tv American History TV CSPAN May 17, 2015 11:57pm-1:01am EDT
worried about the time of coming into the british area, so as a constant, he has made himself vulnerable to the germans. they should never have happened. and the responsibility really does rest on the shoulders of the captain. now, once it happened, churchill is saying, look at this breed this is an abomination. this shows exactly what i have been saying about german militarism, and, hence, the united states should be supporting us more. theodore roosevelt, by the way believed the same thing. i am sorry to say i am out of time now. thank you very much. thank you, thank you. >> wonderful. sorry to interrupt. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: you are watching american history tv, 40 eight hours every weekend on c-span3. >> members of congress on net neutrality.
>> section 215 authorizes metadata collection, the bowl collection or as densely authorizes because last week we found out that the second district federal court agrees that the patriot act never really authorized this program that these programs are illegal. but the nsa would tell you that these programs were all the rise dissection to give teen and then the fisa court preceded to write a warrant that covered every american citizen. i think there rounding said -- founding fathers would be appalled. >> the policy is far from being up to date. we have policy that is woefully out of date. we have copyright policy from 1976. we have electronic communications privacy act which was done in 1986. i started working on e-mail in 1989.
we have e-mail is a standard form of munication coming yet we still have a situation where a piece of paper in your desk drawer, law enforcement would need a warrant to access that information, but the e-mail that's been stored in the cloud for 180 days or more not subject to a warrant standard. >> were not making a calm at -- a common, the internet needs to be open and free. any time the government gets involved, there's an open-ended pandora's box. we've had hearings and said we want to answer some basic questions about what the own rule will do. let it be an issue for congress but not put in place but bureaucrats who have no
consequence. >> monday night at 8:00 on the communicators on he spent two. >> each week american history tv's american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places. open and a 29, philadelphia's eastern state prison operated until 1971. now museum, we visited to learn about the institution that coined the word penitentiary and tried to do something revolutionary, reform criminals. >> this is the heart of the prison. this is one of the reasons the place became so world-famous. the circle on the floor here is the exact center of 10.5 acres in the very middle of the central rotunda. from this one spot, just by turning and looking around come you could see the entire prison.
this was just seven cellblocks all of them link up to this one central hub. this wasn't the first centrally planned prison. the architects contribution was keeping it empty. other prisons would have kitchens or something here. he said no, take it away, keep it open for common convenient ventilation and watching. you can see the whole place in less than a second. it's convenient to get to anywhere. you can feel the cross breeze in here. it's amazing ventilation. this is an early example of american architecture. this was the reason european architects had to come to the united states early on. i love this as an example as far as famous visitors go. trolls dickens, first time in the u.s., he said i want to see
two things in the new world. the falls of niagara in the eastern state penitentiary. i real mission is to preserve this building just so we can continue asking the question that they had here, 200 plus years ago almost. what is prison for? what is the best way added? how do we make that as a social institution.
>> american history tv is featuring c-span's original series first ladies, in front to an image at 8:00 p.m. eastern on sunday nights throughout the rest of the year. see seven -- c-span produce the series through conversations with experts video tours of historic sites, and questions from c-span's audience, we tell the stories of america's 45 first ladies. now we look at two administrations that by widowed president and the women who served as the first ladies. we begin with rachel jackson and emily donelson. this is about 90 minutes. >> rachel is not a fan of anything they took away from the hermitage. rachel was always the thing that
he would come back to >> she ran the plantation of the farming kept everything in order. everybody loved her that work there are was enslaved there. >> she had nice jewelry. she was not as from the issue was reputed to be. >> the only problem with it was she got famous. she was called names. >> the campaign was so bitterly fought they used every piece of garbage they could find and rachel was good garbage. >> she dreaded going to washington and made the statement, i would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of god and live in that palace, which never did. before he left go to washington, she died. >> in 18 28, emily donelson was 21 years old and she became the white house hostess. >> italy was perfect.
for all the negatives washington had to say about andrew jackson they loved emily. >> shoe was educated in the fine arts of being a lady. proper table manners proper etiquette. it was that kind of education that enabled her, when rachel suddenly dies, to slide into the role of white house hostess. >> the women liked her. the women's opinions and meant more. she knew exactly how to do things. >> it is emily that jackson has a falling out with. jackson never lost his affection for her. he just could not deal with this going against his will in his own home. >> for 12 years, no president's wife served as first lady. on this program, we will learn about two administrations that were run by would old presidents.
of course, andrew jackson0-- -- of first, washington's societal ambitions. -- up first, will washington -- washington's societal ambitions. tonight, the interesting jacksonian era. hear to tell us about those who served in the white house to support the presidents, a presidential historian. michael, welcome. and pat brady back at our table tonight. her biography of rachel jackson is called "the french your love story of rachel and andrew." how do people understand the change that andrew jackson brought to the white house?
>> was the first westerner. we have virginia presidents from the old south before that. he grew up in the frontier. the change is enormous. socially, the change is enormous. he is not of the old planter class of the south that previous presidents had been from. he was not like a newly linder either. he brings different values and the french ambitions to the white house. >> even though he was a widow the president, the ghost of his wife, over the white house during his years there. why is that? >> she was the woman of his life. he loved her. when she died just a few months before he was inaugurated, he was a rest.
he spent all of his time thinking about her and her memory and having her portraits in his bedroom so he could think of her. it really changed the way the first administration wins. >> we need to go into the campaign of 1822 understand the presidency. 1828 was the year of what? how did it change? >> it was the first time we did not have a majority of electors. the whole election was given over to the house of representatives. we had these competing factions in the house of representatives. you had crawford from georgia. you had henry clay and calhoun and jackson.
jackson won the popular voted but he did not win the electoral college. when the politicking was going on in the house of representatives, there was an opportunity to make deals. one of the deals that was made was that henry clay would become the vice president and items with win the election. once we come out of that election, the buildup to the other election is that that was a corrupt bargain. >> you described 1824 setting the stage for 1828. the 1828 campaign was older enmity fought together again. how did it play out? >> in 1824, jackson was not quite sure he was ready to be president. when he won the vote and it was stolen from him, he knew he was meant to be president.
he thought the election had stolen the people's presidency. when he came out in 1828, he came out fighting. >> what was interesting about the campaign was that it was a precursor to modern campaigning. he and his surrogates for out on the stump. as many as 800,000 more americans voted in that election as they had in the previous ones the -- the previous one. how had he thought of that? >> it was the growing development of a national party that martin and iran had been working on with people -- martin van buren had been working on with people in the south. this was a time of great technological change. we had real growth and newspapers and new communication methods coming to bear as well as a much larger electorate. we had general white male
suffrage in all of the states. there were more people taking and there was more opportunity to hear about it. >> the western states had come in. >> rachel jackson became an issue. this is the first time in our early country's history that people targeted the wife of a presidential candidate. >> abigail adams had taken some hard hits from the press. that sort of thing had happened. this was the first time someone actually went out trying to find what they thought was a search and publicize it widely. >> was the first one looking for dirt? >> a man who hated jackson and wanted to see jackson go down. when he thought out she had been
the voice, he really despise her. he was rigorously fundamentalists. it was a moral issue for him. he really thought she would disgrace the white house. >> he did not do it, but he did not stop it. hammon was his party hack. he did not come down on him. he just sat back and said, oh my goodness. >> we saw in the open, political cartoons. was this a new phenomenon? >> yes.
to call a lady that had been married for 36 years a bigamous or an adulterous was unprecedented. -- bigamist or an adultorer -- adulterer was unprecedented. >> what was she accused of? >> was accused of being married before. and she was. she was married to a man who treated her and her family very badly. her whole family hated him. out west, they did not believe you had to stick by your man if he was horrible. they believe in dissolving an unhappy marriage, so they did. >> also, criticism of her and her western frontier lack of class. >> she had an accent. she had a tennessee accent.
she did not have an east coast accent. >> were opponents concerned about what the image for the new country would be if he made it to the white house? >> there is a strong class issue running through all of this. it is difficult to talk about in a country that does not have class. would this person be virtuous enough to represent the united states? is this person genteel enough to represent the united states? >> the great tragedy is that after this was a freeze campaign, he went to the white house and she is preparing to go -- after this campaign, he went to the white house and she was preparing to go with him and what happens? >> she died. she thought people would be rude to her and they might snub her. she thought about not going. she decided that would be admitting they were wrong. she decided to go. on december 22, she died of a
heart attack. >> and she was buried in a dress she preplanned -- plan to wear to the inaugural ball. >> this is our first video of the night. we will be showing you video throughout the night. we will take you to the heritage, their home in tennessee and learn more about what enter jackson carried throughout the rest of his life after rachel. >> we do not know what kind of health rachel was in overall.
