to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.
week in our series, we talked about the election of eighteen twenty-eight.
Andrew Jackson defeated President John Quincy Adams, after a campaign in which
both sides made bitter and vicious charges. One of those charges was about
Jackson's wife, Rachel.
opponents accused him of taking her from another man. They said Andrew and
Rachel were married before she was legally divorced from her first husband.
This was true. But it was because her first husband said he had divorced her,
when really he had not. Andrew and Rachel remarried -- legally this time --
after they learned of the situation.
Jackson was a kind and simple woman. The campaign charges hurt her deeply. She
was proud that Andrew was elected president. But she was not happy about the
life she would have to lead as first lady. At first, it was thought that she
might remain in Tennessee. But Rachel Jackson knew that her place was with her
husband. She would go with him to Washington.
then, tragedy intervened. Our story this week is told by Jack Weitzel and
had to be made for the move to Washington. And for weeks, the Jackson home was
busy. There was little time for Misses Jackson to rest. Her health seemed to
suffer. Then on December seventeenth, just a few days before the Jacksons were
to leave for Washington, two doctors were rushed to the Jackson home outside
Nashville. They found Rachel in great pain. She seemed to be suffering a heart
attack. The doctors treated her, and for a time, she seemed to get better.
a day or so, Rachel was able to sit up and talk with friends. She seemed
cheerful. Jackson was at her side much of the time. On Sunday, Rachel sat up
too long and began feeling worse. But the doctors said it was not serious, and
they urged General Jackson to get some rest. He was to go to Nashville the next
her husband went to sleep in the next room, Rachel had her servant help her to
sit up again. Rachel's mind was troubled about the years ahead in Washington.
"I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of God," she said,
"than live in that palace in Washington."
few minutes after ten that night, Rachel cried out and fell from her chair. The
servants' screams awakened everyone. Jackson was the first to get to Rachel. He
lifted her to the bed. He watched as the doctors bent over her. Jackson read in
their eyes that life had left Rachel. Jackson could not believe it. He sat next
to her, his head in his hands, his fingers through his gray hair.
his friend, John Coffee, Jackson said: "John, can you realize she is dead.
I certainly cannot."
was buried two days later. Ten-thousand persons went to the Jackson home for
the funeral. The Reverend William Hume spoke simply of Rachel Jackson's life.
He talked of her kindness and humility. And he told how she had been hurt by
the terrible charges made during the election campaign.
fought to hold back his tears. When the churchman finished speaking, those near
Jackson heard him say: "In the presence of this dear saint, I can and do
forgive all my enemies. But those vile wretches who have lied about her, must
look to God for mercy."
felt that Rachel's death was caused by the vicious charges made during the
election campaign. He told a friend a few days later: "May God almighty
forgive her murderers as I know she would forgive them. I never can."
Jackson left his home January eighteenth to begin the long trip to Washington.
"My Heart is nearly broken," he said. "I try to lift my spirits,
Washington, no one knew what to expect. Senator Daniel Webster wrote a friend
at Boston: "General Jackson will be here about the fifteenth of February.
Nobody knows what he will do when he does come. My opinion is that when he
comes, he will bring a breeze with him. Which way it will blow, I cannot tell.
My fear is stronger than my hope."
of Jackson's supporters began arriving in the capital. Some wanted to see their
man sworn-in as president. Many wanted -- and expected -- a government job.
General Jackson arrived in Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac River from
Washington, on February twelfth.
was sixty-one years old. He was a tall, thin man. His face was wrinkled. And
his white hair was pushed back from his high forehead. His eyes -- usually
sharp and commanding -- were filled with grief. Jackson's health had never been
really good. He carried in his body two bullets from duels fought years before.
But he was a tough man with a spirit strong enough to keep moving, even when
seriously sick. For three weeks, the general met with his advisers and friends.
He decided on the men who would form his cabinet.
the job of Secretary of State, Jackson chose Martin Van Buren of New York, a
man of great political ability. He named a Pennsylvania businessman, Samuel
Ingham, to be secretary of the treasury. John Berrien of Georgia was chosen to
be attorney general. His Navy Secretary would be John Branch, a former senator
and governor of North Carolina. For war secretary, Jackson chose an old friend,
Senator John Eaton of Tennessee.
members of this cabinet -- Berrien, Branch, and Ingham -- were friends of John
C. Calhoun, Jackson's vice president. Calhoun expected to be president himself
when Jackson stepped down in four or eight years. Martin Van Buren also wanted
the presidency. He would do all he could to block Calhoun's ambition.
Jackson was sworn-in as president on March fourth, eighteen-twenty-nine.
President John Quincy Adams did not go to the ceremony at the Capitol building.
Jackson had said publicly he would not go near Adams. And he did not make the
traditional visit to the White House while Adams was there. Jackson was still
filled with bitterness over the charges made against his wife in the election
campaign. He felt Adams was at least partly responsible for the charges.
sky over Washington was cloudy on the fourth of March. But the clouds parted,
and the sun shone through, as Jackson began the ride to the Capitol building.
His cheering supporters saw this as a good sign. So many people crowded around
the Capitol that Jackson had to climb a wall and enter from the back. He walked
through the building and into the open area at the front where the ceremony
would be held.
ceremony itself was simple. Jackson made a speech that few in the crowd were
able to hear. Then Chief Justice John Marshall swore-in the new president. In
the crowd was a newspaperman from Kentucky, Amos Kendall. "It is a proud
day for the people," wrote Kendall. "General Jackson is their own
the Capitol, Jackson rode down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. Behind
him followed all those who had watched him become the nation's seventh
president. The crowds followed him all the way into the White House, where food
and drink had been put out for a party.
tried to get in at once. Clothing was torn. Glasses and dishes were broken.
Chairs and tables were damaged. Never had there been a party like this at the
White House. Jackson stayed for a while. But the crush of people tired him, and
he was able to leave. He spent the rest of the day in his hotel room in
guests at the White House finally left after drinks were put on the table
outside the building. Many of the people left through windows, because the
doors were so crowded.
was now the president of the people. And it seemed that everybody was in
Washington looking for a government job. Everywhere Jackson turned, he met people
who asked him for a job. They urged him to throw out those government workers
who supported Adams in the election. They demanded that these jobs be given to
Listen next week for more about Andrew Jackson. Our
program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Jack Weitzel and
MP3s and podcasts of our programs, along with historical images, are online at
us each week for THE MAKING OF A NATION – an American history series in VOA
This is program #56 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION