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A Short And Scary Walk With Andrew Jackson
An extraordinary new historical novel begins with the great political scandal of the 1970s, then visits the great political scandal of the 1820s
October 1992 | Volume 43, Issue 6
I have never been the political friend of Mr. Clay, since he became a candidate for the office of President, as you very well know. Jackson, accustomed to having soldiers risk death at his command, seems oblivious of the fact that to bear him out Buchanan would have to incriminate himself as a conspirator with the Clay forces. Contemporaries remarked variously upon the contretemps. It places Jackson in a most awkward predicament , said a letter received by President Adams. But what surprises me more than anything else is the situation in which the general places his friend....Buchanan is ruined if anything can ruin a man who is a partisan in party times. William Rawle of Philadelphia confided to his diary that Jackson appears to great disadvantage unless we discard all that is asserted by Buchanan. Henry Clay avowed vindication. Buchanan vented his own irritation to Ingham: You will have seen General Jackson ‘s letter to the Public in which he has given up my name. It will at once strike you to be a most extraordinary production so far as I am concerned. But his pacificator’s temper strives for control: I have not suffered my feelings to get the better of my judgment but have stated the truth in a calm & temperate manner. If General Jackson and our editors should act with discretion the storm may blow over without injury.His letter to the editor continued,
[It appeared to. In 1828 Buchanan, running as a Jackson Democrat, won his fifth term in Congress, and Jackson swept Adams aside in the presidential election.]
* Maj. John Henry Eaton, Jackson’s Secretary of War, whose marriage, at Jackson’s advice, to Margaret O’Neale Timberlake, a tavern-keeper’s daughter of considerable romantic experience even before her marriage at the age of sixteen to a Navy purser whom the infatuated then-Senator Eaton used his influence to keep at sea while he comforted the lonely bride, failed to quiet the scandalized Washington tongues, especially those wagging on the distaff side of the Calhoun camp: Buchanan had approached Eaton with the Adams-appointment question before approaching Jackson, and was rather curtly advised by the major to inquire of the general himself. And so he did.
† George Kremer, congressman from Pennsylvania and Ingham satellite, whose letter to the Columbian Observer of Philadelphia the January after Buchanan’s interview with Jackson claimed that Clay had offered to vote for whoever would give him the State Department; Clay’s challenge to a duel was retracted after it was rumored that Kremer proposed to duel with squirrel rifles. Jackson’s reference here assumes that Kremer’s basis was a conversation with Buchanan describing the epochal interview of December 30th.