Rachel Jackson

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Rachel Jackson
Rachel Jackson.jpg
Born (1767-06-15)June 15, 1767
Halifax County, Colony of Virginia, British America
Died December 22, 1828(1828-12-22) (aged 61)
Religion Presbyterian
Spouse(s) Lewis Robards (1787-1790; divorced)
Andrew Jackson (1791-1828, her death)
(1791–1794 later deemed invalid)
Signature
Rachel Jackson Signature.svg

Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson, born Rachel Donelson, (June 15, 1767 – December 22, 1828) was the wife of Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States.[1][2] She lived with him at their home at The Hermitage, where she died just days after his election and before his inauguration in 1829—therefore she never served as First Lady, a role assumed by her niece, Emily Donelson.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Rachel Donelson was born near the Banister River, about ten miles from Chatham, Virginia in Pittsylvania County on June 15, 1767.[1][2] Her father was Colonel John Donelson (1718–1785), co-founder of Nashville, Tennessee, and her mother was Rachel Stockley Donelson (1730-1801).[1] Her great-grandfather, Patrick Donelson, was born in Scotland about 1670.[1] She had seven brothers and three sisters:[1]

From about 1770 to 1779, her father operated the Washington Iron Furnace at Rocky Mount, Franklin County, Virginia.[5] With her family, she moved to Tennessee at the age of 12.[2] Her father led about 600 people from Fort Patrick Henry to Fort Nashborough, down the Cumberland River.[1] The Donelson family was among the first white settlers in Tennessee.[2]

Appearance and personality[edit]

Rachel attracted much attention from suitors because she was very beautiful as a young woman, described by a contemporary as having "lustrous black eyes, dark glossy hair, full red lips, brunette complexion, though of brilliant coloring, [and] a sweet oval face rippling with smiles and dimples."[3] Later in life, her country manners and full figure were severely in contrast with Jackson's tall, spindly form and developed genteel manners. However, her love for her husband was unmistakable: she languished when he was away for politics, fretted when he was away at war, and doted on him when he was at home.[3] Unlike Jackson, Rachel never liked being in the spotlight of events. She would consistently warn her husband to not let his political accomplishments rule him; for example, after Jackson's victory at the Battle of New Orleans, she warned Jackson that his subsequent popularity (on the scope of George Washington) would tempt him to value his glory over his own family.[6]

She was a Presbyterian.[1] She was also an avid reader of the Bible and religious works as well as poetry.[1]

Marriages[edit]

Her first marriage to Captain Lewis Robards of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, a landowner and speculator, was not a happy affair, and the two separated in 1790.[1][2] According to Marcia Mullins of the Hermitage Museum, there were rumors that Lewis Robards was cruel and jealous.[7] Believing that her husband would file a petition for divorce, returned to the Donelson family home.[8]

Relationship with Andrew Jackson[edit]

When Andrew Jackson migrated to Nashville, Tennessee in 1788, he boarded with Rachel Stockley Donelson, the mother of Rachel Donelson Robards. Shortly after, they married in Natchez, Mississippi, believing that her husband had obtained a divorce.[1][2] As the divorce had never been completed, their marriage was technically bigamous and therefore invalid.[2]

Rachel's marital status was complicated by the distances involved and the changing governmental authorities.[9] During the process of Rachel and Robards divorce Kentucky became a state instead of a territory of Virginia and North Carolina turned over management of the territory including Tennessee to the Federal Government.[9] These complicating factors were understood by locals and the unusual circumstances of the Jackson marriage were not greatly discussed in Nashville society.[9]

In 1793, Andrew and Rachel Jackson learned that although Lewis Robards had filed for divorce, the divorce had never been granted.[8] This made Rachel a bigamist and an adulterer.[8] On the grounds of Rachel’s abandonment and adultery, Lewis Robards was granted a divorce in 1794. At about this same time, the legitimacy of the Jackson marriage was questioned because they were married in then-Spanish-controlled Natchez, Mississippi.[8] The Jacksons were Protestants, and only Catholic marriages were recognized as legal unions in that territory.[8] After the divorce was finally legalized in 1794, Andrew and Rachel wed again in a quiet ceremony at the Donelson home.[8]

Children[edit]

Although the Jacksons never had biological children, they adopted a nephew in 1809 and named him Andrew Jackson, Jr.[2] When his father became President, Andrew Jr. assumed management of the Hermitage farm.[10] He married Sarah Yorke of Philadelphia on November 24, 1831.[10]

