A homicidal maniac president and his accidental bigamist wife: A Nashville love story 

Crazy in Love

Crazy in Love
click to enlarge coverstory2-1.jpg

Andrew Jackson didn't take kindly to the world, and it didn't much like him in return. Over the course of his life, he was afflicted by smallpox, dysentery and malaria. He dueled multiple times — some sources say 50, some say upwards of 100. The two times he was hit by duelists left him with shattered bones and lead poisoning from the bullets.

As president, he was responsible for the Trail of Tears. He considered hanging his vice president and later regretted letting him live. He once beat a would-be assassin so severely the man had to be rescued by bystanders. And he left a 1,400-pound wheel of stinking cheese in the White House because screw the next guy.

Jackson's not exactly the kind of dude you'd want to have over for dinner — at least not if you wanted everyone else at dinner to make it out in one piece. But he did have a soft spot: Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson, his wife.

They met when he when he moved to Nashville. Rachel was in a terrible marriage, to Lewis Robards, who beat her and then abandoned her. She had returned to her mother's house, where Jackson was lodging. By all accounts, Jackson and Rachel were head-over-heels immediately. Rachel received some indication (a notice in a paper owned by one of his friends) that Robards had divorced her, and she and Andrew married. The notice turned out to be false, so Rachel was an unintentional bigamist.

Nowadays, most of us would recognize Robards for the abusive scoundrel he was. No one would hold it against Rachel for thinking that the man who beat and left her had, indeed, divorced her when his friend said he did. After all, if he didn't want her, why stay legally tied to her? But it seems at the time, Andrew was one of the few people who realized that Rachel's situation was no fault of her own.

Knowing what Rachel's first marriage was like, it's easy to see why she married a man like Old Hickory. When you know what it's like to be at the mercy of cruel men, having a cruel man who loves you on your side can be a great relief. And he adored her. He wrote her things like, "I will soon put an end to the Creek war, as soon as this is done and I can honourably, retire, I shall, return to your arms on the wings of love & affection." Which, if you can overlook the genocide, is very sweet.

As much as having a soft woman to love was good for Andrew, it didn't change him. John Sevier made a crack — "I know of no great service you rendered the country, except taking a trip to Natchez with another man's wife" — and the crowd had to keep Jackson from tearing him limb from limb right then. Jackson attempted to duel Sevier over the remarks, but according to some accounts, Sevier hid behind a tree.

Charles Dickinson was not so lucky: His duel with Jackson, brought about in part by his calling Rachel a bigamist, ended his life.

Still, Andrew couldn't protect Rachel from everyone. When he ran against John Quincy Adams in 1828, Adams made Rachel's bigamy a central theme of his campaign. The Cincinnati Gazette ran an editorial that read, in part, "Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?"

When she died right before he took office, Andrew blamed Adams for her death, believing the stress of the personal attacks had killed her. Andrew said, "I can and do forgive all my enemies. But those vile wretches who have slandered her must look to God for mercy."

Rachel was it for Andrew. He never remarried, and he buried her out in the garden where he could spend time with her often. He was mad at the world and mad about her, and that never changed.

Story Two: Love Me Tinder
Story Three: Magic Man
Story Four: Torn


Readers also liked…

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Recent Comments

Sign Up! For the Scene's email newsletters

* required

All contents © 1995-2016 CityPress Communications LLC, 210 12th Ave. S., Ste. 100, Nashville, TN 37203. (615) 244-7989.
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of CityPress Communications LLC,
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.
Powered by Foundation