2018-07-06 / Arts & Entertainment

Author to speak on The Petticoat Affair

By Patricia G. McNeely

The political battle over Peggy Eaton’s virtue and character caused President Andrew Jackson to fire his cabinet in 1831 and cost Vice President John C. Calhoun his almost certain chance to be President.

The scandal and government upheaval caused by the beautiful widow’s marriage to Jackson’s best friend and Secretary of War John Eaton changed American history, made national headlines well into the 20th Century, and is the subject of a new book, Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun, and the Petticoat Affair, by USC Professor Emerita Patricia G. McNeely.

McNeely will make a PowerPoint presentation on “The Petticoat Affair” at noon Thursday, July 19, at the S.C. State Library, 1500 Senate Street, Columbia.

“Horrified by rumors about Peggy Eaton’s dubious reputation, the ladies of Washington refused to socialize with Peggy, even ignoring Jackson’s pleas and direct orders to make social calls and to invite her to parties,” McNeely said. “Enraged by their rejection, Jackson called a Cabinet meeting to officially discuss Peggy’s character and virtue and to order them to include her in their social lives.”


Peggy Eaton Peggy Eaton When the Washington wives were still snubbing Peggy after a year and a half of pleading and threatening, Jackson stunned the nation in 1831 when he turned with a vengeance on everyone who had ostracized his beautiful friend and dissolved his official cabinet.

“Since Vice President John C. Calhoun’s wife had been one of the ringleaders in Peggy’s social rebuff, Jackson politically isolated his South Carolina ally who had been widely regarded as heir apparent to the presidency,” McNeely said.

The social battle destroyed Vice President John C. Calhoun’s friendship and political alliance with Jackson and killed Calhoun’s almost certain chance to be president.


Andrew Jackson Andrew Jackson Having lost his political power and chance to be president, Calhoun resigned as Vice President to return to the U.S. Senate in December 1832. He would spend the rest of his life leading the sectional fight against escalating tariffs that he said disproportionately favored and protected northern manufacturers while destroying the south’s economy and international trade.

“Although he died in 1850, his calls for nullification of unequally imposed tariffs would be one of the factors leading to Civil War by 1861,” McNeely said.

McNeely is the author of General Sherman’s Flame and Blame Campaign, Lincoln, Sherman, Davis and the Lost Confederate Gold, Eyewitnesses to General Sherman’s Civil War Campaign, and Hand- Written Recipes and Memories from America’s First Families.



John C. Calhoun John C. Calhoun

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