Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Still Thinking about the Inauguration?

If the wait between our presidential election in November and subsequent inauguration in January seemed interminable, we can at least seek comfort in the knowledge that our forebears had much longer to wait. Prior to the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, Americans had to wait until March to see their new president sworn in. So, while President Obama has been in office for a month, at this time in 1829 Andrew Jackson still had two weeks of thumb-dwiddling to endure; and while he did not have to watch the nation's economy slowly dissolve, he did have to witness the seeds of discord being sown within his administration.

On New Year's day of 1829, Jackson's Secretary of War, John Eaton, had married a woman named Margaret Timberlake. Mrs. Eaton was the subject of abundant rumors in Washington concerning her supposed indiscretions while married to her first husband. Eaton himself was believed to have been one of her lovers while she had still been married. In the months before Jackson's inauguration, the Eatons had called at the home of John Calhoun, who was to be Jackson's Vice President. They were greeted coolly by Calhoun's wife, Floride, and were not, as was customary at the time, repaid with a recipricol visit from the Calhouns.

News of the Eatons' rejection soon spread through the city, and by February 26, John Quincy Adams, still president of the nation, would write that Washington was, "much scandalized by the ascendancy of Mrs. Eaton." By the time Jackson finally took the oath of office, deep divides over Margaret Eaton, and the sexual scandal she represented, would already have split Jackson's cabinet irrevocably. Ultimately, the vast majority would resign in protest to Eaton's continued service as Secretary of State.

Source: Jon Meacham, American Lion: Jackson in the White House (New York: Random House, 2008).
Picture Source: www.historyteacher.net

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