John Marszalek
John Marszalek
The Petticoat Affair:  Manners, Mutiny and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House
ISBN: 0684828014
The Petticoat Affair
THE PETTICOAT AFFAIR, by award-winning historian John F. Marszalek, is the definitive account of the greatest political sex scandal in American history. It tells the fascinating story of Margaret O'Neale Eaton, the brash and unconventional wife of Andrew Jackson's Secretary of War, who was branded a "loose woman" and snubbed by Washington society. President Jackson, who had frequently dueled and brawled in defense of his own wife’s reputation, set out to protect Eaton's honor, and he did so with a vengeance. By the time the scandal that ensued was over, the entire cabinet resigned, duels were threatened, assassinations were attempted, John Calhoun's hopes for the White House were dashed, and Jackson's first term as nearly a failure. Washington's society ladies, Margaret Eaton's fiercest enemies, were the only bloody victors.

Marszalek systematically tracks the escalation of events in a story that teems with conspiracy, slander, and paranoia. Reaching deep into the social context of the Jacksonian age, he shows how even the most powerful politicians ceded to an honor code that could not be broken. Both a riveting read and a fascinating window into our present-day politics of scandal, THE PETTICOAT AFFAIR is a deft exploration of the mores of another era and the timeless forces of ambition, conspiracy, and political intrigue.
—from the publisher's website

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TRANSCRIPT
The Petticoat Affair
Program Air Date: March 8, 1998

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: John F. Marszalek, what is "The Petticoat Affair" all about?
PROFESSOR JOHN MARSZALEK, AUTHOR, "THE PETTICOAT AFFAIR" Well, "The Petticoat Affair" goes back into the period of Andrew Jackson a--as one of those events that every historian knows something about, but no one's really bothered to--to get into it in any great detail. What it is, it's a story of a woman--a woman who happened to be the daughter of a Washington innkeeper at the time when--this is--we're talking in the early 19th cent--1900--1800s, early 19th century. And this was at a time when congressmen didn't bring their wives, their families because Congress wasn't in session all the time, so they lived in boarding houses. And Peggy O'Neill was the daughter of one of these boarding house keepers. And she was a beautiful woman and she could talk politics and she could--she could do a lot of things that women were not supposed to do during those days, and as a result, stories developed about her that--that she was providing services to her clientele that she ought not to be providing. And the result was that she developed a rep--bad reputation in Washington society.

Well, it turned out that Andrew Jackson becomes president of the United States in 1828, and his best friend, John Henry Eaton, one of his best friends, becomes the secretary of war. Well, he marries this young lady and she then becomes a Cabinet wife. All the Cabinet officials, all the Cabinet wives won't have anything to do with her. Washington society snubs her completely. The result is Andrew Jackson--and we can get into this with his relationship with his wife--but because of a number of things, spends the first two years of his presidency practically doing nothing else but trying to get Washington society to accept this woman as an equal. And he fails. And as a result, he fires his entire Cabinet two years into his presidency.
LAMB: How did you get interested in it?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, it--I--it's a--it's kind of a long story, but--I won't give you the whole story, but when I was a--a senior in college at Canisius College...
LAMB: In New York?
PROF. MARSZALEK: In Buffalo, right.
LAMB: Upstate.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Buffalo, New York, right. And we had a senior seminar--or a senior writing course, and I just got interested from doing some reading about this. And my professor, David Gorman, to whom I dedicate the book, really encouraged me. And so I wrote my senior paper about this. Well, I thought when I--when I went on to graduate school I would do my dissertation on this, and everybody told me, `No, you don't wanna do this. It's too hard to find the material.' And they were right. So I did a lot of other things. And when I finished my Sherman biography, I decided, `If I'm ever gonna do this, this was the time.' So about 1993 I really got into this and the--and the result is the book.
LAMB: Now did you get into it for any reason that compares to today's political world?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes--yes and no. N--I would've done this book anyway because I wanted to do it. But I--I have to tell you that the thing that really struck me and got me thinking about this even more was the coming to the White House of the Clintons. And what struck me about this was that--what I am--am convinced that Margaret Eaton, her problems were not sexual problems, her problems were the fact that she was doing things that a woman was not supposed to do, that society simply did not want to accept. And it really did strike me when the new administration came in and in the first year or so the attitude toward Hillary Clinton that here was a woman, again, was doing things that first ladies weren't supposed to do. And she was being attacked as being unwomanly and particularly the--you know, the chocolate chip cookie story and all the rest. So it--it did--it did get me thinking about that, but I--I must say I would've written it anyway, no matter who would've been elected president.
LAMB: Well, three pictures here and you brought some of the pictures with you that--they're in the book, but you also have 'em freestanding. This picture is what? Is this an actual photograph?
PROF. MARSZALEK: No, this is not. This is the imagination of a novelist about the turn of this century, about 1900, who wrote a novel about this incident. And this is what he imagined she may have looked like. And there's some--there's some, I think, accuracy in it.
LAMB: How old would she have been here?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, this--when she was married--she was born in 1799, she was married in 1829, so she was about--in her late 20s, I would say.
LAMB: Now this is another photograph. What--what era would this be for her?
PROF. MARSZALEK: This would be probably in the 1850s. We don't know for sure, but this is--this is probably when she's in her--in her la--late 40s, late 1840s, early 1850s, I think. So she's 45, 55. And this one would be...
LAMB: This is an actual photograph?
PROF. MARSZALEK: This is an actual photograph, yes. This was--we don't know, again, exactly when it was taken. She died in 1879, so I'm guessing it's probably in the early 1870s that this was taken.
LAMB: And I don't wanna spoil a good story, but she married three times and that thir...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right.
LAMB: ...that third marriage--what...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Great.
LAMB: How--how old was she and who did she marry?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, she marries when she's 59 years old and she marries a 20-year-old. A--I mean, it's a--it's a--it's unbelievable. It's a--she marries an Italian dance master, a--a fella who's actually teaching her grandchildren at a dance academy here in Washington. And one thing leads to another and they get married, and they stayed married for about six years, until he finally fleeces her of all her money and runs away with a granddaughter, goes off back to Italy, comes back to the United States. She sics the police on him. The story is he apparently ended up in Memphis and was shot in a barroom brawl, but, you know, that may or may not be true. But he's gone. And she continues on and then dies--dies alone, really.
LAMB: And so when she's 59 years old, she marries a 20-year-old.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right. Right.
LAMB: What was your reaction after all that they'd been through--and we'll go through that--in this town when she did this?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, as you might suspect, it was not good. The--the--the attitude was, `Well, here, she's--she's done it again. Here--you know, Margaret Eaton continues to thumb her nose at--at society,' and that continues to be the attitude toward her throughout. There are times when she's accepted, interestingly enough, but she never really gets accepted by--by society people because she just doesn't behave the way she ought to. Now this is a real problem 'cause this inv--you know, involves an old woman, young man, you know, the sexual connotation and all. Most of the time, the--the difficulty's not sexual. Most of the time, the difficulty is she's just an uppity woman.
LAMB: Right in the middle of your book, I--when I read this, I thought, `What would happen today if we read this about a sitting president?' I just wanna read it and give it--we'll, again, have you put it in context. `She discovered him lying prostrate on his wife's grave. "Come, General," Margaret said softly, "you must not do this."' She's talking about Andrew Jackson at The Hermitage...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Andrew Jackson. Right. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...outside of Nashville when he was president. `"Come, General," Margaret said softly, "you--you must not do this. Please recollect what a company you have in--in that house."' And he was having a party or a dinner. `"You must not come out here to grieve." Jackson stirred and responded equally softly, "Margaret Eaton, the woman that lies here," Rachel, "has shed a thousand tears for my reputation and her own, and won't you allow me the privilege of shedding a few tears over her grave?"'
PROF. MARSZALEK: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What would we do today if we heard that the president was lying prostrate...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh...
LAMB: ...over his wife's grave?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, we just--it--it--it's--one--one can't even imagine it. The thing that strikes me, and I think it struck other people who've read this book, that this book and--and the descriptions that we get into, Andrew Jackson, indicate this man could never have been elected president during this period in--in time. And he couldn't have survived because of some of the things he did, this included. He was incredibly emotional, incredible fits of--of anger. You know, he--he was involved in all kinds of duels before he being ha--became president. It just--just is inconceivable that anyone like--with his personality could survive the--the media coverage that--that modern-day presidents have, I think.
LAMB: What was that event and why was he lying prostrate on the grave?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right. Well, what happened was when he ran for the presidency for the first time in 1824, he won the popular vote, but no one received a majority of the electoral vote. So the result was, of course, it went into the House. And he thought, you know, `I'm the choice of the people, the people's--people's president. They voted for me more than they voted for Clay and John Quincy Adams,' etc. And he simply sits back, expecting the presidency to be given to him. Well, Clay is a--is a very good politician and he gets together with--with John Quincy Adams, and they work a deal and Adams becomes president and then a few weeks later J--Clay becomes secretary of state, the stepping stone of the presidency. And Jackson goes crazy, goes berserk. And for the next four years of John Quincy Adams' presidency, the corrupt bargain is the cry that's used against John Quincy Adams.

