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tv   Lectures in History Womens Political Power in Early America  CSPAN  December 31, 2022 11:02am-12:05pm EST

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all right. so today are going to talk about as you see, the intersection of topics of sex and politics in early american republic. so think it'll be a good follow up to a lot of what we've been discussing already and kind of get us ready to transition to topics we have on the syllabus in the coming weeks. all right. so for lecture today, i think it's basically going to be in
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about four parts, right? so i'm going to start talking about the changes that the revolution brought in terms political power for both in terms of how they perceive their power and how society perceives their power. well, i'm going to go through a couple of historians conceptions of women's changing political power, especially in the early republic. and then i'll kind of talk about the backlash to those expanding political roles and political power. and then finally, we'll spend most of the time talking about a scandal in andrew jackson's we can maybe call a sex scandal. it might be pushing it, but i think pretty compelling and a good example of what we'll be talking about today in a lot of ways, what we've already been talking about thus far this semester. okay. so i want to argue that there were not a whole lot of changes in terms of legal rights and
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status for women as a result of the american revolution. but there are some important shifts that i think are noteworthy for us to pay attention to here. and that happened during. and in the wake of the war. and for those of you that i have me in class for 111 and for the american revolution, some of this is going to be familiar to you. but i think it's worthwhile to go through here. right. so one of the most prominent ways that women were really engaged politically during, the american revolution, were especially in organizing boycotts of british goods and in organizing, were called homespun bees right there in that get together and organize to, make homemade clothing while they were boycotting british goods. right. so this is a way in which some of that power was really centered towards revolution and making or having an effect on the revolution in whatever way women could write.
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there is a really interesting example of a group of, women in philadelphia, who are going to literally be knocking and going door to door, raising money for the continent tall army. it's a really interesting a woman, esther reed, published this anonymous pamphlet justifying female patriots as i'm right, what she specifically called female and the efforts of these women right which some seem to believe unfeminine. right going door to door public asking for money wasn't necessarily most feminine thing to be doing right. and they raised a lot of money doing this and what they wanted to do was pay the continental soldiers and they were able to get in touch with george washington. reed had a connection and he asked instead if they could use that money to buy materials, clothing and then make the clothing for the soldiers because that's what they really needed. so some other gender dynamics we could unpack later.
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there are certainly at least a few instances that we know of who would disguise themselves as men and fight, particularly in the continental army. there's one probably the most famous example is a woman named deborah samson, who years later, later would kind of go on tour and talk about activities during the war and becomes quite famous doing so. right. and this may be surprising but for a brief period of time were certain women in new jersey who actually did have the right to vote. this is limited write in and it's a 1776 new jersey state has gender neutral language about voters so we're talking about white women largely right many of them widows because they have a certain amount of property
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which enables them to vote. and it would be little more than 20 years that they are able to do this, to exercise their right to vote until new jersey changes the law and makes it explicitly a right of white men of property. right. and kind of closes that brief window opportunity. and if you are interested this the museum of the american revolution, i think still have the digital exhibit up and if you're interested in exploring that more right. so some of these things are kind of right. and part of the revolution itself. right? raising money for, the army or boycotting british goods or particular to that historical moment. but what i think is, i mean, i would argue is most important is this language of rights particular. the idea of natural rights and inalienable rights that are really circa late in quite widely during the revolution. right. most famously in the
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declaration. women are not the only marginalized group in this period really seize the language of rights themselves. i think it's important to note, but i want to talk specifically how important it was for women to come to a consciousness of themselves as rights bearing individuals. right. that they had rights under the law. right. and those are probably not rights that we would recognize necessarily today in 20. we probably want them to push a little bit further, but still, this is a necessary step for to argue for an expansion of rights to understand themselves as, rights bearing individuals. and for our purposes today i want us to think about politics as something beyond just vote ing and holding office right it's far more expansive than that. and if we confine our understanding of politics power to voting, to holding office,
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then we're not just restricting ourselves, but we're restricting our understanding of history, too. and who is able effect change in history. so for example one of these ways in which we can kind of think about a more expansive understanding of politics is so called out of doors, political activity, which is precisely, it sounds like, right. political activity happened outside, right in spaces that really engage the public in. these kinds of political activities. okay. and i'll talk about that in a minute. right. and finally i think this is also quite important and goes along with this idea of the rights language circulating, women were both and writers of political essays of political materials. right. some of which are increasingly in the early really talking about women's rights as an issue.
