Petticoat affair

A cigar box exploiting Eaton's fame and beauty, showing President Jackson introduced to Peggy O'Neal (left) and two lovers fighting a duel over her (right)
Peggy O'Neill Eaton, in later life
Floride Calhoun, wife of Vice President John Calhoun and leader of the "anti-Peggy" Washington wives
President Andrew Jackson supported the Eatons in the Petticoat affair.
Secretary of State Martin Van Buren supported the Eatons, aiding in his rise to the presidency.

Political scandal involving members of President Andrew Jackson's Cabinet and their wives, from 1829 to 1831.

- Petticoat affair

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John C. Calhoun

American statesman and political theorist from South Carolina who held many important positions including being the seventh vice president of the United States from 1825 to 1832, while adamantly defending slavery and protecting the interests of the white South.

Portrait by George Peter Alexander Healy c. undefined 1845
Calhoun's wife, Floride Calhoun
Charles Bird King's 1822 portrait of Calhoun at the age of 40
State historic marker at Fort Hill, Calhoun's home from 1825 until his death in 1850
A portrait of Calhoun from 1834 by Rembrandt Peale
Calhoun, during his tenure as Secretary of State (April 1844 – March 1845)
Daguerreotype of Calhoun, c. 1843
Calhoun photographed by Mathew Brady in 1849, shortly before his death
Calhoun's grave at St. Philip's Church yard in Charleston
George Peter Alexander Healy's 1851 painting of Calhoun on exhibit at City Hall in Charleston, South Carolina
Calhoun's home, Fort Hill, on the grounds that became part of Clemson University, in Clemson, South Carolina
Undated photograph of Calhoun
John C. Calhoun postage stamp, CSA issue of 1862, unused
Confederate First issue banknote depicting both Calhoun and Andrew Jackson (Act of March 9, 1861)
John C. Calhoun statue in National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol

Calhoun had a difficult relationship with Jackson, primarily because of the Nullification Crisis and the Petticoat affair.

Floride Calhoun

The wife of U.S. politician John C. Calhoun.

She is best known for her leading role in the Petticoat affair, which occurred during her husband's service as vice president of the United States.

Martin Van Buren

American lawyer and statesman who served as the 8th president of the United States from 1837 to 1841.

Van Buren by Mathew Brady, c. 1855–1858
Van Buren's birthplace by John Warner Barber
Baptism record indicating the Dutch spelling of Van Buren's first name, "Maarten"
Hannah Van Buren
Painting of Van Buren by Daniel Dickinson, c. 1820s
Mrs Floride Calhoun, a leader of the "petticoats"
A painting of Van Buren by Francis Alexander, c. undefined 1830
1836 electoral vote results
Painting of Van Buren by Henry Inman, c. 1837–38
The modern balaam and his ass, an 1837 caricature placing the blame for the Panic of 1837 and the perilous state of the banking system on outgoing President Andrew Jackson, shown riding a donkey, while President Martin Van Buren comments approvingly
A United States Marine Corps boat expedition searching the Everglades during the Second Seminole War
"Destruction of the Caroline", illustration by John Charles Dent (1881)
1840 electoral vote results
Daguerreotype of Van Buren by Mathew Brady, c. 1849–50
Daguerreotype of Martin Van Buren, circa 1855
1858 portrait by GPA Healy, on display at the White House
Gubernatorial portrait of Martin Van Buren by Daniel Huntington in The Civil War

He ultimately resigned to help resolve the Petticoat affair, and briefly served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.

William T. Barry

American slave owner, statesman and jurist.

William Taylor Barry

He served as Postmaster General for most of the administration of President Andrew Jackson and was the only Cabinet member not to resign in 1831 as a result of the Petticoat affair.

Second Ladies and Gentlemen of the United States

Informal title held by the spouse of the vice president of the United States, concurrent with the vice president's term of office.

Second Lady Pat Nixon, with Vice President Richard Nixon, led a delegation to Ghana in 1957. One historian wrote that Pat Nixon "helped to define this nebulous role for an entire generation of women who would succeed her".
Marilyn Quayle served 1989–1993 born 1949 (age {{age|1949|7|29}}) wife of Dan Quayle
Tipper Gore served 1993–2001 born 1948 (age {{age|1948|8|19}}) separated wife of Al Gore
Lynne Cheney served 2001–2009 born 1941 (age {{age|1941|8|14}}) wife of Dick Cheney
Jill Biden served 2009–2017 born 1951 (age {{age|1951|6|3}}) wife of Joe Biden (current First Lady)
Karen Pence served 2017−2021 born 1957 (age {{age|1957|1|1}}) wife of Mike Pence

In one notable exception, Floride Calhoun, wife of Vice President John C. Calhoun, was a central figure in the Petticoat Affair, a social-political scandal which involved the social ostracism of Secretary of War John H. Eaton and his wife Margaret O'Neill Eaton, further damaging already-strained relations between Vice President Calhoun and President Andrew Jackson.

John Eaton (politician)

American politician and diplomat from Tennessee who served as U.S. Senator and as Secretary of War in the administration of Andrew Jackson.

Eaton as a senator

Eaton and his wife Peggy became the focus of controversy during Jackson's first term; in the so-called Petticoat affair, Washington's society wives refused to socialize with the Eatons.


Article of clothing, a type of undergarment worn under a skirt or a dress.

American petticoat, 1855–1865
Modern petticoat
Silk embroidery on petticoat, Portugal, c. 1760
Washer woman petticoat inspired skirt and jacket by Sybil Connolly

President Andrew Jackson's administration was beset by a scandal called the "Petticoat affair", dramatized in the 1936 film The Gorgeous Hussy.

Peggy Eaton

The wife of John Henry Eaton, a United States senator from Tennessee and United States Secretary of War, and a confidant of Andrew Jackson.

Cigar box shows President Jackson introduced to Peggy O'Neal (left) and two lovers fighting a duel over her (right).
Margaret O'Neill Eaton in later life

Their marriage was the cause of a national controversy known as the Petticoat Affair.

1832 United States presidential election

The 12th quadrennial presidential election, held from November 2 to December 5, 1832.

"King Andrew the First", an Anti-Jacksonian poster shows Andrew Jackson as a monarch trampling the Constitution, the federal judiciary, and the Bank of the United States
Results by county explicitly indicating the percentage of the winning candidate in each county. Shades of blue are for Jackson/Van Buren (Democratic), shades of orange are for Clay (National Republican), shades of red are for Wirt (Anti-Masonic), and shades of green are for Jackson/Barbour (Democratic).

President Jackson and Vice President Calhoun had a strained relationship for a number of reasons, most notably a difference in opinion about the Nullification Crisis and the involvement of Calhoun's wife Floride in the Eaton affair.

John Branch

American politician who served as U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Navy, the 19th Governor of the state of North Carolina, and was the sixth and last territorial governor of Florida.

John Branch resigned as Secretary in 1831, during the Petticoat affair, which involved the social ostracism of Margaret O'Neill Eaton, the wife of Secretary of War John H. Eaton by a group of Cabinet members and their wives led by Floride Calhoun, the wife of Vice President John C. Calhoun.