Bite-sized Wisdom: Jackson

In honor of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’s opening, this week’s tidbit comes from the inimitable man himself:

“Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error.”
– Andrew Jackson

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Ohmy, Did You Hear?

Or, How Ladies’ Gossip Tore Apart the White House

Once upon a time (roughly 1816 or so),  a 17-year old Peggy married a man named John Bowie Timberlake, a 39-year-old former navy purser.  Timberlake tried to open a store, Peggy gave birth to a little boy – but within six months, both ventures were struggling. The store went under and the couple lost their young child.

Two years later, the Timberlakes met the widowed senator John Eaton, and all quickly became good friends. When Timberlake decided he had to return to the navy to work off his debt,  Peggy started helping her father with his tavern, a role she’d spent many of her girlish days filling when the bar needed an extra pair of hands.

And this is the time when Peggy gained her reputation for being “too bold,” which translates to “a woman that speaks her mind.” She openly discussed politics and expressed her opinion frankly, and Andrew Jackson, who often stayed at the tavern when Congress was in session, became quite taken with her.  Always a fan of strong women, he wrote to his wife Rachel about her constantly.

It’s a little known fact that Jackson totally had a thing for brunettes.

Timberlake was only able to return home for short, occasional visits. When he was forced to leave on a four-year sea voyage, he wrote his wife telling her that if anything happened to him, “there is one man to whose hands I should be willing to entrust you, and that is John H. Eaton, the noblest work of God, an honest man.” He died at sea suffering from anxiety and depression, but gossip spread that Timberlake had killed himself while in a drunken stupor, supposedly unable to bear his wife’s infidelity with his friend, John Eaton.

No one is sure whether the rumors were true. Peggy and Eaton had developed feelings for each other, but did not marry after the news of her husband’s death. At least not right away that is. In 1829, less than a year after Timberlake passed, Peggy and John Eaton tied the knot.

And America went berserk. This went against all societal customs, mainly that of women waiting one year before remarrying. But life was short back then – when 30 was “over the hill.”

So the ladies began to shun. It began with Vice President Calhoun’s wife, Floride, who (with nose firmly turned-up) refused to pay the couple a visit after their honeymoon. While men ran the country, the women reigned over societal norms. The Cabinet Wives’ of the 1800s would have put the Real Housewives on Bravo to shame with their cattiness, expert snubbing, and endless gossip.

When Peggy complained to her buddy Andrew Jackson about the incessant gossip, he replied “I had rather have live vermin on my back than the tongue of one of these Washington women on my reputation.”

Jackson had always believed that it was his duty to protect all women, and the years of defending his beloved Rachel had made him intolerant of slanders against any woman. So, fighting man that he was, he set out to make things right. He would literally force her into social circles and demand the other women to be kind to Peggy. Years later, the scandal still followed her. Because of her sullied reputation, her husband was not able to regain his Senate seat. And while they stayed in the political scene for a few more years, the couple ultimately retired in 1840.

When Jackson died five years later, he was buried beside his Rachel at their home the Hermitage. In 1856, John Henry Eaton followed Jackson, leaving Peggy a widow once again.

But even then, her scandals were not at their end. In 1859, a 59-year old Peggy married the 19-year-old dancing master of her grandchildren, Antonio Buchignani. This Italian lover got her ostracized once again, but reporters and writers still came to her for the juicy details about her life. A perfect example of not letting others get in the way of your happiness and perhaps more importantly, that you’re never too old for love.

Still got it.

Image Sources: 123

Wait, What Did You Call Me?

What insult did opponents of Andrew Jackson’s throw his way that backfired when he ended up liking it, and has been associated with his party ever since?

“Jackass.”

That’s right. Jackson was the first Democrat to be associated with the donkey symbol. During the election of 1828, his adversaries tried to label him a “jackass” for his slogan, “Let the people rule,” and his populist agenda. Jackson thought it was hilarious, and started using the “ass” on his campaign posters. By 1870, cartoonist Thomas Nash popularized the already popular unofficial party symbol, thus sealing the Democrats as the donkeys.

And while that word is an insult that we’re still familiar with nowadays, a few other expressions that were floating around in the 1800s have fallen out of use today. Shame – some of these sound like they’d roll off the tongue nicely.