after the fall of 1828, her health was not good. the campaign for president that jackson was going to have a huge effect on her health. this is a letter jackson wrote on this day that rachel actually died, december 22, 1828. he is writing to his friend. he describes the onset of rachel's illness, her final illness. he says that she was suddenly, violently attacked with pains in her left shoulder and breast. a contraction of the breast, that suffocation was apprehended. it was clear she was in a serious condition. he talked about getting ready to go to washington like he is assuming she will get better and off they will go. unfortunately, she passed away later in the day. according to the stories of her
death, jackson called for her to be bled when she died. he was a big believer in a row of medicine, medicine that did not kill you, would cure you. even though she was not alive anymore, he asks the doctor to bleed her. supposedly, there is a small stain on the cap, the little blood that came out when the doctor tried to bleed her. we have a lancet that the doctor would have used to cut her open. we have some things about this morning. a black calling card -- his mourning. a black calling card to suggest he was in deep mourning. a book that was given to him by a friend of his that has a long inscription. it is a book called the mourner comforted help them read things that would help them along. jackson was completely devastated.
for her to die just as he was actually preparing the plan is to get on the steamboat to go to washington was almost more than he could deal with. this was painted while he was in washington after rachel's death. had it with him all the time, on his chain or in his pocket or on his bedside table so that he could see it in the morning when he awakens. she was with him pretty much all the time even though she had passed away. this was a book that was important to jackson. this was in rachel's psalm book. she made this cross stitch cover to keep the book nice. after her death, jackson kept things like this close at hand so that he could refer to them another way of keeping her clothes.
jackson had a habit after she died of purchasing more using our keeping things that reminded him of our. this was the central hall of the hermitage manchin. although the house burned after rachel's death, jackson insisted they repurchase the same wallpaper they had chosen. she liked it and it reminded him of her and he wanted it here. this is jackson's bedroom. after rachel's death, she was not very far away from him. he kept many mementos of her around. he had a portrait that was a favorite of his copy so that he could have been hanging over the fireplace so that it would be the first thing he saw in the morning and the last thing he saw at night according to the tradition and stories passed down by the family. he would go out to her tomb every sunday and spend some time out there either thinking about her or thinking about the problems of the day. he wanted the feeling of her
close by. >> this program is interactive. we welcome your but dissipation. there are lots of ways you can do that. you can call us. our phone number is -- if you live in the eastern time zone. you can send us a tweet. if you do, use the hashtag #firstladies. here is a tweet, who writes, did rachel have plans about what the jackson life should or should not be like in washington, d.c.? >> she did. she did not like expensive entertainment. she liked to go hear the leading creatures of the day and have
family and friends around her in the white house. i think it would have been a domesticated white house. >> the same person ask another question. given her public scrutiny, did in the famous dignitary's attend her funeral? do either of you know the answer to that? >> she was buried two days after she died. given the way news traveled and people travel, no one could have made it. all of the local dignitaries all of the church bells tolled. everything close down. there was a huge attendance at her funeral.
>> time to step back and telling a little bit of the great love story between rachel and andrew jackson. who was rachel donelson jackson? >> it was one of the daughters of the first family of tennessee. they made a trip during which many of the people on the trip died. they were some the earliest white settlements. her family was quite positive in the area. she was part of the gentry of tennessee. >> we have a question from someone wanting to know how unusual it was for someone, at the age of 24, to be on their second husband? was that considered unusual at the time? >> not particularly. people die all the time, particularly on the frontier. most people remarry because you needed to have the support in order to live. >> the original theory was that they divorced. >> widows and widowers always remarry. it was peculiar for someone not to remarry. >> her first husband was --
>> he was about 10 years her senior. >> why did they make the match? >> the war between the whites and the indians was so ferocious and so strong, the whites wanted to stay there. the indians did not want them there. the battle for territory. the donelsons went to kentucky where things were safer. >> how long did the marriage lasts? >> not long. 3 or four years.
