Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English. Last week in our series, we talkedabout the election of eighteen twenty-eight. Andrew Jackson defeated PresidentJohn Quincy Adams, after a campaign in which both sides made bitter and viciouscharges. One of those charges was about Jackson's wife, Rachel. His opponentsaccused him of taking her from another man. They said Andrew and Rachel weremarried before she was legally divorced from her first husband. This was true.But it was because her first husband said he had divorced her, when really hehad not. Andrew and Rachel remarried -- legally this time -- after they learnedof the situation. Rachel Jackson was a kind and simple woman. The campaigncharges hurt her deeply. She was proud that Andrew was elected president. Butshe was not happy about the life she would have to lead as first lady. Atfirst, it was thought that she might remain in Tennessee. But Rachel Jacksonknew that her place was with her husband. She would go with him to Washington.But then, tragedy intervened. Our story this week is told by Jack Weitzel andStewart Spencer.
Preparations had to be made for the move toWashington. And for weeks, the Jackson home was busy. There was little time forMisses Jackson to rest. Her health seemed to suffer. Then on Decemberseventeenth, just a few days before the Jacksons were to leave for Washington,two doctors were rushed to the Jackson home outside Nashville. They foundRachel in great pain. She seemed to be suffering a heart attack. The doctorstreated her, and for a time, she seemed to get better. After a day or so,Rachel was able to sit up and talk with friends. She seemed cheerful. Jacksonwas at her side much of the time. On Sunday, Rachel sat up too long and beganfeeling worse. But the doctors said it was not serious, and they urged GeneralJackson to get some rest. He was to go to Nashville the next day. After herhusband went to sleep in the next room, Rachel had her servant help her to situp again. Rachel's mind was troubled about the years ahead in Washington."I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of God," she said,"than live in that palace in Washington." A few minutes after tenthat night, Rachel cried out and fell from her chair. The servants' screamsawakened everyone. Jackson was the first to get to Rachel. He lifted her to thebed. He watched as the doctors bent over her. Jackson read in their eyes thatlife had left Rachel. Jackson could not believe it. He sat next to her, hishead in his hands, his fingers through his gray hair.
To his friend, John Coffee, Jackson said:"John, can you realize she is dead. I certainly cannot." Rachel wasburied two days later. Ten-thousand persons went to the Jackson home for thefuneral. The Reverend William Hume spoke simply of Rachel Jackson's life. Hetalked of her kindness and humility. And he told how she had been hurt by theterrible charges made during the election campaign. Jackson fought to hold backhis tears. When the churchman finished speaking, those near Jackson heard himsay: "In the presence of this dear saint, I can and do forgive all myenemies. But those vile wretches who have lied about her, must look to God formercy." Jackson felt that Rachel's death was caused by the vicious chargesmade during the election campaign. He told a friend a few days later: "MayGod almighty forgive her murderers as I know she would forgive them. I nevercan." Jackson left his home January eighteenth to begin the long trip toWashington. "My Heart is nearly broken," he said. "I try to liftmy spirits, but cannot."
In Washington, no one knew what to expect.Senator Daniel Webster wrote a friend at Boston: "General Jackson will behere about the fifteenth of February. Nobody knows what he will do when he doescome. My opinion is that when he comes, he will bring a breeze with him. Whichway it will blow, I cannot tell. My fear is stronger than my hope." Crowdsof Jackson's supporters began arriving in the capital. Some wanted to see theirman sworn-in as president. Many wanted -- and expected -- a government job.General Jackson arrived in Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac River fromWashington, on February twelfth. Jackson was sixty-one years old. He was atall, thin man. His face was wrinkled. And his white hair was pushed back fromhis high forehead. His eyes -- usually sharp and commanding -- were filled withgrief. Jackson's health had never been really good. He carried in his body twobullets from duels fought years before. But he was a tough man with a spiritstrong enough to keep moving, even when seriously sick. For three weeks, thegeneral met with his advisers and friends. He decided on the men who would formhis cabinet. For the job of Secretary of State, Jackson chose Martin Van Burenof New York, a man of great political ability. He named a Pennsylvaniabusinessman, Samuel Ingham, to be secretary of the treasury. John Berrien ofGeorgia was chosen to be attorney general. His Navy Secretary would be JohnBranch, a former senator and governor of North Carolina. For war secretary,Jackson chose an old friend, Senator John Eaton of Tennessee.
Three members of this cabinet -- Berrien,Branch, and Ingham -- were friends of John C. Calhoun, Jackson's vicepresident. Calhoun expected to be president himself when Jackson stepped downin four or eight years. Martin Van Buren also wanted the presidency. He woulddo all he could to block Calhoun's ambition. Andrew Jackson was sworn-in aspresident on March fourth, eighteen-twenty-nine. President John Quincy Adamsdid not go to the ceremony at the Capitol building. Jackson had said publiclyhe would not go near Adams. And he did not make the traditional visit to theWhite House while Adams was there. Jackson was still filled with bitternessover the charges made against his wife in the election campaign. He felt Adamswas at least partly responsible for the charges. The sky over Washington wascloudy on the fourth of March. But the clouds parted, and the sun shonethrough, as Jackson began the ride to the Capitol building. His cheeringsupporters saw this as a good sign. So many people crowded around the Capitolthat Jackson had to climb a wall and enter from the back. He walked through thebuilding and into the open area at the front where the ceremony would be held.Theceremony itself was simple. Jackson made a speech that few in the crowd wereable to hear. Then Chief Justice John Marshall swore-in the new president. Inthe crowd was a newspaperman from Kentucky, Amos Kendall. "It is a proudday for the people," wrote Kendall. "General Jackson is their ownpresident." From the Capitol, Jackson rode down Pennsylvania Avenue to theWhite House. Behind him followed all those who had watched him become thenation's seventh president. The crowds followed him all the way into the WhiteHouse, where food and drink had been put out for a party. Everyone tried to getin at once. Clothing was torn. Glasses and dishes were broken. Chairs andtables were damaged. Never had there been a party like this at the White House.Jackson stayed for a while. But the crush of people tired him, and he was ableto leave. He spent the rest of the day in his hotel room in Alexandria. Theguests at the White House finally left after drinks were put on the tableoutside the building. Many of the people left through windows, because thedoors were so crowded. Jackson was now the president of the people. And itseemed that everybody was in Washington looking for a government job.Everywhere Jackson turned, he met people who asked him for a job. They urgedhim to throw out those government workers who supported Adams in the election.They demanded that these jobs be given to Jackson supporters.