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okay. and one of those pieces that you may have heard about before is pictured here on upper right, a vindication, the rights of women by. mary wollstonecraft, who was a british, but this obviously was and circulated quite widely and read by women and men, i should say, that matter right so. i want to explore three different political roles for women that scholars have identified in this period. right. and the first of these is idea of female politicians, right. a term that is coined by historian zakari in her book revolutionary backlash. hey. right. and in some ways, this is the kind of legacy what i've already been talking about, about women's roles in the revolution. right. but it takes seriously women as political actors in their own right. right. the political power that they possess, that they exercise and
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not just relative to their association with men. right. i think it's also really important for us to kind of forget what we know about, the course of us history about what comes next try to put ourselves in the shoes of people living in the late 18th early 19th century. right they had just won the revolutionary. the 1780s are kind of a hot mess right. we tried to the articles of confederation didn't work so our new constitution right and there's a lot of uncertainty essentially about the future of this. right historically, democracies don't really survive all that long. so the founding was especially anxious. the future of the nation, who's independence? they had just one, right. the united states new. it's young and the nation's survival is not certain. right. so this causes a lot of anxiety among really the nation's
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leaders. i would say say. so what kind of try to do very active is try to create a new national identity somewhat from scratch right because they have sever the kind of political cultural connections with britain in enough distinction that they can form a nation that its citizens are allegiance to right that they are dedicated to, that feel a kind of sense of patriotic nationalism towards. right. that's one way that they think the nation will survive. right. to to cultivate new national identity is is very difficult. right. so we're going to see some scheming and also some about about how to get that right. so i want argue, of course, that women really a critical part of this. of course, they're half of the population. but there are ways in which
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women themselves kind of take up this mantle, but also in ways in which society women right to take different roles to help bolster the nation in its earliest years right so these out of door political activities for example. right women were central participants in these events like parades or festivals different organizations were kind of fostered by the earliest parties, the federalists and the democratic republicans. right. they're trying to cultivate this sense of national unity, but also kind of partizan sentiment, of course. right. for their issues. and women are a critical of that. right. right. ghani is going to argue that with, of course, the brief exception of new voters for a small window. right. the fact that women do not have
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the formal right to vote at this period in time may them, in fact, impartial enough or more impartial certainly than men are, by and large, have greater access to the vote. right. they more impartial because they do not have that access to the vote. right. that could bring perhaps a more virtuous sense of civic duty to political activities. right. because they are not maybe tainted by that partizanship that voters might be right and zakari will also argue that women's very presence could confer a kind of validation or approval on activities. right? so this is both real and symbolic, right? their is symbolic, but it also is a legitimating source to, their political activities, right. i think it's really important recognize that here in the early
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years of the republic that women's presence was meant to be this legitimate political force. right? they were a central part of this right. but it not only in public, in these kind of popular politics, women are going to gain power right. one notable shift during and after the revolution is that many commented voters, excuse me, are going to argue that women need greater to formal education. okay one of the most proponents of women's expanded education is dr. benjamin rush from philadelphia, who if you've heard of him before, you may know he's famous for advocating for blood. not great, but also female education and. abolition, right. so benjamin rush in this piece, that's kind of in the background here argued that the present
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times exhibit most honorable instances female learning and genius the superior advantages of boys are perhaps the sole reason of their subsequent superiority. right. essentially what rush's arguing and what what many women's rights advocates will argue is that women's perceived intellectual inferiority is not a result of some kind of natural or biological force, but instead, because they have been prohibited to have the same kind of as men. right. and is what is attempted to be rectified. okay. and this is still quite limited in scope, right they're not arguing for universal women's education. instead these so-called ladies, young ladies, female academies that are going to be are really targeted at, relatively elite young white women. right. those who are pretty well-off.
