Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mean Girls, Bullies and The American Presidency

Margaret (Peggy) Eaton, Charcoal drawing copied from a portrait by an unknown artist.
One hour warm up drawing. From this digital translation, I think her Mona Lisa smile needs work.
Photography is also an excellent tool for checking your work--better than a mirror, or standing the
drawing on its head. 

IT IS SORT OF FITTING that no one knows who painted the portrait of Peggy Eaton that I used to make this charcoal drawing. She was a shunned woman.  A beautiful woman who made the mistake of marrying too soon after her husband died--eight months, instead of the acceptable year or two.

Margaret (Peggy) Eaton by an unknown painter.
Looks Copelyesk. What do you think?
I heard the story of Peggy Eaton and the Petticoat War from the link that Dan Kent passed on in his comment a couple of days ago.  The women of high society, in  1820/1830 Washington, D.C,  the time of Andrew Jackson's presidency, decided Peggy was a tramp and cut her out of society--even though her husband was Jackson's Secretary of War.  This infuriated Jackson, who thought these same women were responsible for his wife's early death; they had shunned Rachel Jackson too. So he chose to champion Peggy--as did Marin Van Buren, Jackson's Secretary of State. The rest of his cabinet sided with the gossips, a big mistake. Jackson fired them all when he was elected  for a second term and made Van Buren his Vice President, instead of John Calhoun who was his Vice President his first term; Calhoun's wife, a society bully, had initiated the shunning. Calhoun was the idiot that allowed his wife to cost him his career.

 Beyond the gossip, the Petticoat War had greater significance.  Jackson, Peggy's powerful protector, put the Union first, states second. He thought the Washington gossips, the wives who used their husbands' power to assert their own  over society, were seeing themselves as aristocracy, behavior that was very  inappropriate in this country, founded by  men and women of common decent. Jackson is considered to be the founder of the Democratic Party.

Rachel Donelson Jackson by Ralph E.W. Earl
Rachel's dad was a founding father of Nashville, TN
I poked history further last night Binging Rachel Donelson Jackson and discovered Peggy Eaton's problems with Washington's Society ladies didn't come close to Rachel Jackson's experience with the bullies. Her reputation was totally destroyed.  In 1724, Jackson ran against--now get this--John Quincy Adam, John Adam's boy. John Q's supporters had no sense of decency and ran Rachel Jackson through the mud labeling  her a bigamist and an adulteress. Jackson supposedly lost that race, (even though he won the popular vote and the electoral votes--explain that will you),  but  didn't give up. He won the 1728 election. And things changed in Washington in 1729. but Rachel never got to see it. She died before Jackson was inaugurated and moved into the White House. Jackson blamed  the Washington aristocracy for her untimely death due to the humiliation, deep depression and heart break she suffered in the dirtiest presidential campaign--the campaign that made presidential contenders wives fair game for political gain.  --And Peggy? She became the premier hostess of the city, or so I've heard.  But now who's gossiping?

The newly published book --A Being so Gentle: the Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson by historian Patricia Brady--examines the tragic love story that shaped Andrew Jackson's Presidency --and the office of  the Presidency to this day.  You can read a synopsis here.  Naturally, I ordered the book.

Great fun this history and  drawing people besides myself and my family. Two birds one stone: education and  
sharpening observational skills.




  

18 comments:

  1. Wow, what a cool post! and a free education with it! The "under history", what really happens is always interesting and never what it seems.

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    1. And not having the nitty gritty behind the scenes tidbits is why we fell asleep in American History 101. I hope things have changed in the classroom since then; memorizing events and successive dates was SO D-U-L-L--and now that I think of it, why I saw students cheating with lists written in pen on their arms. Not me, you understand, I was a goody two shoes, one of the dumb kids who thought you had to study.

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  2. Wonderful drawing, and I agree about history lessons...but now I am fascinated and wish I had listened!

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    1. Me too--but how history was taught wasn't as folksy as reading it with all the little personal information added. For instance: I really have to know how a guy could win all the electoral votes plus the popular vote and still lose an election? I'm going to have to follow up on that. Who decided John Quincy Adams won? Who had that power over the vote of the people? Was any of it true?

      Then how come woman took the wrath of society and not the guys--because they were chattel. Rachel was a woman of means. Her dad was the one who founded Nashville and helped settle Tennessee. He bought up a lot of land around that area. Rachel's first husband threw her out, said he had filed for divorce, but didn't. She married Jackson then discovered her first husband lied; he was reluctant to give up his rights to her wealth. She was a victim.

