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Eaton Affair

John Eaton Senator John Eaton, a close friend of Jackson, had married the widowed daughter of a Washington innkeeper, Margaret (Peggy) O’Neill. The local rumor mill ground out gossip that O’Neill and Eaton had had an affair prior to her husband’s death. The Cabinet wives, led by Mrs. John C. Calhoun, were scandalized and refused to attend events when she was present. Jackson was not pleased with this tempest, remembering how deeply his late wife had been hurt by scandal-mongering. He resented Calhoun’s inability to control his wife and was disappointed when Martin Van Buren alone among the Cabinet officers defended the Eatons. In 1831, Eaton and Van Buren resigned their offices, putting pressure on the other members to do likewise. These resignations gave Jackson the opportunity to appoint Cabinet officers who were loyal to him rather than Calhoun.