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but there's also a kind political purpose to this, too, which i'll get to in a minute. what's notable about these female academies is that they're not only to include in the curriculum these traditional so-called feminine arts like dance and music and sewing, those kinds of things. but also curriculum that had generally been towards young men or gendered masculine rite, only appropriate young men such as history science, geography and arithmetic to name a few, right were what we might hard disciplines in some regard, but also disciplines that been previously mostly exclusive purview of men like so these justifications for why women needed access to a of expanded education right besides the kind of philosophical arguments that
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you know of course women have this perceived intellectual inferiority because they haven't had the opportunity to be educated right. what else think about in the early republic, right? anxieties are running high. why else might there be political value to women's education. yes. any future to their study? yeah. good. right. this exactly. this phenomenon that. we're going to see that historian linda kerber identifies in her book of the republic. right. this idea of republican mother hood talk. right and it's precisely, as sidney mentioned, right, that there is this right heightened anxiety about the future of the republic and. some will argue that the best way to ensure the future of the republic is to make sure that
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subsequent are prepared to, be virtuous citizens right? virtuous leaders, right. so women themselves were or needed to be educated so that they could educate their children. right. both their sons and their daughters. i will say. right. and their sons be the up and coming virtuous leaders and voters in the new republic and their daughters like them, fulfill the role of republican mothers right to cultivate that sense of virtue on through the general audience. okay. right. so this is obviously much more of a domestic role than female politicians. but it's important to note that this isn't the only domestic role is going to be politicized for women. we're also going to see the role of wife be politicized. well, right. and historian jan lewis wrote an article called the republican
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wife in which she examines idea of companionate marriage, a a right. this is in words, quote, the republican model for and political relationship, right? so marriage, even though was obviously a private relationship. right. it had public significance in the early republic. right. so lewis was able to trace we call prescriptive literature magazines, novels, essays, things like that that kind of outlined expectation for behavior for men and women, which is especially important at this point time. right. and here. lewis argues, is that men and women should be seeking out companions right? that are reflective of
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republican values, right? this is a relatively more egalitarian relationship that in prior generations, right there is still gendered hierarchy within marriage, or at least the expectation of it. right. but there's the argument that women, if they kind of reflect this republican virtue, this pseudo egalitarianism in marriage, then their husbands will better citizens for it than the republic will be better for it. right. so you can see these really permeating all levels, society, right? even these domestic like now all of these roles are gendered. you can see that in the terminology that each of these historians chooses to identify here. but these two ideas republican and companionate marriage, especially for our purposes in this i want to underscore that they are kind of contingent upon two things right?
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one is an expectation of heteronormative sexuality, right. this second is, of course, women's reproductive capacity. right. so both that they are engaging in these heteronormative marital relations chips and also that they have children. right. and then pass on these values within their marriage and to their children. right. these roles are specific to women. they are gender or they are quote unquote, within the proper realm of comportment, of feminine behavior. right. so by and large, these roles are not going to be seen as right because they are seen as kind befitting these social, cultural that women were already filling. they're merely a political extension of them. right. it is instead going to be this first designation that i discuss these politicians, that's where we're going to really run into a problem, which we'll get to in a minute.
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so i want to before i talk about that backlash, have you take a look at political cartoon from the year 1807? right. there's a lot going on here now. it's a little bright in here. so i don't know if you can the kind of words that are. but take a look for a minute and see what you think is is going on here. these early political cartoons are not very subtle in their messaging, yaki or like all the books. okay. so can anybody see what the book says here. anyway. so right here is written statutes, right. so they're specifically fanning the flames burning, burning the law of rights, this kind of rule of law being burned right. what else do we notice in the image image. yeah, marci. well, at the of the property. so that could represent like the united the new states, right? there's this new sense of liberty right that needs to be nourished and what's the other implication?