he was too mean. >> he was a nasty, abusive person. dear >> it take courage for her to leave him? -- >> did it takes courage for her to leave him? >> it took courage for her family. she adored her family and they adored her. they were part of the whole decision for her to be low. -- to elope. >> who was andrew jackson when she met him? >> nobody. he was one of the borders at her mother's house. he lived in one of the cottages with another batch of a lawyer. you might say, why is one of the gentry renting out cottages? in terms of this being an
ongoing war, to have extra guns on hand is always a good thing. >> explain a little bit more about tennessee in that time and what the country looked like. >> this was the far west. it was recently settled. most of the settlers theater came by river the long way or they came over the mountains. this was still rough country. it was not as subtle as kentucky. >> next is a question. this is from mitchell in national, -- nashville tennessee. >> put up that rachel's birthday was in june and you included a month and day. my understanding was that no one knew her exact burth mont -- birth month and date. >> that is true. it is believed it was in june. >> if i am not mistaken, only
white property owners voted during that time. is that correct? >> that is correct. in the early days, it was only white property owners of certain standing. the franchise expanded to generally being white males. >> rachel meets the tall andrew jackson. they are attracted to each other. how did their marriage take place? >> all his life, jackson truly liked women. he loved her mother and saw her as a mother figure. he could not bear to see women mistreated or badly treated in any way.
his gallantry was involved with what he saw was the abuse of this woman. when they fell in love, they decided to be loath - -elo -- elope. they stayed several months close to a year. when they came back, they said we are married now. her whole family, including her mother said, this is our son-in-law, andrew jackson. who is going to tell them, no? people just accepted it because the family, neighbors, and friends accepted it. >> when did the details come about that their divorce was not finalized? >> the divorce was filed in virginia.
there were stipulations in the settlement that it had to be posted a certain amount of time and in different places. he did not go through with posting all of it. he was playing games with the whole divorce anyway. >> so who is at fault? [laughter] >> he had to take it to court in kentucky before a jury. at that time, they had been living together as a married couple for two years. when she was accused of adultery, she was living with andrew jackson. if she had gone bad -- gone back, she would have still been married to this person she hated. >> when did the hermitage become their home? >> my mind is going blank. early in the 18th century.
they started in that area. they started in a bigger place. he got into some financial trouble and they moved to the hermit is. at that time, it was a log house. >> our next video is a glance at rachel and andrew jackson's life at the hermitage. >> he was retiring for a while. when they first moved here, he spent a lot of time at home. the primary people who would have visited prior to the war of 1812 would have largely been friends and relations from the area. rachel had a huge family. they have lots of kids. there was a lot of them and they were in and out all the time. rachel was close to her family. jackson was an orphan and grew close to rachel's family. emily donelson, the house she
grew up in, is less than two miles away from here. he has become this national hero and there were people here all the time. rachel was the knowledge to be a pretty nice hostess, cordial and welcoming. during jackson's saying after the battle of new orleans from 1815 to the rest of her life they have lots and lots of company. they had many, many parties or dinners here at the hermitage. they acquired a good deal of silver as they went along, such as these plants cups. they would have been used for an evening party where some highly the third up punch was served. -- liquored up punch was searched. it was more about her comfort in big cities than it was about her actual appearance or clothing.
she was not a fan of anything that took into jackson away from the hermitage. during the war of 1812, there were letters from her that say things like, do not let fame and fortune blind you to the fact that you have a wife, i am home, and i need you. he knew pretty well that she would have preferred him to stay home and the plantation owner andrew jackson. this is the earliest letter we have said jackson wrote to rachel. it was written in 1796 when he was in east tennessee on business. it is addressed to her, my dearest heart. it is with great displeasure
that i sit down to write to you. what pleasing hopes i view the future when i am restored to your arms or i can spend my days in domestic sweetness with you the deer companion of my life, never to be separated from you again during this fluctuating life. the garden was always considered one of her really special places. lots of comments from visitors about her gathering flowers. there is one story. when a young lady was here on her honeymoon and she and her husband were invited to stay.
