey shows that political sex scandals are as old as the U.S.
There have been political sex scandals for as long as there has been sex and politicians—that is, from the dawn of civilization. Martinez takes a more manageable focus in his book Libertines, examining American political sex scandals from the Founding Fathers to the present day. And there are many episodes to look at: Alexander Hamilton’s torrid affair with a married woman; Thomas Jefferson's extended relationship with his slave Sally Hemings; Grover Cleveland’s illegitimate son; Gary Hart daring the press to follow him. Martinez doesn't shy away from contemporary scandals, either, like Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and the infamous stained dress; Anthony Weiner’s raunchy selfies; and lest readers forget: Donald Trump. The major takeaway from all these episodes is that successful, powerful men tend to have monstrously large egos that make them susceptible to horridly stupid lapses in judgment. With every scandal recounted, one wants to shake one’s head at the idiocy and weakness of these otherwise (mostly) admirable men. As history, Libertines makes for saucy reading.
The book’s 14 accounts of American sex scandals raise two related questions: Why do some private indiscretions become public affairs? And what makes one scandal fatal to a politician’s career while another isn’t?... the book is, on the whole, more narrative than comparative. But they are interesting questions, and the chronicle of historical figures with their pants down is full of striking details.
With Libertines, J. Michael Martinez takes us on an enjoyable walk through American history by bringing notorious public figures to life. The author sets his subjects in historical and political context in a way that leads to new insights about their choices and the strands that connect them over time. Martinez seeks to understand why famous men take extraordinary risks with their sex lives. With trustworthy research and appealing prose, Libertines advances democracy’s quest to choose leaders who will serve the public without philandering in the process.
In Libertines: American Political Sex Scandals from Alexander Hamilton to Donald Trump, J. Michael Martinez combines riveting writing with concise detail on many sex scandals you are familiar with and many you are not. Libertines is both a perfect companion to texts that lay out theories about scandals or as a stand-alone read for history or politics buffs. I enjoyed every page and added to my knowledge at the same time.
Michael Martinez provides a highly readable, entertaining, and raucous romp through the history of our political leaders’ sexual peccadilloes. Yet, beneath the riveting stories of scandals are important insights into character and interesting questions about both the extent to which the public has the right to know about politicians’ private lives and how voters or historians factor such affairs into their assessments of our leaders.