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the other side of that, what's happening. infant liberty. yeah, but another mob, right. so this sense of democracy right. we're going to talk about being potentially fueling or being fueled by mob rule. is dangerous. and what you probably are also not able to read here on her breasts are whiskey and rum, right so fueling liberty, nursing liberty, young liberty with with rights and right there's there's a lot going on here. but what i want to kind of underscore to is that right. besides the anxiety about the future of the republic and the potential dangers, democracy. right. women as a political symbol are also going to increasingly manipulated in this. so, yeah, lots, lots of we could continue to unpack, but i want to bless you. i want to talk here. the backlash that ensues against, women's expanded
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political roles. okay. right. at first, as i said, both major political parties really going to seek out and cultivate the political allegiances of women. right, because they can add virtue. right. they can be a legitimating force. right. but over time women are going to be seen less as signifiers of political virtue and more as tools or objects of attack right. as you can see in this image. right. but certainly are going to be be used as symbols of attack, but also there will be attack against these female politician pins themselves for their political activities. okay. right. many americans at this time, as with ours, decry the growing
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divides. right. a familiar throughout american history. right. so in the prescriptive literature over time, we start to see a change in tone right from arguing about the benefits of having women in this public political realm, in these kinds of limited roles and instead that women should instead remove themselves from partizan politics right that it is no longer virtuous for them to be in this public political realm, particularly because of the rise of partizanship this increased partizan divide right in stead the literature is going argue that women were better politically to be executing domestic familial political roles right. the role of republican wife of republican right. they could somehow mediate or
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soften the increasingly harsh and world of partizan politics, which was becoming more purview of men exclusively right. so can kind of see this kind of rejection of female politicians beginning as as 1819 with an economic crisis. but really it's going to continue through jackson's presidency, which we'll talk about later today. okay. it's also, i think, important for us recognize that these of the early republic are also a period of expanding democracy. right. d democracy in which more people are getting access to traditional levers of power. right. and of course, this is limited. right. but largely talking about the expansion of the right to vote among white men. right.
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over time, state after state will kind knock down these expectation of property ownership for voting right, which will expand the white male base. and what we see expansion of democracy in that way we're also going to see not just democracy, but political power contracting for groups and women are among who see a kind of loss of, political power in some ways. right. so kind of give you an example of this, right, those outdoor festivities, the party activities that would happen public where women and men are kind of participating together increasingly these party meetings are going to happen closed doors. right. with leading party officials who are largely men. right. and the parties are going to work to cultivate, right, to
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cultivate the allegiance of voters of whom women were not considered a part. right. so you can see there where the expansion of the white male vote really kind of diminishes a lot of the ways that women had exercised political power. right. so this is one way where we start see those doors of opportunity closing for women, but also women's political power is seen as a threat right. right. these female politicians were seen as violate the boundaries of proper feminine comport ment. they are challenging authority. they are eroding the boundaries between the sexes that are believed to be very, very hard and very distinct at this point in time. right. so essentially they are or were perceived to be threat to the patriarchal social order, right. the the gendered status quo, and
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therefore the way in which the government, society itself structured right around these patriarchal power structures. and this should kind of be familiar to us as well. i we're going to see the of science really changing understandings of expectations gender comportment right that we've been talking about for several weeks now. right. so if we can remember back several weeks now, maybe our very first discussion where we talked about gender essentialism, anybody remember what that meant or perhaps relative to the social construction was gender essentialism essentialism. yeah. you want to go beyond all these between genders, right? that that gender sex is kind of immutable. it is unchangeable. right? it is essentialist in that nature. right. in contrast to the social constructionist view where,
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gender is a social construct or cultural construct is essentially. so we are going to see especially this kind of trans atlantic world, emerging ideas about biology anatomy and medicine, which we've talking a lot about. right. the changes in the ideas of of who ought to be taking care of women's health, for example. right. but science lended a legitimacy right to this gendered essentialism right that the difference between the sexes, we're fixed in nature. right. and that men and women biologically at unequal. right. and again this probably shouldn't be so surprising to you based on what we've read so far. but. right, the assumption is that women are, you know, physically weaker than men. right. that they are more emotional and
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thus the flip side of that is that they are less rational. right. and that is kind of inherent in their makeup. right. these assumptions so i like to follow along with this line of thinking, women's intellect was limited and their bodies and minds basically made them less fit for governing, right? for being in positions of power, of leadership right. and of course, the flip side of that is that men were then the ones that were fit to be voting to, be governing, to be leading. right. so all of these things kind of combine over the course a decade or two, right, where we see changing assumptions what women's proper role political activity is right? so with all that being said, i want spend the rest of the time talking about this scandal in andrew jackson's cabinet, which is sometimes dubbed the eton affair. it's also sometimes known as the