So the 1828 election comes along and it's as dirty an election as there was in American history. And one of the dirty things--and it comes out of this 1824 period--is the attack on Rachel Jackson, that she's a bigamist, that she had, after all, married Andrew Jackson when she was not legally divorced from her first husband. And so she goes through all of this. He goes through all this. He's elected anyway in 1828. He's getting ready to go to Washington, and Rachel has a heart attack and dies. And he is convinced that what killed her were these attacks on her character and on her personality. And so he grieves. I mean, he literally grieves through his whole presidency. I mean, he gives his inaugural address, he's wearing the grieving ritual--I mean, the grieving clothes. And he never gets over this--never gets over this thing. So anything having to do with Rachel is--is--is just an indication of `these awful people out there trying to get me. Not only are they trying to get me, but they got my beloved wife.'

And so when he goes to The Hermitage and he--and he goes for the first time after going to Washington, leaving his buried wife in--in Tennessee, and he falls upon--upon the grave--I mean, he is still mourning some several years into his presidency.
LAMB: Now when he was elected the president in 1828, how old was he?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, he was born in 1767, so doing some quick math--I hadn't thought about this for a while--he's--33 and 28 would be--What?--about 61? So about 61 years of age, right.
LAMB: So he was 61 years of age and his wife dies, and she's how old?
PROF. MARSZALEK: She is about the same age. I don't remember the exact birth date, but it's in that same--same neighb--not much difference in their ages.
LAMB: How long had they been married?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, gosh, goes back into the 1790s. But again, the problem is that they were married and then the di--the "non-divorce" was discovered, and then they were remarried during the same very short period of--of time. But they--but they lived together for about 30 years. Over--no, over 30 years--over 30 years that they're married.
LAMB: So during that campaign, they were bringing up something that was really old?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, it was very old, yeah. It goes back into the 1790s. Exactly.
LAMB: And what impact did it have on the election?
PROF. MARSZALEK: I don't think it had much impact because Jackson was--was elected rather--rather signif--with a significant vote. But it--it--it brought the election down to a--to a level of just absolute mud-throwing. The--the people supporting Adams were--were saying terrible things about Rachel Jackson, so the Jacksonians were making up stories about John Quincy Adams. For example, that when he was minister to Russia, he was actually a procurer of American women for the Russian czar. Well, if you know anything about John Quincy Adams, that--that doesn't make any sense at all. But those were the kinds of things--the--the billiard table that he bought--a billiard table for the White House and how awful and terrible that was, and using government funds to do that. And as he said, `Well, no, no,' he bought it with his own money and it was really a used billiard table. Well, then they attacked him for bringing shabby furniture into the nation's White House. So it--it was that kind of thing, just an awful sort of business.
LAMB: Andrew Jackson was president for how long?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, he was president from 1828 to 1836, so he served two terms.
LAMB: How long did the O'Neill-Timberlake-Eaton affair go on?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, actually, it starts as soon as he becomes president and it more or less ends in 1831, when the Cabinet is--is--is fired or they resign, of course, in--in April of 1831. But the repercussions continue into the fall of 1831 and even into 1832. They don't affect the election of 1832 because by that time Jackson is debating the--the Bank of the United States issue, so it's no longer the--the issue that it was. But it--this goes on for a quarter of his presidency.
LAMB: Bring it forward and let's try to paint a picture of what it would be like today if what happened then happened today.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right.
LAMB: Who would've resigned, like, for instance, the secretary of the Treasury?
PROF. MARSZALEK: All right. It was--was the secretary of state, the secretary of the Treasury, the attorney general. The postmaster general stayed on because he was one of the people who--who supported Jackson in this matter, o--one--one of the only ones. Secretary of War Eaton resigned, too, simply because he was going to resign. So they all did. They all did.
LAMB: And the Navy secretary?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Navy secretary, too, yes. The Navy secretary.
LAMB: Was the Navy secretary a bigger deal then? I mean...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yeah, it really was because the Navy secretary and war secretary were--were equal--equal members of the Cabinet.
LAMB: So you had Andrew Jackson, president; John C. Calhoun, vice president...
PROF. MARSZALEK: President.
LAMB: ...and he had been vice president with John Quincy Adams.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right. Right. Right.
LAMB: And your secretary of state was?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Martin Van Buren--Martin Van Buren, who is going to then become, in the 1832 election, a vice presidential candidate with Jackson because, as a result of this Eaton affair and all this debate that goes on, John--John C. Calhoun is thrown off the ticket--basically thrown off the ticket. Van Buren becomes the vice president, and the important thing about this is that when John C. Calhoun came over from the Quincy Adams presidency over to the Jacksonians, the idea was he was gonna take this position because Andrew Jackson wasn't gonna live very much longer. He--and--the--the man was in terrible shape. Everybody thought he was gonna die very quickly. Well, he lives on, of course, lives to 1845. He outlives a lot of other people. But in any case, Martin Van Buren becomes vice president then in the second term and then he becomes president of the United States. So one of the repercussions of this is that Van Buren becomes president instead of John C. Calhoun.
LAMB: So along the way, you've got this subtheme of Calhoun and Van Buren all through the book.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes, all through the book. Right. Yes. Exactly. They both wanna be--they both wanna be president.
LAMB: Where did you go for your material on this?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, it was--it was a--a real detective story, I think, in some ways because the m--there is no one body of documents. You know, there--for example, i--if it was the--say, the Margaret Eaton papers that you could look at and get all her--all the papers on that matter, but I had to look at, of course, the Jackson papers, had to look at other papers, too. But the Library of Congress, all th--all through the East--Eastern seaboard, libraries, archives, pretty much up and down the--the corridor.
LAMB: In the back, you credit your wife with helping you move from library to library.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes. Yes. How true. Yeah, she's--my wife is not a historian, but she is an integral partner in my research. She travels with me and she keeps me straight. I mean, she keeps me going in the right direction in this research.
LAMB: Where do you live?
PROF. MARSZALEK: We live in Mississippi. I teach at Mississippi State University, and we live in Starkville, Mississippi.
LAMB: How long have you been there?
PROF. MARSZALEK: It'll be 25 years this year. Came in 1973.
LAMB: Where was your hometown originally?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Buffalo--Buffalo--Buffalo, New York. Went to Canisius for undergraduate and then went to Notre Dame for my graduate work, spent a couple years in the Army and then taught in Erie, Pennsylvania, a place called Gannon University, and then came to Mississippi State, and we've been there ever since.