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  3. Nothing new under the sun .... the Romans said and the centuries pass, but the hearts of the people remains the same.
    The effect that I am reading of history is that of an eternal present where everything looks the same except clothes and hairstyles and comfort in everyday life (for some countries on the face of the earth,not for all).
    The last portraits series are very effective, the tones shape their faces with energy.
    Brava at writing and Brava at drawing.
    (We sufferings for the knee of the "poor Danilo" ... we hope that the diagnosis is clear completely after bone scintigraphy, magnetic resonance imaging failed to clarify all ...)
    I hope you're now feeling better,dear Linda!

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    1. How true--but at least now candidates don't go after their opponent's wives. Rachel's story is outrageous on a number of levels.

      I had an MRI on my knee three years ago ordered by my internist. It did show up all the things that were wrong with the knee, but when I went to the first orthopedic specialist, he never looked at the xrays; he took his own and said I need a new knee right away. I changed to another orthopedic guy who also didn't look at the MRI results, but took his own xrays--which showed up all the things that the initial report listed. He, however, didn't think I needed a new knee immediately. He thought other things would help--physical therapy, cortisone shots, arthroscopy, gel injection therapy and then possibly a knee replacement. Having just finished dealing with the breast cancer, I liked the guy right away for saying I could postpone such a drastic action. My knee feels good after the arthroscopy two weeks ago. I still have my shin splints, but that has nothing to do with the knee. I don't know how long the good results of this last treatment are going to last--but cleaning the knee out and repairing what they could has been beneficial and also revealed that I don't need a full replacement, a half knee replacement should do it. Half knee replacements are not as painful as full knee replacements. So that's where I stand.
      What I'm telling you is the MRI was possibly unnecessary. There are a number of steps to take before knee replacement. Have I done the right thing by postponing? I have no idea. My (doctor) son says stay away from surgery as long as you can. My experience has told me the same. Some people I've talked to applaud their new knee. Others say it's the worst thing ever. Who do you listen to?

      I wish Danilo well. Cortisone was good for me for a long time, but then I started needing the shots more often, so I went on to the arthroscopy. And I'm walking like I used to walk before I had to coddle it, which strained my back. I'm happy for now. And that's the scoop dear Rita. Bon Chance and hugs to you both.

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  4. Linda!
    Great history lesson and a great drawing!
    Keep on keeping on!
    Michael

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    1. Well Michael, you know I can't give up on this appalling story of brutality against women. I ordered the book. I need to read the whole scoop, not just a few articles online. I'm also curious about John Adam's son and his campaign tactics. I imagine that the Declaration of Independence guys and their offspring were considered aristocracy till Jackson came along and squashed all that balderdash. I also recall from my childhood that the word was The Daughters of The American Revolution were a bit uppity too. The organization exists today, but membership is still restricted to people who can trace their ancestry back to colonial America. In the melting pot that is this country, that stipulation seems elitist and out of date. Jackson, I bet, would agree. Read on. Paint on. Have fun Michael.

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  5. Well, one never knows when one may light a fire under one, does one? :) Glad you liked the link! It is great seeing their pictures. Your drawing is excellent, although re the Mona Lisa mouth, she does now seem a bit stern. I once spoke to the Daughters of the American Revolution, by the way, and that's the impression I got too - uppity.

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    1. A smudge on this corner, a smudge on that should put Mona's smile on Peggy's face. --That was my impression too. Thanks Dan for the shove into something interesting.

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  6. really interesting stuff! Love the charcoal drawing too.

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    1. Thanks. Charcoal is my comfort zone. I really should look for the pencils to refine the details, but too lazy. Vine will do for warm ups.

      Our fairer sex, though not as physically strong as men, can be lethal with our mouths.

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    1. Thanks Sergio. Charcoal is the appropriate medium for drawing a scandalous woman, it smudges easily. It's also appropriate for historical pictures, being the caveman's only choice in his paint box.

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  8. Your blog is going to do serious damage to the Carney exchequer as the family library expands. Like you I feel I need to delve deeper into the events you write about. Enjoying the drawing as well.

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    1. When drawing or painting,something else to think about is a good thing. It keeps the drawing mindless--and the results are freer.
      Vine charcoal encourages freer renditions too.

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  9. WHat a fascinating post, Linda!!! Damn those society grande dames anyway.

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    1. Isn't that an amazing story! It reminded me of the locker room in my first HS. Thanks to the mean girls, the insecure girls,that's where I developed my lethal weapon, my mouth.

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