she mentions that the garden was special to rachel. when they were preparing to leave, to move onto the next stage of their honeymoon, she walked in the garden with rachel and rachel gathered flowers and this is where they left. >> and we are back talking about the jacksonian era with our two guests at the table. we'll take a question from twitter next. dave murdoch asks, did rachel jackson provide political guidance to andrew jackson. do we know that? >> i don't know that we know that. he was shrewd politically but i think he probably -- he probably took care of the political sphere himself. >> i would think practically no for sure. we have no records of such -- we have a lot of their letters and they're always personal or financial but they're really not politics. >> we were talking before the program began about jackson's large personality and how sure he was of his opinions. would you talk about that? >> he was absolutely sure of his beliefs wholeheartedly and when
he saw people who disagreed with him, he often took that as a sign of enmity and that was really difficult. >> personal. >> personal enmity, yes. >> so that would be further thinking he might not have sought guidance from any other person? >> what he really couldn't stand was someone who was a friend or worse yet, a relative, who disagreed with him because that was really personally dishonest as far as he was concerned. >> we'll learn more about how that unfolds in his presidency as the conversation continues. next is loy in durham, north carolina. welcome to the conversation. caller: hi. how many slaves did the jacksons have in tennessee and would those same slaves travel with them in the white house? >> thank you. either of you know the answer to that? >> they had 300-odd slaves. it was a rather large plantation. but, no, nobody at the time would travel with large numbers
of slaves. they would bring perhaps a couple of personal servants but things had become iffier as sentiment grew in the north and it became less and less possible to bring slaves to free territories. >> so jackson wins election and comes to washington. tell the story of his inaugural party. >> he has the inauguration, he arrives on horseback back to the president's house and the public is invited but there are about 20,000 people who had attended the inauguration so the house is open to the public and this is the democratic republic of the
people of the west and they crash into the house and dance on the tables, they drink all the wine. there was a 1600 pound cheese that had been sent as a gift to the new president that was completely devoured during this time so the white house was really, really beaten up pretty bad. even jackson had to be escorted out because they feared for his safety. >> he left the party early and went back to his hotel to go to bed. >> over our past several programs, we have been talking about the burgeoning and strong washington society developing in the town. how did it react to this opening of the white house to the masses? >> with horror, you know margaret smith, who was quite a socialite and kept diaries and letters said, oh, the pity, the pity, it's not the way it was with every other party after an inauguration, it was part of the select few who came, not the public. >> once the party, the inauguration party was over, this is a man you described as being in intense mourning. was the white house social for a few years after that? >> it wasn't social very much at all for the first year. they had to refinish it and replace all the drapes and chair
seats where muddy boots had been trampling and put things together and even after that, to the disappointment of washington society, they said, we're in deep mourning, we will not be giving parties. >> let's take a quick glimpse at america in that timed about census bureau statistics. this is america in 1830, population at this point, 12.9 million in 24 states and once again more than 30% growth since the 10 years earlier census. there were two million slaves, about 15% of the population. and the largest cities continued to be east coast -- new york philadelphia and baltimore. what else should people know about the period in this country? >> it's a period of incredible change.