LAMB: What's your specialty? What was your PhD in?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, my PhD was actually had--dealt with General Sherman--General Sherman's relationship with newspaper reporters. They thought he was crazy and he threatened to hang a couple of 'em. So he would not be very popular at C-SPAN, I wouldn't--I wouldn't imagine.
LAMB: Whi--which book is this for you?
PROF. MARSZALEK: This is--this is about the eighth or ninth book that I've--that I've done.
LAMB: There's one little note in the back. I'm not even sure I can pronounce this right. You say that--Is it Kumpi and Alley?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, Kumpi and Alley, yes.
LAMB: `Kumpi and Alley, two dogs, extraordinary, woke me up in the middle of the night for an entire week to remind me to keep writing.'
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes.
LAMB: Tell us more about that.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes. Well, what happened was my--my son and daughter-in-law live in Memphis, Tennessee, about three hours from us, and they were coming--he was coming to Chicago to do some work and so my wife was--came with him, and I went up to watch their dog and I brought our dog with me. And so for about two weeks I was in the house by myself with these--with these two dogs, writing. And each night they woke me up about 3:30, 4:00, maybe quarter after 4, and just stand there and look at me. And so I--I'm the sort of person--once I get up, I don't go back to sleep, so I got up and started--started writing. Well, about the s--fifth or sixth day, about noon one day, I was eating lunch. The next thing I knew, I was asleep on the couch with the two dogs looking at me again. But I--I thought they deserved credit 'cause I got a tremendous amount of writing done in those couples weeks, thanks to them getting me up so early.
LAMB: Who named it "The Petticoat Affair?"
PROF. MARSZALEK: That's a combination of--I--I--I came up with that idea and my--and my editor at the Free Press, Bruce Nichols, came up with the idea, and then we worked on the subtitle. So it was a joint--joint effort.
LAMB: How hard was this book to sell to the publisher?
PROF. MARSZALEK: At first, it was a little bit--little bit difficult. My--my original editor, Joyce Sellsor, moved to another publisher, and we talked about it 'cause I had some other ideas, too, and she wasn't convinced at first. But the more we talked about it, I--and I think the more excited I got about it, I think the more excited she got about it. And the contract came, and so it--it went well. It wasn't a difficult sell, really.
LAMB: Now where was the O'Neill boarding house?
PROF. MARSZALEK: The O'Neill boarding house is roughly--well, i--it's hard to pin down. Let me--let me--let me just back up a little bit. It's--it's roughly in the area of Eye Street--Eye Street between 20th and 21st, about the area where George Washington University is now. So it's difficult to pin it down. I went down there and walked the whole area, trying to see if I could make sense, but the streets have changed in that area, I believe, and, you know, the buildings have moved, etc., so you can't find it, really.
LAMB: So it's about 20 blocks from here?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yeah, it's not far. Very close to the White House, yeah.
LAMB: And who were the O'Neills?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, the O'Neills, William O'Neill and his wife, were both immigrants, came to this country through New Jersey basically, came and began the boarding house here. That--that's why they came to Washington, DC, to start that boarding house.
LAMB: What year? Do you remember?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yeah, it was in the 1790s, about 1794, '96. It's--it--again, hard to--because they had property here and then they--he brought the house here, and so it's hard to pin down. But it's in the 1790s.
LAMB: And Margaret was born 1799.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right.
LAMB: Oldest of how many children?
PROF. MARSZALEK: There were four children--four children, two--two boys and another girl. And the two boys, interestingly enough, were both West Point students, never went very high in West Point, and they died as Merchant--in the Merchant Marines, so they're--they don't play much of a role. And her sister plays a minor role in her life, but not a whole lot.
LAMB: So where did you find the information on her early childhood?
PROF. MARSZALEK: One of the wonderful things that happened was a historian back in the 19th century named James Parton wrote a famous book on Andrew Jackson, which is not very--well, it was opposed to what Jackson stood for. But in any case, Margaret Eaton got so upset at some of the things that he said about her in that book that she decided that she was gonna write her memoirs. So she sat down and wrote her memoirs, and those were very, very helpful, at least pointing me in a right direction, and then newspapers played a big role in this. And the Historical Society of Washington had some good material on the--on the--you know, Washington during that early period. So it was piecing together things, but that memoir was terrific.
LAMB: So what were her early years like at the boarding house? Who stayed there, by the way?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, there--the--pr--probably the most famous person to stay there was George Clinton, who was vice president of the United States. In fact, he died there in 1812 and was buried--buried out of there. But there were whole--whole--all sorts of people--for example, Thomas Sumter, after whom Ft. Sumter is named. And then just a--mostly little-known but at that time important congressmen, members of the House particularly. Allegedly Henry Clay stayed there, but I--I've never been able to find any information to--to prove that.
LAMB: How many rooms?
PROF. MARSZALEK: It varied. At--at--it--at one time it got up to 40 rooms, and at--at other times it was as few as four or five. What happened was they started small, they expanded, had some financial problems, had to contract again. The burning of Washington and the War of 1812 didn't affect the--the house itself, but what O'Neill did was rent part of it to the Treasury Department to use until the government buildings were re-established. So it varied enormously.
LAMB: So when did you find material that showed you that she was an unusual kid or whatever--however you wanna describe her?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yeah, what--what--what struck wa--was, again, in several places, she was just there. She was at the boarding house. And she had an interest in politics. She would sit around as--as these various congressmen would sit around after dinner talking about, you know, what was going on, etc. And she would sit there and listen to 'em. And after a while, the word got out that she could participate in a conversation, that she--she could debate these things with them just as well as any man, and that was the key. She was a woman, and here is a teen-age girl debating and talking about politics at a time when women weren't supposed to do that. And that begins this whole idea that something with her--she's too forward, she's--she's not a--a real woman.
LAMB: So in 1815, '16, when she's a teen-ager, she couldn't have voted, even if she was...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, no.
LAMB: ...old enough to vote.
PROF. MARSZALEK: No. Hmm-mm. No.
LAMB: What else--what--what was the country like then? How many people lived in Washington?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, Washington was a--was a very, very small place, as you can imagine, about 6,000, 8,000 people. When--we're talking about when--at the early time, early 19th century. Gets up to around 30,000 by the time we--Ja--Jackson gets here as president. And those numbers vary 'cause depend--`Do you count Georgetown? Do you not count Georgetown?' that kind of thing. So it's not a big place. It's not a big place at all. It's a--the type of place where everybody knew everybody. And when you--when you were a part of this community, people knew about you. And if you did something untoward, everybody would know about it. And so her name was all over Washington and really beyond that because these congressmen would come in and, of course, go home and talk about her. They liked her. That was interesting. They really thought she was terrific--terrific person.
