Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION --American history in VOA Special English. The presidential campaign of eighteentwenty-eight was bitter and vicious, full of angry words and accusations. Theold Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe had splitinto two opposing groups. One group was led by President John Quincy Adams andSecretary of State Henry Clay. It called itself the National Republican Party. Theother group was led by General Andrew Jackson. It called itself the DemocraticParty. This week in our series, Sarah Long and Steve Ember talk about theelection of eighteen twenty-eight.
Each party had its own newspapers. InWashington, the Daily National Journal supported President Adams. The UnitedStates Telegraph supported General Jackson. The Telegraph published chargesagainst the administration made by congressional Democrats. The Journal, inturn, published a pamphlet that had been used against Jackson earlier. Amongother things, the pamphlet charged that Jackson had fought a man, chased himaway like a dog, and then took his wife. The charge was not true. This is thestory. It is important, because it had a great effect on Andrew Jackson for therest of his life. Jackson met the young woman, Rachel, at her mother's homenear Nashville, Tennessee. At the time, Rachel and her husband, Lewis Robards,were living there. They were having marriage problems. Robards argued with hiswife about Jackson. He said she and Jackson seemed too close. Jackson wasadvised to leave, and he agreed to go. Before he left, he met with Robards.Robards reportedly wanted to fight Jackson with his fists. Jackson refused tofist-fight. But, he said he would face Robards in a duel, if Robards wished tofight like a gentleman. Robards rejected the invitation, and nothing morehappened between the two men. Jackson left.
Robards and Rachel settled theirdifferences. She went back to their home in Kentucky, but did not stay long. Theyhad another dispute, and she left. Court records say she left with a man --Andrew Jackson. Rachel's family had heard how unhappy she was with Robards, andhad asked Jackson to bring her back to Tennessee. Robards followed them. Racheltold him she wanted a divorce. Robards threatened her. He said he would carryher away by force if she did not go back to Kentucky. Rachel decided to flee.She would go with some traders to Natchez, in the Mississippi territory. Itwould be a dangerous trip down the Cumberland, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers. Jacksonwas troubled. He felt badly, because he had been the cause of Rachel'sunhappiness. By now, Rachel meant much to Jackson. He had fallen in love withher. When the traders asked him to go to Natchez, he agreed. The group leftearly in seventeen ninety-one.
A few weeks earlier, Lewis Robards hadbegun preparations for a divorce. He did not complete the necessary action,however. Yet he led Rachel's family to believe that he had. That the two ofthem were no longer married. Jackson returned to Nashville after severalmonths. He asked for permission to marry Rachel, now that she was free ofRobards. Rachel's mother gave her permission. Andrew Jackson and Rachel weremarried in August seventeen-ninety-one. Both were twenty-four years old. Theyremained in Tennessee. The next two years were busy ones for Jackson. As ayoung lawyer, he worked hard and traveled far. In December, seventeenninety-three, he discovered court papers showing that Lewis Robards had onlyrecently divorced Rachel. This meant that at the time Jackson and Rachel weremarried, she was still legally married to Robards. Jackson was shocked. As soonas possible, he and Rachel were married again -- legally this time.
Almost ten years passed. Jackson was ajudge and took part in Tennessee politics. One day, Jackson met the state'sgovernor outside the court house in Knoxville. The governor was telling a largecrowd about his great services to the state. Jackson felt it necessary to saythat he, too, had done some public services. "Services," shouted thegovernor. "I know of no great service you have done the country excepttaking a trip to Natchez with another man's wife!" Jackson's eyes grew ascold as ice. The governor pulled his sword. "Great God!" criedJackson. " Do you speak her sacred name." He jumped at the governorwith a stick. The two men were separated. A few years later, Jackson killed aman in a duel, after the other man made a joke -- while drunk -- aboutJackson's marriage.
As a candidate for president, Jackson couldnot take to the dueling field to defend his wife's honor. He wanted to. But heknew it would prevent him from being elected. Jackson asked a special committeeof citizens to investigate his marriage and make a public report. The committeefound that Jackson and Rachel got married only after they believed her firsthusband had divorced her. As soon as the mistake was discovered, they weremarried again, legally. The report said they were not at fault. The pro-Jacksonnewspaper in Washington published the committee's report. But anti-Jacksonnewspapers did not. They insulted him and his wife. General Jackson struggledto control his anger. "How hard it is," he said, "to keep myselfaway from these villains. I have made many sacrifices for my country. But beingunable to punish those who lie about my wife is a sacrifice too great tobear." Anti-Jackson newspapers continued to print vicious lies about him.And the pro-Jackson newspapers began to print vicious lies about PresidentAdams and his wife. All during the bitter campaign, neither candidate saidanything about one very important issue: slavery.
Adams did not want to lose what littlesupport he had in the South and West by denouncing slavery. Jackson did notwant to lose the support of some Republicans in the North by openly defendingit. Adams's silence did not mean that he approved of slavery. Southerners weresure that he opposed it. And Jackson did not have to tell the South what hethought about slavery. He was a slave owner, and had bought and sold slaves allhis life. There was another important difference between the two men and theirpolitical parties. President Adams and the Republicans represented the interestsof those who owned property. Many of the president's supporters felt thatwealthy, property-owning citizens should control the government. They fearedpopular rule, or government elected by all the people. Jackson and theDemocrats represented the interests of common men. They did not feel that therich had more right to govern than the poor. They believed in the democratic right of allmen to share equally in the government.Theelection was held in different states on different days between Octoberthirty-first and November fifth, eighteen-twenty-eight. In two states -- SouthCarolina and Delaware -- the legislature chose the presidential electors. Inall the other states, the electors were chosen by the voters. When theelectoral votes were counted, Jackson received one hundred eventy-eight. Adamsreceived only eighty-three. It was a great victory for Jackson. His wife,however, was troubled. She was a simple, kind woman who loved her husband."For Mr. Jackson's sake," she wrote, "I am glad. For my ownpart, I never wished it." She knew, of course, of the charges made duringthe campaign about their marriage. Her courage supported her. But when theexcitement of the election had ended, she lost her energy. And her healthbecame worse. Someone proposed that Rachel Jackson stay in Tennessee until herhealth became better. Then she could join her husband at the White House inWashington. Rachel did not want to go to Washington. But she felt that herplace was with her husband. That will be our story next week.