THE PETTICOAT AFFAIR: Manners, Mutiny, and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House by John F. Marszalek

Read: Nov 3 - 9
Source: Public Library
Category: History
Pages: 304

Andrew Jackson was a man of deep moral principles and unfailing loyalty to his friends. When his wife Rachel, who had been much maligned during her marriage to Jackson, died before his inauguration, Jackson transferred his emotional support to his friend John Eaton and his wife Margaret Timberlake Eaton when her reputation was manipulated by the scandal of her marriage to Eaton before the required mourning period for her first husband had ended. The rules of mourning at that time required the widow to wear black for at least 2 years, not leave the house except for church, attend no social events. The widow wasn't even supposed to do any sewing because if she did she was not showing the proper amount of regard at loosing her spouse.

Margaret Timberlake lived with her family who ran a hotel and helped entertain the guests so she was constantly in view and socializing with men. For this fact, after her marriage to John Eaton (less than a year into her widowhood) Margaret Eaton was not considered by the other Washington wives as welcome into the polite society.

John Eaton had been a friend of Andrew Jackson's for more than 20 years and Jackson had selected him to be the Secretary of War. The other cabinet member wives refused to invite Margaret Eaton and her husband to social events and noticeably snubbed her at events held at the White House. Jackson took offense and through the first two years of his presidency tried to resolve the issues but was unable to. His solution was to start his cabinet over.
"The dissolution of the Jackson's cabinet, the only such event in American history, demonstrated the depth of the president's determination to have his way in the matter of Margaret Eaton."
"Andrew Jackson could never understand it, but it was he, not John C Calhoun, who made the snubbing of Margaret Eaton into the political cataclysm it became."

I found this book highly interesting showing that scandal and politics are not new bedfellows of the 20th century. I was also very surprised by the detail of the book since the 1000 page biography I had previously read about Jackson had very little about the Eaton Affair. I'm definitely glad that I took the time to read it.

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