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war, right? where you can really see the gender dynamics in that term. but i think that the affair is really emblematic of of everything been discussing thus far today. right. and i think you can argue that the eton affair is simultaneously a factor contributing to this changing culture, but also a symptom of it. right. it's also a result it. so it's kind of happening in the late 1820s, early 1830s, right. right around time. this backlash is really rejecting the idea of politicians. okay. now before we jump in, i need to give you a bit a primer on what washington political was like in the early 19th century. in some ways very similar washington today, in other ways a bit different. and in one way i really want to
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emphasize important role that women in early washington right in the politics of early washington and this goes a long the need to cultivate a new national identity right a new patriotic sentiment. right washington as the capital where leaders would gather where leaders would make laws. women were the leaders in washington society. the sense of many of the social events that they would organize. right. and i don't mean that in a kind of belittling way these social events are really critical to the functioning of this political society, right. where people interacting right. and where even the kind of ritual and ceremony of politics, of patriotism is orchestrated by women. right. so some of the best examples of this are dolley madison and louisa catherine adams, who are among our very first first ladies. and they tried to model
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washington open as a capital city like those of europe. right. the old world that very aristocratic in nature, you know, they were hoping in modeling their kind of political activities off of european society that it would be a kind of legitimate force on the international stage. right. this is a new young nation, right. cultivating diplomatic relationships is important. right. so they really focused heavily ceremony and ritual and kind of political theater. right that symbolism is really important here. i so as washington society is being built figuratively, metaphorically, we're going to see kind of to camps emerging. democracy, the idea of democracy
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be very early on in the republic really in the wake of the immediate wake of the revolution had been seen as a danger. we saw the image. right, that mother mob. right. is going to be overtaking american society. right. much of figures like john adams especially really feared what they called the excesses of democracy too much democracy that might lead to mobs. right. so over time, as we get closer to the jacksonian, more and more people are seeing the benefits of democracy namely those people who are seeing expanded rights as a result of that democracy. right. so those folks who are seeing the benefits of expanded democracy are going to look at the aristocrat nature of american politics and be really fearful of that. right. that focus ing on this kind of aristocratic political will lead
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to corruption, will lead to the overthrow of a republican form of government. right. will to tyranny, talking and extreme in terms, of course. right. so we have those paradigms ocracy anti aristocracy folks on one side, but then on the other you do have folks who are really interested in cultivating this or socratic sense of political culture because they fear democracy, right? because they are really looking at the dangers inherent in democracy as they it that it would be mob like. right. and that there's there's this there is such a thing as having too much democracy that it can be dangerous. right. so this is the society that the eton affair happens in, right divided its partizan in and of course it is increasingly anxious over women's role. so that should set the scene for us today. okay so i'll start the story here by introduce ing a woman named margaret o'neill.
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that's o apostrophe and a l e. margaret o'neill, who was affectionately affectionate, known as peggy. she grew up in washington city. she was the daughter of hotel owner, and as such, she up around some really important political figures who would stay in or socialize at her father's hotel right. many wrote and spoke of her as a very beautiful, perhaps even alluring. dangerous seductive beauty. right. and peggy herself quite aware of this. she would write in her biographer excuse me, autobiography years later when i was still in pants. let's and rolling hoops with other girls i had the attentions of men young and old enough turn a girl's head so she is self-aware to write she knows that people consider her to be beautiful right and aware
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potentially of the potential power that she has in that beauty that she could use. hey, so peggy, as i say, i grew up in her father's hotel. she will marry a man named john timberlake in 1816. okay and he works as a purser on a ship. essentially, he takes care of the money but as such, he spends a lot of their marriage at sea. he's not. so while he is at sea for much of their marriage, peggy lives with her parents in the hotel, along with her and timberlake's two young daughters and. it was at the hotel where first met a man named john in 1818. okay eaton was young, widower and a newly minted tennessee
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senator. and this is how he came to know andrew jackson, who was himself also from tennessee. right. and over the course of the ensuing decade, right. would grow closer. and to be clear, also peggy and john would become quite with andrew jackson and his wife rachel as well. right. they came to know each other quite well. right. so washington at the time was a very small. but the rumor functioned quite well. so word of peggy and john's relationship, as it were, had drawn quite bit of attention, which then culminated in the shocking news of timberlake's death by suicide 1828. right. now, some of this gossip that had been circulating. would a trib you'd timberlake's suicide to an affair that was
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happening between peggy and john in. okay. and the is important here right dies by suicide in 1828. the same year that andrew jackson is first elected president later that year. right. now jackson is elected at least in part because of the massive expansion of the franchise to an propertied white men. right jackson really fancied himself a man of the people. right. and was especially in stark contrast his opponent, the then president, john quincy adams. right. who was pegged as being an out-of-touch elitist, wannabe aristocrat. right. here are these two political camps again? right. the kind pro-democracy man of the people versus kind of aristocratic society folks of washington? right.
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these two camps that emerge. right. so jackson will be elected with the support of many of new voters. but he certainly had a lot of critics as well. right. and not just in washington, but he's going to confront those washington critics head on when he moves the city to start his administration. okay. now, i want to highlight the members of andrew jackson's first cabinet here. excuse me. right. don't feel the need to copy all these guys down. i just want to kind of highlight a few here because they'll come up again and. first, of course, is john henry eaton. right. who will become secretary of war, the kind of predecessor, the secretary of defense you may recognize, martin van buren. right. who will eventually become himself. he's serving as secretary state, the nation's chief diplomat. william berry will also be important for us. he serves as a postmaster general. right. and some of these other folks
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going to be important from a position of being in the opposite. so jackson nominee, eight men who largely not have much experience in national government, they really didn't have national political profile and they certainly were not really part of this washingtonian elite that had been constructed. and, of course, the most controversial appointment is, john eaton. right. shortly after jackson is elected, eaton wrote to the then president elect that he intended to marry peggy. right. this is after her first husband had passed. and really, jackson is supportive of this of this marriage. he had become quite close with the two. he and his wife and he probably naively, in hindsight believe that the marriage put to bed
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these damaging rumors about and put them behind everyone really involved. right. so they did marry in january. of 1829, but probably the rumors persisted. right. one man quipped that eaton has married his mistress and mistress of 11 dozen others. right. so you can kind of see the attitudes towards are really solidifying here before jackson has even taken the oath of office. right. and very much going to plague his first term in office. right. so peggy is really going become a liability for jackson, a political liability, right. at this point in time or by the time he takes office, he has lost his wife, rachel. she died of a heart attack. and jackson is going to very
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publicly blame the campaign. right. the tactics of john adams side. right. there were rumors that persisted that rachel jackson's marriage had not legally ended before she married andrew jackson. and these kinds of rumors circulated during the campaign. right. and jackson would attribute them to contributing to her death. right. so jackson is without a wife. his secretary of state and chief diplomat martin buren was also a widower by point in time. so some believe that with official position of first lady being empty that peggy eaton might fill role. right. might be the symbolic head of washington society. right. to be clear, she would not. it's going be jackson's late wife's niece, emily donaldson, who will fill that role.
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but there is a lot of anxiety that. this woman, right. is going to be, you know, organizing parties and events at the white house in the name of administration. right now, some of these fears and anxieties about too much democracy are going to seem to come true. as you can see here in this rendering of inauguration day at the white house. famously, it really got out of control. some historians refer to it as a riot. but a lot of these new voters are going to come to washington, to the white house, to experience the inauguration and to try to meet the man they put into office. right. some historians have uncovered evidence of this, that the riot only ended when. they were able to put bottles of and punch out on the white house lawn. so people left the building. right. and andrew basically has to escape out the back somewhere. right. right. so this is like an auspicious start. and in fact, the women of
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washington's elite society are going to take matters into own hands at the inaugural ball, where almost a person, they refuse to acknowledge peggy's presence, to speak with her, to even be introduced to her. right. very much drawing a line in the sand here. just one cabinet couple is going to interact with the eton's and that is the very right william berry, the postmaster general. all. but washington society women are basically telling everyone, a member of this society that they have to pick. right. you're either with us. right. with these well-established. well. elite society women or you're with the eton's. right. about which there were a number of rumors. right. so as jackson attempts to get his presidency started here, gossip about the eton's is
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really going to hover over washington like fog and in many ways it infects most realms political society certainly of jackson's administration. right. in an attempt again to try to move beyond the rumors. jackson himself is going to hire investigators to look into these rumors. and importantly, he hopes to provide evidence that he can use to refute them right. right now, again, this this may seem like some women kind of making stuff up, but it is really central. a lot of the political divisions, both within jackson's administration, within the country at large to. okay. so i already said the berries are really going to be on team here. but martin van buren is the only other cabinet right to socialize regularly and, publicly with the eton's. right. and i think it's important to mention that he is a widower.
