to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.
presidential campaign of eighteen twenty-eight was bitter and vicious, full of
angry words and accusations. The old Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson,
James Madison and James Monroe had split into two opposing groups. One group
was led by President John Quincy Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay. It called
itself the National Republican Party. The other group was led by General Andrew
Jackson. It called itself the Democratic Party.
week in our series, Sarah Long and Steve Ember talk about the election of
party had its own newspapers. In Washington, the Daily National Journal
supported President Adams. The United States Telegraph supported General
Jackson. The Telegraph published charges against the administration made by
Journal, in turn, published a pamphlet that had been used against Jackson
earlier. Among other things, the pamphlet charged that Jackson had fought a
man, chased him away like a dog, and then took his wife. The charge was not
true. This is the story. It is important, because it had a great effect on
Andrew Jackson for the rest of his life.
met the young woman, Rachel, at her mother's home near Nashville, Tennessee. At
the time, Rachel and her husband, Lewis Robards, were living there. They were
having marriage problems. Robards argued with his wife about Jackson. He said
she and Jackson seemed too close. Jackson was advised to leave, and he agreed
he left, he met with Robards. Robards reportedly wanted to fight Jackson with
his fists. Jackson refused to fist-fight. But, he said he would face Robards in
a duel, if Robards wished to fight like a gentleman. Robards rejected the
invitation, and nothing more happened between the two men. Jackson left.
and Rachel settled their differences. She went back to their home in Kentucky,
but did not stay long. They had another dispute, and she left. Court records
say she left with a man -- Andrew Jackson.
family had heard how unhappy she was with Robards, and had asked Jackson to
bring her back to Tennessee. Robards followed them. Rachel told him she wanted
a divorce. Robards threatened her. He said he would carry her away by force if
she did not go back to Kentucky. Rachel decided to flee. She would go with some
traders to Natchez, in the Mississippi territory. It would be a dangerous trip
down the Cumberland, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers.
was troubled. He felt badly, because he had been the cause of Rachel's
unhappiness. By now, Rachel meant much to Jackson. He had fallen in love with
her. When the traders asked him to go to Natchez, he agreed. The group left
early in seventeen ninety-one.
few weeks earlier, Lewis Robards had begun preparations for a divorce. He did
not complete the necessary action, however. Yet he led Rachel's family to
believe that he had. That the two of them were no longer married.
returned to Nashville after several months. He asked for permission to marry
Rachel, now that she was free of Robards. Rachel's mother gave her permission.
Jackson and Rachel were married in August seventeen-ninety-one. Both were
twenty-four years old. They remained in Tennessee. The next two years were busy
ones for Jackson. As a young lawyer, he worked hard and traveled far.
December, seventeen ninety-three, he discovered court papers showing that Lewis
Robards had only recently divorced Rachel. This meant that at the time Jackson
and Rachel were married, she was still legally married to Robards. Jackson was
shocked. As soon as possible, he and Rachel were married again -- legally this
ten years passed. Jackson was a judge and took part in Tennessee politics. One
day, Jackson met the state's governor outside the court house in Knoxville. The
governor was telling a large crowd about his great services to the state.
felt it necessary to say that he, too, had done some public services.
"Services," shouted the governor. "I know of no great service
you have done the country except taking a trip to Natchez with another man's
eyes grew as cold as ice. The governor pulled his sword. "Great God!"
cried Jackson. "Do you speak her sacred name." He jumped at the
governor with a stick. The two men were separated. A few years later, Jackson
killed a man in a duel, after the other man made a joke -- while drunk -- about
a candidate for president, Jackson could not take to the dueling field to
defend his wife's honor. He wanted to. But he knew it would prevent him from
asked a special committee of citizens to investigate his marriage and make a
public report. The committee found that Jackson and Rachel got married only
after they believed her first husband had divorced her.
soon as the mistake was discovered, they were married again, legally. The
report said they were not at fault.
pro-Jackson newspaper in Washington published the committee's report. But
anti-Jackson newspapers did not. They insulted him and his wife.
Jackson struggled to control his anger. "How hard it is," he said,
"to keep myself away from these villains. I have made many sacrifices for
my country. But being unable to punish those who lie about my wife is a
sacrifice too great to bear."
newspapers continued to print vicious lies about him. And the pro-Jackson
newspapers began to print vicious lies about President Adams and his wife.
during the bitter campaign, neither candidate said anything about one very
important issue: slavery. Adams did not want to lose what little support he had
in the South and West by denouncing slavery. Jackson did not want to lose the
support of some Republicans in the North by openly defending it.
silence did not mean that he approved of slavery. Southerners were sure that he
opposed it. And Jackson did not have to tell the South what he thought about
slavery. He was a slave owner, and had bought and sold slaves all his life.
was another important difference between the two men and their political
parties. President Adams and the Republicans represented the interests of those
who owned property.
of the president's supporters felt that wealthy, property-owning citizens
should control the government. They feared popular rule, or government elected
by all the people.
and the Democrats represented the interests of common men. They did not feel
that the rich had more right to govern than the poor. They believed in the
democratic right of all men to share equally in the government.
election was held in different states on different days between October
thirty-first and November fifth, eighteen-twenty-eight. In two states -- South
Carolina and Delaware -- the legislature chose the presidential electors.
all the other states, the electors were chosen by the voters. When the
electoral votes were counted, Jackson received one hundred seventy-eight. Adams
received only eighty-three. It was a great victory for Jackson.
wife, however, was troubled. She was a simple, kind woman who loved her
husband. "For Mr. Jackson's sake," she wrote, "I am glad. For my
own part, I never wished it." She knew, of course, of the charges made
during the campaign about their marriage. Her courage supported her. But when
the excitement of the election had ended, she lost her energy. And her health
proposed that Rachel Jackson stay in Tennessee until her health became better.
Then she could join her husband at the White House in Washington. Rachel did
not want to go to Washington. But she felt that her place was with her husband.
That will be our story next week.
program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Sarah Long and Steve
Ember. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs are online, along with
historical images, at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THE
MAKING OF A NATION - an American history series in VOA Special English.
This is program #55 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION