Classic Scandal of the Month: The Petticoat Affair


On the first Thursday of every month, we throw it back to a classic political scandal. Today: the Petticoat Affair!

The Scandal: The President’s whole cabinet resigns over possibly illicit lovin’.

The Scandalized: President Andrew Jackson, Secretary of War John Eaton, possibly cheatin’ Peggy Eaton

The Short Version: Senator John Eaton married a Peggy Timberlake rather quickly after her previous husband, John B. Timberlake, killed himself. Rumor had it that Peggy and Eaton had been lovers even before Timberlake’s death, and that Timberlake had offed himself in dismay (medical examiners did not agree with that last part, but the rumor mill kept on churnin’).

Floride Calhoun, wife of Vice President John C. Calhoun and harmless additive to municipal drinking water, was horrified at the way John and Peggy had (allegedly) been carrying on. She rallied with other Washington wives to ostracize Peggy. But Andrew Jackson was having none of this drama, and tapped Eaton for the job of Secretary of War – infuriating most of his cabinet.

Jackson pal and Eaton sympathizer Martin Van Buren then offered to resign, giving Jackson the excuse to shake up his prudish cabinet. Jackson did exactly that, demanding and accepting resignations until the only guy left was the Postmaster General (William T. Barry, for you trivia buffs).

Scandal Level: Eh, we’ve seen scandelouser.

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