LAMB: You describe her as being un--unusually attractive.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes, very attractive, and that's what happened. She goes from being a cute little girl that would sit on their laps when--when they would, you know, be--be talking and, of course, they'd left their children behind. She becomes kind of their surrogate child. And then as she grows up, by the time she gets to be 15, 16, she's a beautiful woman. And--and so it changes from this cute girl to a--to a beautiful woman, and then, of course, she has some romances--not with any of the congressmen but with some other Army people. And so...
LAMB: Who stayed there?
PROF. MARSZALEK: No, they don't stay there. These are people she met who knows--who knows how. Maybe they--they came by--1814--there was--that was another thing, there was a bar in the boarding house, too. And so they may be--have been individuals who came to the bar and had--had drinks and she tended bar, which again, a bartender--woman bartending was not exactly the kind of thing that a woman should do.
LAMB: When was the first time that Andrew Jackson showed up in this town?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, he actually was here in the 1790s briefly. He was the first senator from Tennessee, actually, and then, of course, he goes on and does other things. He comes back again, 1823, for the session of Congress, and that's he when he lives at the O'Neill house. That's when he meets Peggy, Margaret.
LAMB: And she's about 24 then?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right.
LAMB: And he's in the United States Senate?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right.
LAMB: And is she married?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes. By that time, she is married. She marries a man named Timberlake, John B. Timberlake, who is a purser in the Navy, and Timberlake's not a good businessman. He's not a good businessman as a purser in the Navy, he's not a good businessman when he tries to do--work a shop, actually, out of the same boarding house area. And he fails at all of these things and loses all kinds of money. So he goes back to sea again. So when Andrew Jackson comes, Timberlake is getting ready to go back off to sea. And, of course, Jackson comes with John Henry Eaton.
LAMB: Comes with John Henry Eaton from Tennessee?
PROF. MARSZALEK: From Tennessee. The...
LAMB: They both live there?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right. Right. Eaton has already been--he's been a senator for, I think, one term up to that point. And he'd already lived there. Be--so he brought Jackson into this--into this boarding house. So what happens, of course, is that Eaton becomes very close friends with Timberlake and becomes very close friends with--with Margaret. And when Timberlake goes off to sea, Eaton becomes kind of her guardian. In fact, Timberlake gives him his power of attorney and all this. And anyway, so the rumors really begin then. This guy is off to sea, his wife is fooling around with this--with this senator, blatantly going out in public, etc., etc., etc.
LAMB: How old is the senator? How old is Eaton?
PROF. MARSZALEK: He's--he is a young man, too. He is--let me see. I'd have to st--I'd have to think. He is in his 30s, early 30s. So there's not much difference.
LAMB: So Andrew Jackson and John Henry Eaton...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Eaton.
LAMB: ...both staying in the boarding house.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right.
LAMB: She's about 24 years old.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right.
LAMB: Both of 'em are United States senators.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right. Right.
LAMB: And?
PROF. MARSZALEK: And what happens is Washington society is abuzz about the fact that they see John Henry Eaton and Mrs. Timberlake going off to parties together and sitting together at the boarding house and talking. And all kinds of rumors develop. And then the whole thing explodes in--in April of 1828 when word comes back that Timberlake is dead. He dies during one of his cruises on a--on a Navy ship. And the w--he commits suicide. And the--the story, of course, develops that he committed suicide because he'd heard about his wife fooling around with John Henry Eaton, couldn't stand the shame and cut his own throat. Margaret insists and her family insists that what happened was this was an accidental killing, that he--he suffered from terrible asthma, and in what--in a fit of--of an asthma attack, he somehow cut his throat. We don't know. There's no way of knowing. People that were with him when he died later said that he kept talking about his wife and wished he could--he could be back with his wife and with his children. They had some children by that time. So the idea that he cut his throat because he heard these terrible things about Margaret at home I don't think could hold water.
LAMB: Timberlake dies in 1828...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes.
LAMB: ...same year that Andrew Jackson's elected president.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes. Right. Right.
LAMB: So he's elected president in November...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right.
LAMB: ...and J--is John Henry Eaton still living there? What happens then?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes. What happens then is Eaton and Margaret marry on January 1st, 1829, which opens up another can of worms because she's violating one of the basic mores of a genteel woman. In those days, if--if--if a husband died, a--a wife was supposed to grieve for anywhere from one to two years--I mean, grieve to the point of wearing certain kind of clothes and then doing nothing. You weren't even supposed to sew because if you could concentrate enough to sew, that meant you weren't grieving your husband enough. Interesting enough, if a wife died, a husband grieved six months and went on and probably remarried. In any case, the husband dies--Margaret's husband dies in April of 1828; January 1st, 1829, they marry--less than year. This is outrageous. This can't be happening. How can this woman flaunt herself this way? And then, of course, what happens next? Jackson appoints Eaton secretary of war and Margaret Eaton is now a Cabinet wife.
LAMB: Now is this--did you find newspapers that would write up all of this? Was it a public issue then?
PROF. MARSZALEK: No. That's the--it--it was and it wasn't. It was a public issue in that people talked about it a great deal. And people talked about it--for example, John Quincy Adams keeps a very, very good diary, and he talks about this all the time--`Well, I just talked to so-and-so and they told me that Margaret had done such-and-such.' The newspapers themselves don't really get into this, except kind of by the side door, until much later, until this thing breaks about the time of the Cabinet splitting. That's when the newspapers really get into it. But interestingly enough, they don't talk about this 'cause that's not something that, you know, you--you talk about in newspapers intre--despite all the horrible things that went on in the 1828 campaign.
LAMB: Simultaneously, as Andrew Jackson comes to the White House, he brings with him a family.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Family, right.
LAMB: Who are they?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Andrew Jackson Donelson, who is like a son to him--he helped raise him--and Andrew Jackson Donelson's wife, Emily, who is going to be the official White House hostess.
LAMB: But their relationship--Andrew Jackson Donelson relates how to Rachel?
PROF. MARSZALEK: To Rachel, he--he is a--would be a nephew--one of her brother's sons.
LAMB: So they bring the--Andrew and Emily Donelson come to the White House.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right. Right. Right.
LAMB: How old were they?
PROF. MARSZALEK: They were very young. Now she is about 20 or 21. She's a very, very young woman, Emily is. He is a bit older. He's in his later 20s.
LAMB: What do they think of Margaret Eaton?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, well, that's an interesting thing because when they come, they have social relations with the Eatons. You know, they--they ta--they visit each other, etc., etc. And then something happens. Something happens and they begin to kind of pull away, and they say the reason they're doing this is because she is--Margaret is too forward a person; that she is trying to run their lives for 'em and they're not gonna put up with this.

