U.S. President Andrew Jackson Personal Life

About the U.S. President Andrew Jackson, personal life and marriage, history and biography.


7th President


Personal Life: While lodging with the Widow Donelson during his early days in Nashville, Jackson met the widow's married daughter, Rachel Donelson Robards, who had fled from her husband, Lewis Robards, following a bitter quarrel. Robards soon accused Jackson of seducing his wife and Jackson challenged him to a duel. When Robards declined, Jackson threatened to cut off his ears with a hunting knife unless the accusations stopped. For a while peace was restored and Rachel returned to her husband, but before long she was trying to escape from Robards once again. Jackson proved willing to escort Rachel on a dangerous trip down the Mississippi River toward Natchez. When he returned to Nashville, he heard by word of mouth that Robards had sued his wife for divorce. With typical impulsiveness, he returned to Natchez and married Rachel on the spot in August, 1791. Unfortunately, the Jacksons soon learned that reports of Robard's divorce had been inaccurate, and Rachel was in the embarrassing position of being married to Robards and Jackson at the same time. Robards lost little time in charging that his wife was living "in open adultery with another man." This astounding news spread quickly throughout the territory, and Jackson's political career was in peril. As soon as Robards secured an official divorce, Jackson and Rachel were married for a second time on Jan. 17, 1794, and Jackson set about to silence gossip by challenging to a duel anyone who would dare to impugn his wife's honor. He became involved in dozens of dueling situations in this manner; twice he was seriously wounded, and in 1806 he actually killed a man.

The object of all this turmoil was a plump, quiet, unassuming woman who hated any sort of public attention. Rachel Jackson was the uncouth, uneducated daughter of a backwoodsman, whose greatest joy was sitting in front of her own fire smoking her corncob pipe, and all who met her commented favorably on her warmth, good nature, and humility. When Jackson built his elegant plantation, the Hermitage, in 1804, Rachel was in charge of the more than 100 slaves during her husband's many absences, and she became known as a kind mistress. The Jacksons never had children of their own, but they adopted one of Rachel's nephews as their son and named him Andrew Jackson, Jr. Rachel hated politics, mainly because Jackson's opponents invariably emphasized his marriage to a "notorious adulteress." During the presidential campaign of 1828, Jackson kept Rachel in the Hermitage so that she would be unaware of such attacks, but he was only partially successful. As the humiliation increased, she neared a nervous breakdown; she was also deeply embarrassed at the prospect of serving as First Lady, because she had become notably obese. After Jackson was elected president, she reluctantly agreed to undergo fittings for the wardrobe she would take to Washington. During this session, she overheard two women remarking that she would be impossible as the First Lady of the land. Friends later found her crouching in a corner, weeping hysterically. Rachel took to her bed, and on Dec. 17, 1828, she suffered a severe heart attack and died five days later at the age of 61. Jackson blamed his political enemies for her death, and standing beside her grave, he said: "May God Almighty forgive her murderers, as I know she forgave them. I never can." Jackson wore mourning clothes at his inauguration and entered the White House a bitter man.

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