much like the period that we've gone through in the last, with the information revolution. this was a huge period of change. we had gone from an agrarian society that thomas jefferson was talking to being of multiple ethnicities, multiple religions, waves of immigration, the railroads, the telegraph, all kinds of things were changing the way life was lived. >> what was happening to the north-south unity at this point? were we seeing the seeds of the civil war? >> north-south unity was a difficult one. the founding fathers had never settled that question because it wasn't easy to settle. by the time you get to 1820, we have an economic crisis in 1819 and then we have the admission of missouri and the missouri crisis which precipitates a free fix, we'll put in one free state and one slave state and won't talk about slavery anymore. by the time we're in the late '20's and early '30's, the
spector of slavery is casting a shadow over america. >> next question. caller: i was calling, chatham is the county seat of pennsylvania county, virginia, and we have in our courthouse a portrait of rachel because she was born here supposedly in 1767 which was the year we broke off and organized our county and her father was a surveyor and she supposedly left her when she was 12 and the gossip was that he had to leave town because they were kind of interested in some of his surveys but anyway, we do have the site marked and we have rocks left from the frame house. did virginia play any part -- you know. >> thanks, mary. we'll pick it up from her. do you know this part of her biography? >> it was where she was born and lived until she was 12 when they
decided to go over the mountains to the new territory but basically we know nothing about her girlhood. we extrapolate it was like the girlhood of other children on the western edges of settled territory. >> next is joellen in columbus ohio. you're on the air. caller: hello. i was calling to see if rachel had any children. >> no. despite her deep wish for children, rachel had no children. she was one of 11 and those of her brothers and sisters who married had very large families, as well. but she had no children of her own. she had -- they adopted one of twin sons that belonged to her brother and sister-in-law when they were middle aged so there was an andrew jackson jr. who was her nephew. >> and there was another son jackson had been in battle and
found -- and had slaughtered many people, women and children, found an infant, tried to give it back to a creek woman who was alive. she said, you'd best kill him, you've killed all of his family anyway. jackson takes him home and raises him as a son. it's a very interesting kind of story because here's jackson, the indian killer, and yet he's adopted this son and raises him as his own. >> he writes a lot of letters to rachel saying there's something special, he's an orphan, i was an orphan, there's some reason i found him and he's not to be in the servants' quarters. he's to be in the house and he's to be educated. he wanted to send him to west point but john quincy adams was president by then so it was impossible. >> first year was a fairly quiet one and the social side of the white house and social means politics by this time in
washington so at what point does he decide he actually needs assistance? >> well, emily, rachel's niece and nephew, were with him all of this time, that they were so close, all these nieces and nephews, all named the same name so it's difficult sometimes to figure out which andrew donelson we mean but this particular young man had been one of their wards and became the president's secretary. he had married his first cousin, emily donelson, and they planned all along to come with the jacksons and they went ahead and accompanied him. >> how did she create the role of first lady in the administration? >> she had lovely manners. she was a very pretty girl young, in her early 20's. she had very good manners, had been trained in a lady's academy in nashville. >> washington society loved her. >> they loved her and one of the main reasons they loved her was
because she was young and malleable and the old grande dames of washington could run all over her as they could not someone like rachel. they always liked the innocent young nieces. >> as someone who cast himself as the people's president, he lived fairly large in the white house, it seems. fairly nice parties and lots of money spent on redecorating. how did that square with his public image? >> he believed with democracy with a small d and he was very concerned about moneyed interests and elites controlling the country so that is the core of the democracy he was trying to create. he really believed in people being part of the democracy. >> but it didn't preclude entertaining. >> it didn't preclude him being cultivated and having manners and becoming a lawyer and learning how to interact in society.
>> he always wanted to be a gentleman. that was one of his goals, to prove he was a gentleman and if you look at some of his controversies, they're because in the early days other men did not treat him as equals. >> next up is lee in durango colorado. caller: yes. i'd like to know, what was the big to-do about the election of 1828? we know what was said about rachel jackson, but what was the comments on the other side? >> well, there were. >> among other things, they said john quincy adams was a pimp which is the most ridiculous thing you could possibly image. it was based on a little thing but had nothing to do with sexual activities. they said a lot of bad things
about adams and also about his wife. she was, after all, they believed, a foreigner. she was born in great britain even though she had american parents and legally was an american but they saw her as a possibly foreign influence. >> and she wasn't happy in the white house particularly either. she was very cultivated and washington was a squat little town really at this time. >> we promised scandal intrigue. it wasn't just in the 1828 and rachel jackson and the criticism she received but also what became known as the peggy eaton affair which colored and framed much of the jackson presidency. who was peggy eaton and how did this unfold? >> peggy eaton was the daughter of a washington, d.c., hotel keeper, tavern owner. many politicians stayed in his hotel and the family got to know them well. she was beautiful.