But I think what really happens--and you get some hints from some of the letters that are written--is the Donelsons, Emily a--and Andrew Jackson Donelson, are talked to by society--by the society of Washington, saying, `Look, you can't have anything to do with this woman. This woman is a--is a scarlet woman and you must not have anything to do with her.' Now the difficulty that develops is, of course, that Andrew Jackson wants them to have relationships with each other, and so you have this enormous turmoil inside the White House.
LAMB: What's the story of the calling cards?
PROF. MARSZALEK: OK, the calling card--in those days there was a--a--a certain etiquette that people had to follow, and it--and it depended on who you were. For example, if you were the vice president, people would visit you, and they would come and make a formal call during a certain time of day. And these were mostly women that did these kinds of things. And whether you were there or not, they would leave a calling card--they--just a card with their name on it, indicating they'd fulfilled their proper function. You receive the calling card. You're the vice president's wife. You then return the visit and you present your calling card. What happens with Margaret Eaton, she presents her calling card, but Washington society refuses to pay her a visit in return.
LAMB: I mean, would you literally just show up unannounced at somebody's house?
PROF. MARSZALEK: No. There would be certain times. It would be certain time, usually in the afternoon, maybe 1 to 3--you know, Mrs. Jones will be accepting visitors 1 to 3 or whatever might be--there was a--there was a definite etiquette. No, you just didn't show up any time 'cause a lady had to be in proper attire in a proper place in the house. It was all...
LAMB: But they may not be home, though.
PROF. MARSZALEK: No, no, no. No. No, that's right. They--if they're--if they're--that's why it would be set. You would know. I mean, society would know that on a certain day you could come, other days you would not come.
LAMB: But on those certain days you're not there and the car--you leave the card...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, right.
LAMB: ...so you th--I mean, the idea is that if you're not there and you leave the card, then you're expected to return the visit.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right. That's right. Yes. You could--that's right. Y--y--I s--understand what you're saying. Yeah. If--if you're not there, then you--then the person visiting would still leave that card.
LAMB: I mean, it seems that that's--that was where it all kind of blew up, is that people weren't returning the visits.
PROF. MARSZALEK: That's right, they weren't returning the visits, yeah. And they were snubbing her, too. I mean, they--they were snubbing her during the inauguration, they were snubbing her during administration parties.
LAMB: What is this cartoon?
PROF. MARSZALEK: This is a cartoon that was--that came out at the time when the Cabinet split, when Jackson fires his Cabinet. And what you see there is Andrew Jackson sitting on a throne and you notice it's falling apart, and all the Cabinet members there are scurrying away, except you--you notice there's a ladder and Martin Van Buren is trying to climb that ladder right--actually, the one below. That--right. And the terrier right above--that's John C. Calhoun, who is trying to keep Van Buren from climbing the ladder of preferment, the ladder, of course, to become the next president.

