UT 'Jackson Papers' exposes gripping political upheaval

(WBIR) Much discussion has revolved around America's political divide in recent years, but despite alarming headlines, Capitol Hill has seen harsher conflict in the past.

Just take a look back 182 years ago - paranoia rips through White House, threatening the stability of American and sealing the fate of Andrew Jackson as one of the most controversial presidents in United States' history.

The 9th volume of The Papers of Andrew Jackson, published by the University of Tennessee Press, provides an up-close look at the real-life drama, which plagued the Tennessee native's presidency.

MORE: Learn about "The Papers of Andrew Jackson"

"This is the most lurid year in Jackson's presidency and maybe any presidency," said Daniel Feller, history professor and editor and director of the Jackson Papers, said in a statement. "He is more paranoid, more unbalanced than we've ever seen him before - and at the same time more shrewd, more calculating, more politically savvy. Jackson is a protean figure in American history. He's a subject of adulation and condemnation. He's right up there with the most controversial presidents we've had."

The recent volume has all the key components for a gripping political story: a woman with a notorious reputation, presidential cabinet members at each other's throats, and a paranoid president.

The volume details the dysfunction in Jackson's presidential cabinet culminating with the infamous "Petticoat Affair." Jackson's secretary of war, John Eaton, was married to Margaret "Peggy" O'Neale Timberlake. Most of Jackson's other cabinet members and their wives disliked her because of her alleged shady behavior. The turbulent environment eventually led Eaton and Secretary of State Martin Van Buren to hand over their resignations. Their requests prompted Jackson to demand that the rest of his cabinet resign as well.

Emotions were still high when a Washington newspaper published an expose blaming the cabinet's brake-up on Mrs. Eaton. The negative publicity nearly triggered a duel between two cabinet members. One member even wrote a letter to Jackson telling him that a group of his high administration officers tried to kill him.

The volume also includes the fraught relationship between Jackson and vice president John C. Calhoun; the hysteria associated with the Nat Turner slave rebellion; documents detailing Jackson's infamous Indian removal policy; letters that share the story behind Jackson's hatred of Davy Crockett.

The UT History Department runs the Jackson Project, and it's sustained by two federal agencies, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.


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