“Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband be placed in the highest office of this free and Christian land?”—1828
Well, the year 2012 has arrived and with it all the political trappings that make for an exciting election year, and I have to tell you that I smile every time I hear someone remark as to how “dirty” modern day elections have become.
This past week it dawned on me that we have the better part of this election year to look at some of the political campaigns that have now found their way into the history books. I can assure you that some of them are “doozies,” and yes, that is a real word!
Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel share a love story that certainly deserves its place in the annals of American History; however, it was that infamous story that probably cost Rachel her life and the chance to take her position beside her husband in the White House. Today I want to look at the political campaign that I believe killed Rachel Jackson as surely as if the Jackson haters had put a bullet through heart.
Of all the muddy political campaigns hatched in this country, the campaign of 1828 has to stand as one of the worst ever in terms of mud slinging. Presidential candidate Andrew Jackson was called a murderer, a gambler, and a traitor by his opponents, supporters of John Quincy Adams. His mother was deemed a prostitute and his beloved wife a bigamist and an adulteress. There were even those who claimed Jackson’s father to be part Negro, a fact that is of no importance today but certainly was in 1828.
Now before I give you the wrong idea, those in the Jackson camp certainly did their share of throwing mud as well. John Quincy Adams was the incumbent, and they accused the President of dipping into the till for private use, of allowing gambling in the White House at the tax payers’ expense, and of “providing” women for foreign diplomats.
Sound familiar? Oh, the subject matter varies, but the jabs are thrust in much the same manner that we see today. In 1828, as is usually the case today, some of the claims had just
enough truth to them to cause the smoke needed for the proverbial fire, a fire that eventually consumed Rachel Jackson in its flames.
Rachel Donaldson Robards Jackson was beloved on the Tennessee frontier, even with the whispers about her first marriage and subsequent divorce, which apparently did not come until after she had married Andrew Jackson. However, with her husband’s rise in fame came many political enemies, enemies who were willing to use Rachel to win political office.
The stories were many, and they were ugly. Rachel Jackson simply did not have the fortitude to weather them. Her husband eventually won the election, breaking the era of the American elite in the White House. However, the would-be first lady never left Tennessee. She was buried at the couple’s home, The Hermitage, on Christmas Eve of 1828, a woman who was at the very least guilty of breaking the rules of 18th Century society, a woman whose reputation was unblemished after becoming Mrs. Andrew Jackson.
Today visitors can visit the memorial President Andrew Jackson had built on their property. I’ve been there and walked Rachel’s garden many times. From everything I can read, the epithet written by her husband rings very, very true”
“Here lie the remains of Mrs. Rachel Jackson, wife of President Jackson, who died the 22d of December, 1828, aged 61. Her face was fair, her person pleasing, her temper amiable, and her heart kind; she was delighted in relieving the wants of her fellow creatures, and cultivated that divine pleasure by the most liberal and unpretending methods; to the poor she was a benefactor; to the rich an example; to the wretched a comforter; to the prosperous an ornament; her piety went hand in hand with her benevolence, and she thanked her Creator for being permitted to do good. A being so gentle and yet so virtuous, slander might wound but could not dishonor. Even death, when he tore her from the arms of her husband, could but transport her to the bosom of her God.”
Yes, political mud can be deep and dirty today; however, the election of 2012 hasn’t killed anyone…so far…