The women won. The power of the marital bed succeeded. Women ruled the roost.


The Petticoat Affair an interesting time in Presidential politics. Equal to the Clinton fiasco.


The lady in question Margaret O’Neal. Nicknamed Peggy. A beauty.


Her father owned the Franklin House in Washington, DC. A popular boarding house and bar. Primarily for politicians. At some point, the Franklin House limited its guests to members of Congress.


Peggy’s Dad educated  her well. This at a time when education was not considered a woman’s thing. She was intelligent. Quick witted.


Peggy went to work in her father’s boarding house. Her education had not made her a lady. She frequented the beds of many guests. Openly and notoriously.


At the age of 17, she married her first husband. John Timberlake. He was 39 at the time. A businessman. He became a drunk and failure. His financial difficulties overwhelming. He was convinced that because of his failures, his wife no longer respected him.


The couple were friends with Tennessee Senator John Henry Eaton, a widower. Eaton was newly elected to the Senate and was a close friend of the soon to be President Andrew Jackson.


Eaton coveted Timberlake’s wife Peggy. He paid all of Timberlake’s debts. Following which he procured a lucrative post as purser for him in the U.S. Mediterranean Squadron.


While the cat was away, the mice played.


Timberlake died at sea in 1828. It is thought Timberlake’s death was a suicide. Committed following discovery of his wife’s infidelity with Eaton.


Peggy and Eaton were obvious lovers. At the boarding house. Overnight trips to other Washington area boarding houses where they registered as man and wife.  Eaton openly escorted Peggy to Washington parties and balls. They were known to take frequent walks in a wooded area where they engaged in sexual activity.


Peggy and Eaton married.


President Jackson appointed Eaton to his Cabinet as Secretary of War.


People talked. Washington insiders were indignant. They said Eaton had just married his mistress and the mistress of eleven dozen others. Peggy and Eaton were the talk of the Capital.


The scandal was ripping at the roots of government. Jackson’s cabinet was broken. It could not be fixed. The wives of Cabinet members, with one exception, would neither socialize not attend any function that Peggy attended. The Cabinet wives prohibited their husbands attending these affairs also. The good husbands toed the mark regarding not attending Washington events. The women controlled.


A schism had developed in Washington society. One which was adversely affecting Jackson’s ability to govern.


The Cabinet wives further justified their position by claiming Peggy had not grieved properly upon her husband’s death and had failed to wait a proper time before marrying Eaton.


Leading the pack of vultures was Floride Calhoun. Wife of Vice President John Calhoun. Politics was involved. Calhoun wanted to be President. He was hoping to prevent Jackson from running for a second term.


The one man in Jackson’s Cabinet who did not dance to the tune of the wives was Martin Van Buren. He was a bachelor. He also was a close friend of Jackson’s.


Van Buren arrived at a solution. Eaton should resign from the Cabinet. Following which Jackson should ask for the resignations of all other Cabinet members. This Jackson did. With one exception. The Postmaster General.


He appointed a new Cabinet. The business of government once again moved forward.


Jackson was at all times supportive of Peggy and Eaton. His wife Rachel had been subjected to similar Washington abuse. He and Rachel had married before her divorce was final. Jackson had no sympathy for the ladies.


Jackson thought the Cabinet wives were wielding political power. They were. Improperly so. He called Peggy a victim. A virtuous and much injured female.


Jackson was blinded by his Rachel’s experience and his friendship with Eaton.


Calhoun ended up getting screwed. Jackson did not have him as his Vice Presidential running mate in the next election. Instead, he offered the position to Van Buren. The term thereafter, Van Buren was the Democratic Party’s candidate for President. He was elected. It would have been Calhoun had he not been a fomentor of the Cabinet wives’ attacks.


Following the resignation of his first Cabinet, Jackson commented to the effect that he wanted his new Cabinet to be made up of all bachelors or ones who left their women at home.


Eaton died at some point. Peggy  married again. Her third husband. She married Antonio Gabriele Buchignani, an Italian music teacher and dancing master. Peggy was 59 at the time. He, 19.


Peggy and Antonio were married seven years. At the end of that time, Antonio ran off to Europe with the bulk of Peggy’s fortune and her 17 year old granddaughter Emily Randolph.


Peggy never recovered her fortune and died penniless.


Even in today’s society, sexual escapades cannot be openly flaunted.
There is a line that should not be crossed. Peggy stepped over that line her entire life. From her young days working in the boarding house to her third marriage to a man 40 years her junior.


I feel sorry for Peggy in that her final years were spent penniless and she suffered the trauma of a granddaughter running off with her husband. On the other hand, what goes around comes around. Maybe it was her just due.


  1. This blog article of yours, Lou, woke me up. Obsessions about romance have always left me in amazement. Yet, obsessions hit me hard for 2 men in my life – a Spaniard and a New York Jew.
    I inched my way out of both, but it took a lot out of me. Now I see this obsession has entered the life of a good male friend of mine for a woman that he has obsessed about since 1960. I have sent him your article. I wish him well with his obsession. Thanks for writing this.

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