And then you see--and--and--Jackson's still holding William Barry, the one--the one member of the Cabinet who he allows to stay. And, by the way, he allows him to stay for two reasons: number one, because Barry agrees with him on the Eaton issue and, secondly, there's all sorts of accusations of corruption against Barry and he wants to give him a chance to clear his name so he doesn't fire him.
LAMB: How does Andrew Jackson find out that people can't stand Margaret Eaton?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, it--it was--it was--it was very, very blatant. For example, the--the--the most obvious example, if he didn't know it--and he knew it before this because people told him. The classic example is the example of Ezra Stiles Ely, the--the leading Presbyterian leader, one of the l--major Presbyterian leaders in--in the country at that time. And Ely writes Jackson a series of letters telling him, `Don't leave this Eaton in your Cabinet. His wife is a scarlet woman and she's done these terrible things. She's had an abortion. She's done'--I mean, you kn--you know, you name it.

And so Jackson knows about--about this. Right then they have this big debate that goes on. And it turns out that Jackson's own Presbyterian minister, John Campbell, is involved in some of this, and there's a big confrontation between Jackson and his--and his pastor. That doesn't work out very well for the pastor, and Jackson becomes so angry he quits--quits that particular church. So there's a lot of indica--Jackson--there's no secret about this. They're--they're telling Jackson wh--how they feel.
LAMB: I--I'm just reading in that particular part of your book where you--you say that Ely cautioned him against traveling on the Sabbath. I--I--just pops out of the page. Who is he cautioning and why?
PROF. MARSZALEK: OK. Ely is--is a man who writes--gives a--a sermon--a very famous sermon in which he says that what is necessary is that the United States become a Christian nation. Sounds very familiar with some modern--modern-day things. And so in order to do this, one of the things that should be done is that Andrew Jackson should be elected president. Now the fact that John Quincy Adams is also a Christian--but he's too liberal a Christian for--for Ely.

So in any case, what happens--what happens is that Ely is one of those people who believes that in order to have a Christian nation, in order to have a religious people, you must obey the Sabbath to the point that you don't even travel on the Sabbath, that the trains should stop running on the Sabbath, the--the--the stagecoaches sho--well, trains aren't around yet, but stagecoaches sh--should not run. People should not travel back and forth. Nothing should happen on the Sabbath.

So he's saying to Jackson, `Now, look, Andrew, when you--when you go to Washington, be sure that you do it in such a way that you don't travel on the Sabbath 'cause that--that Quincy Adams, when he was going in, I mean, he traveled on the Sabbath--he broke the Sabbath. We can't have that kind of thing happening.' So it's within that context that he writes Andrew Jackson and says, `Look, you gotta get rid of this scarlet woman.'
LAMB: There's a bunch of things in here--and you write--it says, `Ely next presented a catalog of Margaret Eaton's alleged sins at the National Hotel'--that's not here any longer--`where...'
PROF. MARSZALEK: No.
LAMB: Do you know where that is, by the way, that...
PROF. MARSZALEK: No. No, I don't.
LAMB: `...where Jackson himself had stayed. A man told four others, Ely reported, that, quote, "Mrs. Eaton brushed by me last night and pretended not to know me. She has forgotten the time when I slept with her."'
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yeah. Yeah.
LAMB: And then you go on to say, `Eaton's seduction of his wife--a Washington clergyman told Eaton that Margaret had undergone a miscarriage at a time when Timberlake had been away, while some congressmen indicated that Margaret and John Eaton had stayed at the hotel as husband and wife before they were actually married.' And this is a clergyman writing a letter directly to the president?
PROF. MARSZALEK: President. Directly to the president, ta--talking about all these things.
LAMB: What does he do about that?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, Jackson just becomes absolutely furious, and he writes--as--there's a series of letters that go back and forth. And what Jackson is very good at doing, he's very good at standing people down. He was a lawyer. He was a--a--a judge, actually, in--in--in Tennessee. So he just hits this guy with--with a--with a lawyer's way of questioning. He said, `Well, how do you know this? I checked this. This didn't happen.' By the time they finish, Ely is saying, `You know, I guess you're right. You know, I have to admit to you that I heard this from one person, a clerk at a particular department who had heard it from someone else.' So--so Jackson thinks he's won out. He--he's really leveled this--this preacher. And it turns out that the thing just, of course, continues and gets bigger and bigger.
LAMB: Now when Andrew Jackson's sitting in the White House, I know you wrote early--you write early in this book that he had two bullets in him.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yeah, right. That's...
LAMB: In his body?
PROF. MARSZALEK: In his body.
LAMB: Where'd he get them?
PROF. MARSZALEK: From duels. He--he s--he dueled--had several duels defending the honor of his wife Rachel. And there was one--one incredible--one incredible situation. I mean, to give you some idea of the kind of guy this--this man was, the duel is such that, you know, you--you--you pace, you know, the u--the traditional movie sort of thing. And the--the man named Dickinson that he's dueling against is supposed to be the best shot in Tennessee. Well, the guy sh--fires first and he hits him. And Jackson doesn't move. And he goes and he clicks and nothing happens. He goes again, shots him right in the stomach, kills him on the spot. Meanwhile, he starts walking away. Blood is dripping into his boot. This bullet is just very, very close to his heart. It never leaves.

Another bullet he--he got from Thomas Hart Benton and the Benton brothers in a--in a--in a big debate--"debate," to put in mildly. Anyway, it was a--he was shot--he was shot in the arm. That bullet worked its way to the skin during the time he was president, and what happened was Jackson said, `I don't want anything. I'm not gonna take anything, not any whiskey or anything.' He sat in a chair, took his cane, sat holding his cane. The doctor took a knife out, opened the--the--the skin and yanked the bullet out. Jackson got up and walked on with his work. And this is a guy that's supposed to be dying, you know. This--he's gonna die before he becomes--you know, a few months into his presidency. And this is the kind of thing--and so we think he may have had lead poisoning. They used to take various kind of lead to--to deal with stomach problems and stuff. I mean, you look at the man, he looks awful, but he's a--he's as strong as a--as a bear.
LAMB: So you--we're still talking about the first two years of Andrew Jackson's presidency. These letters begin. Why is he fighting back so much?
PROF. MARSZALEK: I think that there are--there are several--several reasons. I think the--the major reason is all his life he has had this relationship with women where he feels he must defend them. His mother died at the hands of the British, he believes. I mean, she dies from disease during the American Revolution. His wife dies, he--he believes, a--as a result of these political scandals. So he--very, very, very strong feeling he must defend women.

