The Mudslinging Campaign of 1828

Bob Diamond

By Bob Diamond….

Bob Diamond

The presidential campaign of 1828 pitted a rematch between the experienced, aloof President John Quincy Adams, a National Republican, against Democrat Andrew Jackson, a military war hero, whose humble origin was favored by frontier settlers. Democrats continued charging Adams with a “corrupt bargain” with Henry Clay in 1824, by appointing him Secretary of State and stealing the election from Jackson, when the election was decided in the House of Representatives. In the 1824 popular vote, Jackson had 42%, Adams 32% and Clay 13%.

According to historian William A. DeGregorio, Adams forces in 1828 made scurrilous charges of adultery against Jackson and his wife Rachel. Jackson had married Rachel Robards in August 1792. It turned out that the marriage was invalid because Rachel’s divorce from her first husband had not been finalized. They then remarried, this time legally on January 17, 1794. At age 17, Rachel had married Lewis Robards in Kentucky. An insanely jealous Robards continually accused Rachel of having affairs with other men. Despite her pleas of innocence, Roberts ordered her to return to her family in Tennessee, “Until he called for her.” Jackson met Rachel in Tennessee and they fell in love. ‘Nevertheless, when Robards came to Tennessee to claim his wife, Rachel dutifully returned with him to Kentucky, only to find that he had not curbed his rages of jealousy. Told of her unhappiness, Jackson raced to Kentucky and rescued her.” In December 1790, at Robard’s request, the state legislature passed an enabling act permitting Robards to sue for a divorce. Mistaking this for the final divorce decree, Jackson married Rachel. Robards then sued for divorce on the grounds of adultery; the final decree was issued in September 1793. Unfortunately, their remarriage in 1794 did not end the matter, as scurrilous attacks against Rachel’s character poisoned the campaign of 1828. Humiliated, Rachel, with heart problems, grew ill and died several weeks after Jackson defeated Adams. “Jackson forever blamed his political opponents for her death, vowing at her funeral, ‘I forgive all my enemies. But those vile wretches who have slandered her must look to God for mercy.’”

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