Quockerwodger

A rare nineteenth-century word for a wooden toy which briefly became a political insult.

Buncombe

A word that originated in 1819 to mean a ludicrously false statement. Equivalent of bullshit or nonsense.

Turncoat

One who switches to an opposing side or party; specifically : traitor.

“A rigid, fanatic, ambitious, selfish partisan, and sectional turncoat with too much genius and too little common sense, who will either die a traitor or a madman”
Jackson on John Calhoun

Popinjay

A dated description for politicians; A vain and talkative person who chatters like a parrot.

Unctuous

Characterized by excessive piousness or moralistic fervor, especially in an affected manner; cloyingly smooth, suave or smug.

Image by the Project Twins.

Fame’s No Easy Substitute For Love

And you, who knows me better than all, a touch is all it takes. 

Our communion has been treasure enough, but oh, to have this promise.

“But how, with all this light?”
“Can’t you see the constellations?”

Their eyes like our eyes, darling. 

He’s not the only one who waits for you.

Another season gone by. The crown you said you didn’t crave keeps you from us here. 

Words are fleeting, love. What’s left are memories.

Image Sources: 1, 2,34&5,  6, 7, 8
Visual storytelling for Rachel and Andrew Jackson à la Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

You Havin’ A Laugh: Can a 200 Year Old Joke Still Hold Up Today?

They say a good joke is timeless. Does the adage apply to those clever quips thrown around at Jackson during his chaos-riddled presidency? The bull-headed, quick-to-anger, and strongly opinionated leader was criticized from all angles about his inability to just calm down and follow the rules. But that wasn’t AJ’s style.

The political discourse at the time went a little something like this:

“Let the National Bank alone Jackson!”

Nope, going to challenge it until its a crippled and gutted version of what it once was.

“Stop hiring all of your friends to serve as your Cabinet!”

Haha good one. These positions are simple enough that a “common” man can do it. And if they start screwing up, I’ll throw them out.

“You should probably stop acting like a supreme leader whose word is law. Ever heard of justice?”

If you don’t like how I run things, you can get up and get out. I’ve made this land open to the American people by relocating thousands of others, and this is thanks I get?

Let’s hope that Andrew had some sense of humor about himself and could appreciate the attitudes of those that attempted to laugh at the situation. These old-school political cartoons of Jackson are intrinsically charming. The flood of text presented to help get the joke across? We’re a bit less wordy nowadays. But nonetheless, they give a clear idea of some of the impressions of the president during his reign..I mean, presidential term.

Shows how Jackson’ critics viewed the man’s enthusiasm for using his powers as president. Many sought to limit his influence by pushing for states’ ability to reject federal decisions.

Jackson vs. the National Bank. Andrew Jackson opposed the Second Bank of the U.S. because he believed the bank concentrated too much power in the hands of a few wealthy men in the Northeast.

Jackson, somewhat blinded to the situation (spectacles up over his head), as his Kitchen Cabinet, here depicted as the rats (John H. Eaton, John Branch, Martin Van Buren, and Samuel D. Ingham), abandons him. His foot is planted firmly on the tail of the Van Buren rat. 

Andrew Jackson is roasted over the fires of “Public Opinion” by Justice herself. He was under pressure for the controversy surrounding his removal of federal deposits from the Bank of the United States. Note the pig leg.

Image Source: Library of Congress

Populism, Yea Yea

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”

– Andrew Jackson

It’s official: our production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson will be hitting the stage this summer. As you guys know, I love it when history is made even more accessible through a good musical, and this show is no exception. Rock heavy and ridiculous, this tongue-in-cheek jaunt through the early 19th century tells the story of the U.S.’s seventh president in an entirely new light.

Why a faux-emo musical about an early American president? Because in case you haven’t heard, this guy was absolutely insane. In perhaps his most ridiculous display of badassery, when a man challenged him to a duel and misfired both of his pistols, Jackson sauntered over and beat the dude senseless with his cane. This valiant display of lunacy earned him the nickname Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson since the (otherwise harmless) cane was carved of hickory.

And because the creatives behind this show aren’t the only ones who understood what a crazy rockstar A.J. was:

Image Sources: Playbill.com and The Smithsonian