The Petticoat Affair: Manners
Bringing much more necromancy than most would have thought and at the same time a woman who did not fit the mold of the normal submissive political wife in Washington or in Tennessee came to the forefront of public opinion. Mrs.
. Eaton was unwilling to stop being her unconventional self and President Jackson was unwilling to stop supporting her regardless of political consequences. She was a threat to the value system of what women should be and how they should conduct themselves both in private and especially in public situations.The Jackson era although change was coming was still regressive in the ole of women and what they were to do in society. Washington and Tennessee society snubbed her. To be socially ostracizes brought Jackson into her corner as his late and beloved Rachel had been cannibalized and victimized by polite society, which he thought caused her death. The author gives a short but accurate biography of President Jackson’s life, which lets the reader understand his dependence and loyalty for friends, and his demand for absolute loyalty from his associates.
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Friends were all he had in life especially after Rachel died.Her death made him more protective of women ND therefore a perfect defender of Mrs.. Eaton. Mrs.. Eaton was the daughter of an Inn Keeper, William O’Neal where many of the politicians of the day stayed in Washington, D.
C. Most male Senators and Congressmen stayed in boarding houses like the O’Neal as Congress was in session only part of the year. She had married Mr.. Timberline who was a purser in the Navy, tried to run a store, then later went back to the Navy. Her overt personality coupled with two almost elopements, fueled her reputation which came into question when her husband died on ship and she aired John Henry Eaton.This was done even before the required mourning period had ended.
Another inattention to polite society. He had been a boarder at her father’s house and became Jackson’s Secretary of War. She was the daughter of a Scot Irish boarding house owner she having never been admitted to society, as John Calhoun stated but when marriage to Mr.. Eaton occurred she wanted entrance to Washington Society. Both her husband and herself wanted admittance to Washington society but were denied it as social rules had been bent or broken and the society’s matrons ad to protect their system from the change threatened by Mrs..
Eaton. President Jackson’s beloved Rachel was cannibalized and when rumors were circulated about Margaret to keep her out of society and to publicly justify that excel suasion Jackson supported Margaret with much passion. President Jackson saw conspiracy everywhere as he tried to help the innkeeper’s daughter. Mrs.. Eaton was backed in her attempts to become socially accepted by the President, his friend s, the Globe Newspaper and of course her husband. President Jackson’s obsession with Mrs.
.Eaton and his ideas hat it was a political conspiracy by Calhoun or Clay put this scandal in a position to almost stop government working that were not concerned with it. His enemies or friends like Van Burden who took advantage of the scandal and Jackson’s obsession with it to further his political future fought back and forth completely rendering the administration useless on other important issues of the day. I am amazed at the correspondence the author has retrieved when other topics like the nullification crises was pending yet the President was writing and calling meetings to get acceptance of a lady by Washington society.As the scandal grew it took on Jackson’s idea that it had all been created to hurt Jackson politically. His cabinet was eliminated and his government did little during this scandal. He concentrated on very little else in his first term.
He went against his Vice President, against Duff Green, against half of his cabinet and still did not get her accepted by society. She had been free with her attentions toward men. Almost eloped twice, married twice, and was somewhat outrageous in her self-promotion in the early sass’s. She was ahead of her time and not complacent to wait while society hanged.Her husband continually backed her and the media made it a political struggle especially as Jackson labeled it a conspiracy against his democracy. This was social and political history. Accounts are given from many personal diaries, memoirs, papers, and other minute historical sources.
The reader almost sickens as the government comes to a stalemate over whether this lady is accepted or not accepted into society. It appears to be trivial until one remembers the Monica Leninism Scandal which caused an impeachment of a President recently because he had sex with and intern and lied about it.Have things changed or has government always been about power and blocking power regardless of the method. I think the reader is rewarded into being immersed into the Jackson presidency, his alliances, his fears, and his reasons to back Mrs.. Eaton. The history of this period becomes more meaningful as it is personalized.
The argument that Mrs.. Eaton represents a threat to the organized expectations of women is put forth but isn’t perfect. It seems that her personality and her husbands constant flaring up of the situation makes it a larger media event.The fault may lie with her husband and Jackson democracy. Not all were equal and his insistence of her being a society lady might not have been necessary. She could have not cared and he should have not pushed her rejection to involve the President.
My criticism should not be on the characters, though but the book. The author does a thorough job explaining the atmosphere and backs it with much proof. The everyday happenings and letter writings make history able to be found by this author.