she was well educated. she liked to sing and perform. she actually sometimes appeared in public, which, god forbid any lady should do. so she was seen as not quite quite. >> she was beautiful. she was vivacious, and she didn't really know her place. she really interfered and went into situations that were part of the men's women and this was a period in the american history which domesticity is specific and there's the women's sphere and the men's sphere and the women's sphere is to guard the household and the morals of society while the men go out and fight in this new capitalist world. margaret eaton and i call her margaret because that's what she liked to be called. i think peggy is a bit of an insult because she didn't like to be called that. she really was somebody who was going up against a different class and was going at it in a very difficult way. she was outspoken and bold and
that was not a woman's role. >> how did she become an issue for the cabinet? >> her husband killed himself. he was a pursuer on a naval vessel, he killed himself so she was a widow. >> with two children. >> yes. and one person who had consistently lived at the o'neal's hotel was john henry eaton who was one of jackson's closest friends, supporters, a close friend and supporter of rachel throughout all the bad times and he was worried, at margaret's suggestion, that he might have ruined her reputation. there was a lot of talk they had
had an affair and that's why her husband killed himself and so he asked jackson, should i marry her? and jackson said, certainly. he was always for love and romance. >> and jackson was familiar with her. >> he liked her. >> he stayed in the same boarding house and knew her when she was a young girl so he felt she was perfectly respectable and this was a good thing. >> how did it rise to the level of a cabinet scandal? >> they married too soon. >> they married too soon. >> she should have been mourning for at least a year and she married john eaton well before that and that was a problem. >> well, and besides that, once the cabinet was named and it includes eaton and his wife, whose social bona fides are not so good, and then she presses right ahead and goes and calls on one of the haughtiest of the wives of the other men, floride calhoun and floride refuses to return her call. in those days, that was akin to slapping someone in the face. >> society was very structured and the protocol of society was very structured and the first
person you would see when you came into town, you would visit the vice president and you would leave your card, so she started in on this process but she did it incorrectly and floride calhoun was not about to return a call to this woman. >> it came to a point where jackson's cabinet was in an uproar and many resignations because of it. >> all the wives except one refused to call on peggy eaton or when the president gave a big party and she was an honored guest often at his side attempting to force these women to recognize her, it was, hello, and they would walk on. everything was so cold and so ugly and margaret was totally
mortified and the worst of all among those who gave the cut to margaret was emily donelson, his niece. >> we have two quotes from andrew jackson at the time period that gives you the sense of the president's involvement and peak over the so-called petticoat affair. "do you suppose i have been sent here by the people to consult the ladies of washington as to the proper persons of the cabinet?" and to peggy eaton herself -- did it become a constitutional crisis with his cabinet resigning? >> well, it did, and unfortunately, it's jackson's gallant defending of margaret eaton that turns it from a social crisis into a political crisis. he couldn't leave it alone. he spent enormous amounts of time trying to defend her honor,
getting affidavits about where she was, tracking down the people who made these terrible comments, and finally it becomes, in his mind, that it has to be an attack against him, as well, it's not just margaret, it's an attack against him. >> that's when he grows to hate calhoun. >> that's when he sees calhoun behind all of this. >> bringing this back to niece donelson because you said she was malleable but also told us he could not abide by close people, especially family members, who disagreed with him. what happened between the two? >> she was so influenced by the ladies that she joined in the -- really, the ostracism of margaret eaton and he demanded -- and she did receive her at the white house, but he demanded that she treat her as a friend and she would not and so he sent her home. >> next is a question from john in annandale, virginia. hi, john. caller: hi, great series, as always. i'm wondering how andrew jackson's personality or
approach was affected by him becoming a widower, if at all. i know wilson, for example quickly remarried, which wasn't the case here. but was there any noticeable change in him? >> he was devastated. >> yes. he was not just devastated though. he was embittered. his whole first term really didn't accomplish anything because he was either in mourning or he was attempting to help peggy eaton out, he was fighting with his favorite niece and nephew. he had to actually -- he asked his cabinet to resign. it was a whole huge thing that involved him because he saw her as a surrogate for rachel. if they could treat her this way, they might have treated his wife that way. and he could not let it go.
