The Petticoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny, and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House
, 1997 - History
- 296 pages
A stubborn man of deep principles, Andrew Jackson always reacted violently to what he saw as political or social injustice. The rumors surrounding the timing of his marriage, which had devastating effects on his wife Rachel - she died after the election and before his inauguration - drove him to distraction. But nothing tested Jackson's resolve - and eventually his presidency - quite so much as the scandals surrounding Margaret "Peggy" Eaton, the brash and unconventional wife of his secretary of war. Branded a "loose woman" and snubbed by Washington society, Margaret lived a public life that was considered inappropriate for any woman: she was combative and outspoken, the daughter of a Washington innkeeper who socialized with her father's guests. Margaret attributed the scandals surrounding her name to the small-minded jealousy of other women. Andrew Jackson, however, saw it as conspiratorially motivated: by defending Margaret's honor he was also defending his choice of John Henry Eaton for secretary of war and, ultimately, defending himself and his presidency. Unfortunately, Jackson's quixotic actions turned a social scandal into an extraordinary political catastrophe. Before it was over, Jackson forced the resignation of his entire Cabinet, duels were threatened, assassinations were alleged, and Vice President John Calhoun's hopes for the White House were dashed. Andrew Jackson's first term was nearly a failure. The Eaton imbroglio was a model scandal, complete with media manipulation, quicksand coalitions, and rumors piled so high that their airy density became crushing. In dramatic detail, John Marszalek recreates every step of this gripping plot, and of an era when even the most powerful politicians ceded to an honor code that could not be broken.