15 Aug THE WOMEN WHO INFLUENCED ANDREW JACKSON: RACHEL, HIS WIFE AND FIRST LADY-TO-BE, SUBJECTED TO POLITICAL ATTACKS
AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS DOES NOT SPARE PRESIDENTIAL WIVES
Recent history has taught that the wives of Presidents and of presidential candidates do not escape collateral damage when their husbands are under fire from political enemies. The opposition tactic was to damage the target by inflicting pain on his closest ally, his wife, the First Lady.
First Ladies Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Eleanor Roosevelt were objects of opposition, scorn, and ridicule. However, all three were confronted only after they forsook the traditional duties of a presidential wife, and used the White House pulpit to engage in controversial political causes.
Both Mamie Eisenhower and Rachel Jackson were targeted by the adversaries of Dwight Eisenhower and Andrew Jackson before thy became First Ladies. Mrs. Eisenhower was married to a General whose absences were necessarily long and frequent. She also suffered from Meniere’s Disease whose principal symptoms were imbalance and vertigo. These symptoms combined with long spousal separations and the proximity of officer wives’ clubs led to intense speculation that Mamie was a drunk. The campaign of Robert Taft, Eisenhower’s challenger for the 1952 Republican presidential nomination, was behind these allegations.
Andrew Jackson, a candidate for the presidency, in 1824, and again in 1828, was both an outsider from the American West, and a threat to the accepted order “of getting things done” in Washington D.C. His fearful political enemies attempted to sabotage his candidacy by the destruction of Rachel Jackson’s reputation. Unfortunately for the Jacksons, Rachel and Andrew had married while Rachel was still married to her first husband, Lewis Robards. Consequently Jackson’s enemies has some, albeit flimsy, basis for calling Rachel a ‘whore,’ a ‘bigamist,’ an ‘adulterer,’ an ‘irreligious slut,’ together with many other insults.
In January, 1825, the infamous publisher Hammond began the publication of Truth’s Advocate and Monthly Anti-Jackson Expositor. Hammond rejected Andrew’s assertion that investigating a man’s marriage and his wife’s reputation was ” a violation of all the charities and the decencies of life.” Hammond responded: Because the president must bring his wife to the capital, it was important to examine her worthiness for the position. It was Hammond’s duty to examine Mrs. Jackson’s fitness for the place; if she was unfit, then her husband’s judgment and fitness to be president must be rejected.
Andrew Jackson lost the 1824 election to John Quincy Adams. However he was elected president handily in 1828. Rachel survived the insults in 1824, but sadly, when exposed to an intensification of scorn and slander in 1828, she died from a heart attack. Her death occurred just before Christmas Day 1828. She witnessed her husband’s election, but not his inauguration.