>> next up is a call from dorothy in westerville, ohio. hi. caller: hi. thank you so much for taking my call. the program has been remarkable so far. my question is, how did rachel deal with andrew jackson's fiery temper? i'll hang up and listen for your answer. >> thank you. >> the only person who actually could control jackson when he was in a rage was rachel. one particular time they were going down river and there was a boat ahead of them with a number of happy young bucks who were all drunk who were zigzagging, zigzagging, zigzagging, so their boat was held up and he took out a gun and he said, i'll just kill a couple of them and she stopped that whole operation. i don't know if he would have or
not, but maybe. >> next is nancy from new jersey. hi, nancy. caller: fabulous. i would like to know if either of your guests have seen the old movie depicting the jacksons with charlton heston and susan hayward. it showed a beautiful love story. it was accurate? >> it wasn't particularly accurate but it had great looking actors and it was really romantic. i loved it. the book came out, "the president's lady" in 1961. it was a best seller for years. >> last question for this part of our program is from gary robinson on twitter and it sets the stage for the next half hour of our conversation. what was secretary of state van buren's role in the petticoat affair and jackson's cabinet? >> secretary of state van buren had the unfortunate benefit of being a widower himself so he
didn't have to have this social political push from his wife as the other cabinet members did. he was free to go and see margaret eaton and he. did he called on her frequently. he treated her well, and he gained tremendous, tremendous respect from jackson for that. it's very interesting 19th century historian who says the whole political history of the last 30 years -- and he's writing at the beginning of the civil war -- can be attributed to the moment when the soft hand of martin van buren touched mrs. eaton's knocker. although there's a double entendre there, it points out the fact that martin van buren undercuts calhoun and steps in and places himself in position to be the next one to run for president where calhoun had been the natural choice.
>> how did it become a successful bid for the presidency? >> it was somewhat complicated. he resigned. he got the -- he got eaton to resign, he got the rest of the cabinet to resign and then he got appointed -- jackson said you can't just resign, that's not good. i have to do something for you so he nominated him to be the minister, basically ambassador to great britain, and martin van buren left for great britain happy to be the new ambassador to the court of st. james and calhoun who was the seated vice president had the deciding vote in the senate on the appointment of this nomination and he cast a vote against it, infuriating jackson, and sealing van buren's future. >> martin van buren comes to the white house, the first northerner, far northerner, new york state. >> from new york state. >> he was the first born as an american. >> first born with american citizenship as his birth right. >> and another first, the adams were of english heritage.
he was dutch. >> he grew up speaking dutch. english was a second language to him so he was from a different culture. >> and a widower president coming to the white house. his wife died many years before and to set the stage for our conversation on his white house and first lady who served him, we're going to listen now to white house historian bill seale. >> president truman's favorite portrait because she was pretty. she was a southern belle, a tall girl. today you would say she was athletic looking. she married abraham van buren, met him at saratoga springs. she was from columbia, south carolina, was a belle and had plenty of money at the time. the singletons were a big, big family. she had plenty of money, bought pretty clothes. she was apparently a lot of fun so she and abraham went to
europe on their honeymoon where she was introduced to young queen victoria approximately her age and was so excited about the way the queen received women that she came back to the white house and had a platform built at the end of the blue room which was called the blue room for the first time in that administration, van buren, and she received all her friends all in white at the end of the room and they just nodded, they didn't shake hands or anything. it was not taken very well at all. imagine a country that never allowed ambassadors to wear uniforms. they didn't like that at all so the platform was removed. she lived on to the 1870's in new york, married to abraham. and not a lot known about her. very few letters and she was i guess what you would call a belle at that time. she didn't worry about things
much. >> martin van buren came to the white house as a bachelor with a number of sons and was it a quiet place in his term here? >> yes. it was very quiet. he was facing a tremendous political crisis because of the panic of 1837 which he inherited from jackson and jackson's policies. >> several weeks after he was inaugurated so it struck like that. >> and it went on so that he was a depression president. >> he was a depression president and this was the first huge economic depression the united states had had. we had a small one in 1819 but it wasn't nearly of this scale. basically, we had already had an interconnected global economy and there were calls out on banks from london, there were calls out to american banks, they didn't have the money. and they collapsed. and as the banking crisis started to go out, we don't have a national currency at this point, state banks started to collapse and everything dries up.
>> what was the depth of the depression for most americans? >> oh, boy. by that may there were riots over food in new york city. it was really serious. >> it was still going on in 1842, 1843. it didn't go away. >> it got a little bit better but not nearly for a long time. it was really a good five years. >> did he have a cabinet or his own personal ability to -- skill set to help resolve the crisis? >> well, presidents don't hold all these levers even now and this is before we have a fed although he did recommend an independent treasury system which is something like that but martin van buren and the democratic party had been arguing against federalism and against these federal projects so they sort of backed themselves into a corner on that.