On this date in 1758, infamous scandalmonger James Callender might have been born. We don’t know his exact birth date, but his life provides a moral lesson to all about dirty politics.
After Callender exposed Alexander Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds in the press, Thomas Jefferson hired him to attack John Adams. Callender obliged, and was jailed for his writings under the Alien and Sedition Acts. After Jefferson won the election of 1800 and pardoned Callender, Jefferson had little use for the “journalist” anymore and refused his demands to appoint him as a postmaster.
The vengeful Callender then turned his poison pen on Jefferson, exposing the world to his rumored affair with his slave Sally Hemings. Less than a year after publishing the Hemings story, Callender was found dead in three feet of water - apparently too drunk to save himself.
Though he has faded into obscurity, James Callender is the reason we’re still talking about Sally Hemings – and a great warning about what can happen to both your life and your legacy if you wade in the world of dirty politics.