So I think in defending Margaret Eaton, he is again defending his wife, he's again defending his--his mother. I think he sees this as one big thing. And it--secondly, he sees this as a continuation of the assaults on him, `Yeah, they're attacking Margaret Eaton, but they're really attacking me. They're really trying to get me 'cause they tried to get me through Rachel, so they're trying to get me through--through Margaret.' He's a great conspiratorial--he believes in conspiracies. Everything's a conspiracy against him.
LAMB: What did he stand for?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Andrew Jackson is one of the most intriguing people in American history because you can't pin him down. You can say, `Well, he's a great nationalist. After all, he battled against nullification and he was gonna, you know, hang John C. Calhoun from the highest, you know, tree,' and all this. But he's really a states' righter, too. He's a great believer in states' rights. He's a great believer in limited government.
LAMB: What did nullification mean?
PROF. MARSZALEK: OK, nullification was the idea that a state, an individual state, could nullify the effects of a federal law within the state. So, for example, the tariff--that South Carolina could pass a nullification ordinance saying, `You can have the tariff, but it doesn't work in this state.' Well, Jackson said, `Hey, you can't have a union this way. You can't--you can't operate this way. I believe in states' rights but not to the point of destroying the union.' He's a great lover of the union.
LAMB: Did he have slaves?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes. Yes, he did. Yes.
LAMB: And was--what would he be today?
PROF. MARSZALEK: That's a good question because one of the things about Jackson is politicians, over the years, have used hi--aspects of his presidency to support their position. If it's a nationalist position, `I'm a Jacksonian.' If it's states' rights, `I'm a Jacksonian.' So it just depended. It just dep--everybody can use him. He's like Lincoln. He's like Jefferson. There's enough there for everybody to be able to get a piece and say, `I'm really with this important man.'
LAMB: What were some of the other things he was involved in militarily?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, well, previously, he's most famous--I mean, the r--one could argue the main reason why he's president of the United States is because of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, this great victory over the British in the War of 1812, a strange sort of situation because the war is really over when--when the Battle of New Orleans takes place. But it's this great victory after all these difficulties in the war, and we've really put it to these British. He comes to symbolize this spurt of nationalism that--that gra--grasps the country in--in--in this period after the--after the War of 1812.
LAMB: You--you were mentioning earlier about him being sick. I--I--I just think it might be worth reading how sick you said he was.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes. Yeah, right.
LAMB: You kind of lump it altogether on page 102. `Jackson's methodical presentation of his evidence quickly demonstrated to the assembled group that their president was deadly determined.' Now that--you--you say earlier--I--we're talking about that day of the incredible meeting...
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes.
LAMB: ...of the Cabinet.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Cabinet.
LAMB: Before I read how sick he was, though, what was that meeting?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, the meeting was--was amazing. The meeting is a meeting of the Cabinet and they're there for Jackson to prove that Margaret Eaton is as chaste as a virgin, and that's what they do. They--he brings in Campbell, the accuser, the--the preacher from his own church who's accusing her of--of--of this miscarriage, etc.--they called it an a couche mal. But--and--abd so the--the idea was, well, it was maybe more than a miscarriage. But whatever, it was--it was--it happened at a time when her husband was gone too long. And so they--they sit there and they debate--don't even debate this. Jackson provides the information, and he says, `This is it, people. She is as chaste as a virgin and I want you to meet with her, and that's that.' And they all s...
LAMB: The wives have been all snubbing her all along?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, all along, yeah.
LAMB: Now you had Martin Van Buren, a vice--he's a st--secretary of state.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Secretary of state.
LAMB: And...
PROF. MARSZALEK: He's a w--he's a widower. That helps. It helps him a great deal. He doesn't have a wife or a daughter to deal with, so...
LAMB: From New York.
PROF. MARSZALEK: From New York.
LAMB: OK. And--and John C. Calhan's--Calhoun's not in the meeting.
PROF. MARSZALEK: No.
LAMB: He's still in South Carolina.
PROF. MARSZALEK: He's still in South Carolina.
LAMB: You got Sam--Samuel Ingham.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Ingham, right.
LAMB: Treasurer.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right.
LAMB: Treasury secretary.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Treasury secretary, right.
LAMB: Who is he, by the way?
PROF. MARSZALEK: He's a--he's a--a--a politician from Pennsylvania. The interesting thing about this Cabinet--none of them--none of them is very important. One critic calls them `a millennium of minnows,' this Cabinet.
LAMB: But John Ingham's wife isn't buying off on--on Margaret.
PROF. MARSZALEK: No. She--she's one of the leaders, too, in--in this atta--in this snubbing of--of Margaret.
LAMB: John Berrien.
PROF. MARSZALEK: John Berrien, right. He's from Georgia, and he's...
LAMB: Attorney general.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right. And he's got a couple daughters and--and a wife.
LAMB: John Branch, secretary of the Navy.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right, from North Carolina. Right.
LAMB: John McLean.
PROF. MARSZALEK: No, he's not--McLean was supposed to have been in the Cabinet.
LAMB: He went to the Supreme Court.
PROF. MARSZALEK: He went to the Supreme Court, right.
LAMB: William Barry was your postmaster.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right. And he's the one--he's the one who's friendly to--to Margaret 'cause he lives--he lived with her. In fact, the Barrys are living with the Eatons right now unti--while their house is being fixed, so he's--he's on her side.
LAMB: So their--is John Eaton in this room, by the way?
PROF. MARSZALEK: No, no. They don't--he--he just stayed away.
LAMB: His wife's the subject.
PROF. MARSZALEK: His wife's the subject.
LAMB: But here's what you--what happened in that meeting, by the way? What was the...
PROF. MARSZALEK: What happened was Jackson thought he'd won out. He thought he'd convinced everybody. He'd presented them all the facts, for heaven's sake. That--that should be the end of it, `Now come meet with her and let's forget about it. Let's go on.' Nothing changes.
LAMB: The wives refused to meet her.
PROF. MARSZALEK: The wives refused. And the thing he doesn't understand, interestingly enough, is that in that period of history, it was not a man's decision. This was a woman's decision. Women had the duty to maintain virtue in society and so they made these decisions. It was the man's responsibility to follow along with his wife. He--he couldn't--he couldn't...
LAMB: 1829-1830 is the time period on this. What's going on in the country?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, this is--again, the big thing that's going on in the country, of course, is--is the Jackson presidency, the coming into the--into the--Washington of this new group, this group that's replacing the--the John Quincy Adams people, who are considered the elite, and these are supposedly the average--average people. So the big thing that's happening is the--the so-called development of what comes to be known as the "spoils system."