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right. so his wife is not participating in the exclusion of the eton's in this way. right right. his position as secretary of state is going to be important. right. he is the nation's chief diplomat. he is hosting foreign diplomats and important dignitaries. right. and because he invited the eton's right. the eton's were a part that society. right. which causes further conflict within the administration. right. but van, you're in here was making a strong political statement in including them and inviting them. like much of the opposition to the eton's was kind of orchestrated by woman named floride calhoun, who was the wife of john c calhoun, who was andrew jackson's vice president. and if you've taken any early american history, john c calhoun is probably a name that familiar to you, and probably not for good reason. so as jackson's first term wore
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on we're going to see policy issues really, forging a wedge. between jackson and calhoun. okay. one of the major issues is, a set of tariffs. right. that jackson in favor of that calhoun argued gave preference to northern industrial while disavowing managing southern states economies which were of course dependent upon enslaved labor. right. one of the things calhoun is probably most well known for in popular history is his very vocal support for the theory of nullification. nullification is the idea that a state could nullify or reject national laws that they found to be unconstitutional. and to be clear, i don't believe there's been a single court from the lower levels all the way to scotus that has recognized
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legitimacy of nullification. but it's important because obviously it will become quite important as we get closer to the war. this idea of nullification. right. so jackson becomes, the kind of biggest symbolic opponent, opponent to andrew jackson within his administration. right. and jackson believes essentially calhoun is making the eton affair worse on purpose. right. that he is fanning the flames of these rumors, his wife, but also within cabinet to improve his own political prospects. right. so we're going to see growing internal division within the jackson administration for obvious. all right. so aside from these ideas, right. particularly jackson believing that calhoun is doing all of this on right to improve his own situation, there are also rumors circulating that eaton himself
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is masterminding a way to remove the kind of pro calhoun anti eaton elements of the cabinet. right ingham and branch who were on the slide previously. right. so this division is going to persist to such a level that eventually going to see some members of his cabinet resigning which will then have snowball effect. so it was first martin van buren and john eaton who offered to resign. right. to to try to give jackson a fresh start here recognizing untenable political situation right and because they resigned first right it then wasn't as politically motivated for jackson to ask the rest of his cabinet resign or much of the rest of his cabinet. right. the one remaining cabinet is going to be william berry, the postmaster general. but this isn't going to be the
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end of the political careers. those men involved who did. right. john will eventually become the first territorial governor of florida. and interestingly, later he will become a minister to spain. which means that peggy is going to be present in a lot of the royal courts of europe, which is just kind of a good snub. the women that excluded her. right. john is eventually going to resign as vice president before the end of the first term here. and he will later be elected as a senator from south, where he continued his crusade in favor of nullification, end in expanding the power and scope of the institution of slavery. all right, martin van buren will replace calhoun, become vice president and then, of course, later be elected president himself after jackson serves two terms.
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right but all of this kind of portends really ominous signs of the future of politics six, especially leading up to the civil war. okay. now, lest we all this is just a matter of petty gossip and politics. i do want to kind of tease out the key significant elements of this story. right. why does it matter? what's the larger picture here? okay. right. but as i said, i really think that this story is, in fact emblematic of a lot of what we were discussing today. first is the important role of gossip in americans society, in american politics. right. and this is, of course, something that we have talked about at least a bit in previous weeks. right. especially relative, it being a kind of primary source for analysis. right gossip.