In 1813, the Jacksons adopted Lyncoya who was found on the battlefield with his dead mother.[10] Lyncoya was educated along with Andrew Jr., and Jackson had aspirations of sending him to West Point, as well.[10] Unfortunately, political circumstances made that impossible, and he instead trained as a saddle maker in Nashville. He died of tuberculosis in 1828.[10]

Around 1817 the Jacksons adopted Andrew Jackson Hutchings who was the grandson of Rachel’s sister and the son of a former business partner of Jackson’s.[10] He attended school with Andrew Jr. and Lyncoya.[10] He then attended colleges in Washington and Virginia while Jackson was president. In 1833, he married Mary Coffee, daughter of Jackson’s friend John Coffee, and moved to Alabama. Hutchings died in 1841.[10]

Andrew Jackson served as the guardian for the children of General Edward Butler and the children of Rachel’s brother Samuel Donelson’s son.[10] These children did not live with the Jackson's full time.[10] Andrew Jackson Donelson, son of Rachel's brother Samuel, became Jackson's protégé served as personal secretary to Jackson during his presidency.[10]

Election of 1828[edit]

According to Ann Toplovich, executive director of the Tennessee Historical Society, John Quincy Adams' presidential campaigns targeted Jackson's "passion and lack of self-control" in both 1824 and 1828, "making it central to the argument that he would devastate the integrity of the Republic and its institutions."[7] One newspaper ran an article asking, “‘Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband to be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?’”[8]

The publicity surrounding her and the public knowledge of what was considered a very private matter caused Rachel to sink into depression.[8] She reputedly told a friend “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than live in that palace in Washington.”[9] Adding to her stress, in 1828, Lyncoya Jackson died at the Hermitage.[8] Between the scandal, her son’s death, and a heart condition she spent much of the campaign depressed and crying.[8]

Death[edit]

Rachel and Andrew Jackson's tomb in The Hermitage garden.

She died suddenly on December 22, 1828, probably of a heart attack, given her symptoms according to Jackson: "excruciating pain in the left shoulder, arm, and breast."[3] That her death came immediately before Jackson left for Washington was more than an inconvenience; it was crippling. He held her body tightly until he was pulled away, and he lingered at the Hermitage until the latest possible date.[3]

Even though her maladies began as early as 1825, Jackson always blamed his political enemies for her death.[9]

She was buried on the grounds at The Hermitage wearing the white dress and shoes she had bought for the Inaugural Ball.[8] Her epitaph reads: “A being so gentle and so virtuous slander might wound, but could not dishonor.”[8]

Popular culture depictions[edit]

Rachel Jackson was the title character of a 1950 historical novel by Irving Stone, The President's Lady, which told the story of her life and also Andrew Jackson's life from their first meeting until her death(s). In 1953, the novel was made into a film of the same name starring Susan Hayward and Charlton Heston as the Jacksons. In the 1936 film The Gorgeous Hussy (a fictionalized biography of Peggy Eaton), Rachel Jackson was portrayed by Beulah Bondi, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

Rachel Jackson is also a major character in the Broadway rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. She performs the solo song "The Great Compromise", in which she laments how Andrew Jackson's public life and political desires have overwhelmed their relationship and opened her up to public ridicule. Her death begins Andrew Jackson's lament "Public Life".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External video
Rachel Jackson, C‑SPAN[11]

"Rachel and Andrew Jackson's Love Story"

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j National First Ladies' Library
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h White House History biography
  3. ^ a b c d e Brands, H. W. (2005). Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times. New York: Anchor Books. ISBN 978-1-40003072-9. 
  4. ^ Jane Donelson Hays on Find a Grave, retrieved 12 February 2016.
  5. ^ Anne Carter Lee (September 1972). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Washington Iron Furnace" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources. 
  6. ^ Meacham, Jon (2008). American Lion. New York: Random House. p. 33. ISBN 0812973461. 
  7. ^ a b "How Jackson tried to save his wife's honor". cnn.com. CNN. Retrieved 7 December 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Education & Resources - National Women's History Museum - NWHM". www.nwhm.org. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "Rachel | Andrew Jackson's Wife and Love of His Life". The Hermitage. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Children | Andrew Jackson's Adopted Family". The Hermitage. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  11. ^ "Rachel Jackson". C‑SPAN. March 25, 2013. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 

External links[edit]