A big issue that's going on at the same time as this is going on is the rotation in office, the idea of the new president bringing in his own people and firing, eliminating. That's what happens no--you know, nor--normally. But in those days that wasn't supposed to happen. So this Eaton affair kind of ties in with this rotation in office because they're saying, `Look, here's this new president. Here's this barbarian from the West, this--this ruffian, this--the--this man who's hanged people in--in--in Florida, who's shot people in duels. He's coming in. He's the president. He's bringing in people like him. And if you don't believe that he's bringing in really awful people, just look at the wife of his secretary of war.'
LAMB: Here's how you describe Andrew Jackson. `They were aware of his volcanic temper and that all that spring and summer his whole physical system seemed out of sorts. His legs and feet had swelled. He had chest pains and shortness of breath, terrible headaches and vision and stomach problems. According to a later physician, he was suffering from severe kidney problems complicated by chronic pulmonary infection, malaria, dys--dyspepsia, osteomyelitis, bronchitis, totally decayed teeth, an impacted bullet and his regimen of lead and'--is it kolamel?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Kelamel--kela--kelamel.
LAMB: Kelamel?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Kelamel.
LAMB: What in--how did he live?
PROF. MARSZALEK: That's what--that's a good question.
LAMB: Where did you--I mean, was this all readily--information available here?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, yeah. This is--fortunately, I was very lucky because some doctor many, many years ago, actually, wrote an article in a--in a medical journal where he studied Andrew Jack--looked at--at all the stuff that was said about him and said, `This is--this is what the problem with this guy is.' Someone once said that the thing about Jackson is that it's his incredible will. He has an incredible will that just keeps him going and keeps him doing the kinds of things that he does. That's his importance. I think his importance as president is not that he does anything particularly but what he stands for, what he represents.
LAMB: You say that he was the first president in the history of the United States to ever be assaulted.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes. Right.
LAMB: How did that happen?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, fits--it comes in as a result of this Eaton affair, too. Remember, I mentioned that John Timberlake, the Navy purser, was just not a very good businessman and his books were not in particularly good shape.
LAMB: Margaret's first husband?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Right, Margaret's first husband. And--and--and his books weren't in particularly good shape when he--when he commits suicide. So this man Randolph takes his place. Anyway, one thing leads to another and there is an investigation of Timberlake, and it--what happens is that one of Jackson's closest supporters, Amos Kendall, says, `No, it wasn't Timberlake who was the problem. It was this guy, Randolph.' So Randolph is so upset that he literally stalks the president on board a ship, walks up to him and grabs him by the nose and twists his nose so much that the--that the bloods comes uncontrollably. That was a--a way of showing disdain for somebody, like slapping them across the face would be. You twist their nose. So this--as far as I know, this is the first time a president has been that directly assaulted.
LAMB: What happened to the fellow?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Oh, he was--he was knocked down and--and kicked off, and that--that was about it. And Jackson said, `Forget it. Forget it.'
LAMB: How did the Cabinet resign?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, that was--that was done very cleverly. Some people say this was V--Martin Van Buren's finest hour. Van Buren said, `Look, Andrew Jackson, things are not going well. People are saying that I'm responsible for this Eaton affair and I'm--I'm responsible for all this and that I wanna run for president, so I will sacrifice myself and I will resign from your Cabinet.' And then Eaton says, `Well, no, no, I'm really responsible, so I'll quit,' which--his two friends resign. Jackson then turns to his enemies and he asks them for their resignation. And they resign, but it's a big to-do, and this is when it breaks--breaks out. This is when the country finds out about the Eaton affair.
LAMB: What's the country's reaction?
PROF. MARSZALEK: They can't believe it. They're--they're--they're shocked, they're--they're--they're titillated. But it really has no impact on Jackson's popularity or Van Buren's popularity. It doesn't have any impact at all.
LAMB: What does he do with the Cabinet?
PROF. MARSZALEK: He--he--he brings in a whole new Cabinet, just hires new people.
LAMB: Names we know of?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yeah, people like Roger Brooke Taney comes into that Cabinet, who later on becomes, you know, a famous Supreme Court--Supreme Court justice. So the Cabinet is probably, interestingly enough, a better Cabinet--the second Cabinet is probably a better Cabinet than the first Cabinet was.
LAMB: What happens to John Henry Eaton and Margaret Eaton?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, Jackson still wants to have Eaton near him. They're--they're--he still sees him as a close friend. So what he'd like to have happen is--he tells his Tennessee supporters, `Look, this Eaton has gone out of the way for us. You need to elect him senator. Make him senator from Tennessee.' Well, it doesn't happen. So what Jackson does is he appoints Eaton as territorial governor of Florida. He's there for a--for a couple of years. Then he appoints him minister to Spain and he's there for four years, and he comes back and he becomes a big-time lawyer in--in Washington and dies in the 1850s.
LAMB: That's when Margaret Eaton marries the 19- or 20-year-old?
PROF. MARSZALEK: That's when she--yeah, although, actually, it's about five years--five, six years after the--the--Eaton died, but then she ends up, right, marrying...
LAMB: Now th--this isn't a huge part of your book, but I've just gotta show this photograph you have of this man. Who is this?
PROF. MARSZALEK: This is Duff Green.
LAMB: What was his role in all this?
PROF. MARSZALEK: He is one of the newspaper--one of the newspaper men of this period. One of the things that's so intriguing about this Eaton affair, too, is to see how newspapers developed during this period in American history and how they used this event and the split between--i--in the Cabinet to build up their support--support for their--you know, their circulation. Keep in mind this is a time when--when newspapers are not supposed to be objective. They're partisan. They're--they're bought by a political party or by a political faction.
LAMB: Now you made the whole first two years of the Andrew Jackson presidency revolve around what's called the Petticoat Affair here and Margaret Eaton. Have you raised it to a new height? Was it really this important back then?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Well, that--that's--other historians have debated this, and some said, `Yes, it was an--important,' some said, `It was not important.' I think that if you look at all the issues that--that--that are--that are s--simmering in politics during this time, no matter how you pull it, no matter how you push it, it all seems to come together around Margaret Eaton. I think it's--it's Duff Green makes a comment in--in a newspaper. He said, `Yeah, this--these other issues we probably could've solved 'em, but this doggone issue with this woman, that just--couldn't--couldn't solve that thing.'
LAMB: But in the end, you do co--make conclusions about Margaret Eaton yourself.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yes. Yeah, I--I--I think--again, I think all the--the s--the sexual stuff is not the--is not the key thing. I think the key thing is that--that she is just an individual who doesn't know her place in society. And she's one of these women that we see throughout periods in American history who try to do things, be over and--and above what a woman is supposed to do and get--and get slapped down.

Now I'm not making Margaret Eaton into some sort of saint. She was hardly a saint. She was a rough, tough woman. I mean, she--she--she--she was an individual who--who said what she thought. She was not graceful. She was not petite. She was not feminine. I mean, none of that. But she was a woman who believed that as a woman she had just as much right as anybody else to speak her mind and do whatever she thought she wanted to do.
LAMB: Any lessons for people today on what today would look like a couple hundred years from now?
PROF. MARSZALEK: Yeah. I--I think--I think there are--there are--the--the role of women in--in American history has--has--has evolved enormously in the last several years, and I think it's going to continue to evolve. One can see various issues like this developing. You know, the--the--the role of black people in American history has been debated and people were saying terrible things about black people who dared do things that they should not have done. I--I think I s--the--the gay and lesbian movement, I think, is another area where people are saying, `Well, you know, gay people shouldn't do certain things.' We're gonna look back on this and say, `Well, this was part of this movement to--to open up American society even more.'
LAMB: John Marszalek is our guest, and here's what the book looks like. The title of it is "The Petticoat Affair," and right below that's the subhead "Manners, Mutiny and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House." Thank you very much for your time.
PROF. MARSZALEK: Thank you.
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