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really interesting, because it's kind of simultaneously public and private. right. or it has public and private functions, certainly. and in our society as well as in early society. it's a really potent political force. right. it is a currency of source a source in politics. but gossip is often neglected. right. as a kind of historical source as a primary. so what is it about gossip that makes it often by historians in terms being studied of times like this? is it really one trail that can be proven right? so it's not necessarily it's certainly not easily verifiable. right. it's it's much harder to verify. jacki, like your own personal bias, whatever you say. so it's not really reliable. yeah, right. so certainly, i mean, especially in the context of this, right. we can see the ways in which it
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isn't reliable. gotcha. going off that a lot of the stuff that says hearsay. so so credible. yeah right. so lots of questions around the credibility of the source even from a practical standpoint. think about a historian who wants to utilize gossip. what's the kind of challenge there? sarah usually it's like spread orally, like people talking to one another. yeah, it's really hard to identify, hard to locate, right this is not necessarily as big of a problem when we're talking about this massive scale political gossip. right. certainly the sources talked about earlier in the semester, it's really to identify until we get these depositions in court. right. but here you can see this is just an excerpt from a piece in the essex gazette in may of 1831 that details. right. the there's something like 14 steps here about oh and then this happened and this happened. so the public is reading about this. and i will say that both eaton and calhoun are publishing letters publicly. right. to kind of air their grievances
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in newspaper for the public to read. right. so it is difficult to identify but gossip is often gendered. right. the assumption that it is the kind of the realm of women. right. it it has link to feminine ity or sexuality. right. and that it's it's trivial. right. relative to these traditional levers of power. right. so there's a kind of sexism inherent in rejecting these as really important of historical analysis. right? of course, this is could not be more further from the truth. right. so rumors peggy eaton's sexual marital misdeeds really fueled political dissent. and not just from women. right. men are in this political gossip as well. right. but what i think is important to note here, even though both and women are engaging in political gossip, it's in some ways more
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important for because as time goes on, those traditional levers of political of political expression are going to be increasingly close to them. right. so gossip becomes more important. right. as a social, political. now another kind of element of significance i want to underscore here is, of course, this increased cultural anxiety about women's political power, women's roles in politics. right. most of the country knows very about what's going on in andrew jackson's inner circle until it hits papers. right. then, a lot of papers are going to pick up the national news. some of this gossip is going to leak out. right. so the american public learns through these newspapers that a woman was the cause at the center of this conflict, that
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she. well, i should also say, too, that this is also going to be to you. but these papers are going to really lean into these kind of well-worn and tired tropes of gender and sexuality. right. right. peggy is at the center here. according to these accounts, she orchestrated this whole cabinet resignation and with her feminine wiles. right. perhaps she had some larger devious plot in store. right. becomes very dramatic. right. but she is at the center here. right. and this excerpt here, at least one portion says, quote behold, then this delicate and admirable and its worker, mrs., was the main string jackson the barrel round which it wound and her husband filled up the subordinate parts of the mechanism right so really centering peggy in the dissolution of the cabinet this
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political rupture. right of course, peggy exercised very little political in this situation. it was instead those dismissed her that excluded her that gossiped about her that really were the ones that brought down the cabinet from the inside out. but what i want to argue is that peggy becomes a of avatar for jackson. right. people who want to critique jackson will instead critique peggy as a reflection of the administration. right. so in one part, we're going to see women. right. who are seeking still to have a legitimate political voice and not be chastised for being unwomanly. ken critique eaton right. for being kind of going outside the proper of feminine behavior. right. so that's a way that women can critique jackson but as democratic sentiment is becoming
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more popular, right? it's it's certainly less popular to critique democ. right. those who are critical of an expanded democracy again want to critique jackson for kind of being a harbinger of it. but use peggy as this avatar. right. so really we're seeing here is that these critiques of peggy are really an extension of critiques of jackson from angles. right. and she becomes the kind of symbolic center here. right. they critique and target peggy for her lack of propriety, her immodesty. when the real is in many ways democracy itself. okay. so as we've seen today, women have been political actors imbued with influence and power in american history. right. they their political power in public and in private. and we're certainly critical players in the development of
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new nation. right. but as we've also seen, they symbols of the elements of an excess of democracy and égalité arianism. right. they become this avatar this way to critique these larger systems of power, particularly as these forces destabilize the long held, white, patriarchal power structures. right. especially as is expanding. right. we've seen how. and why this backlash to inclusion in the polity occurred. but i do want to emphasize that women would not and did not go quietly, as i'm sure many of you know. right. it's not many years later that some women are to organize collectively, to push not just for the right to vote, but also for abolition and other social reforms and really kind of through line, i think, of women's power is that they have been navigating limitations on their political and agency.
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right. and these limitations often grounded in assumptions about their physical their emotional and intellectual capabilities as well as their reproductive roles. right. think about the idea of hysterical right. being a very explicit gendered critique. right. so despite these gendered and sexist assumptions about politic, women have persisted in carving out power for themselves. wherever they could, in spite of these throughout the course of american history and obviously continue to do so today. all right. so thank you for your attention and i will see you
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