The affair led to the forced resignation of almost the entire cabinet, including the vice president. Andrew Jackson then abandoned official cabinet meetings for meetings with his friends, that was called the Kitchen Cabinet.
Kitchen Cabinet History for kids
The Kitchen Cabinet history revolved around the scandal known as the Petticoat affair or the Peggy Eaton affair. Peggy Eaton had married John Eaton, the Secretary of War. The marriage, and the morals of Peggy Eaton, were highly criticized by the highest society in Washington D.C. including the Cabinet social circle and even his niece and First Lady Emily Donelson. Andrew Jackson supported the Eaton's and was furious at the gossip and the bad publicity which had become a liability for the Democrats. The President asked for the resignations of his disloyal cabinet, including that of his vice president John C. Calhoun. Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren, emerged unscathed, he was the only unmarried cabinet member and was not involved in the scandal.
Why did Jackson have a Kitchen Cabinet?
Andrew Jackson had had enough of the vicious tongues in Washington. His recently deceased wife, Rachel Donelson Jackson, had also suffered due to the spiteful, wagging tongues of Washington society had accused her of adultery and bigamy. He abandoned official cabinet meetings and used the heads of departments solely to execute their departmental duties. Instead, he sought the advice of old personal friends from Tennessee and loyal newspaper editors. Andrew Jackson believed that only the President could be trusted to stand for the will of the working people against the upper-class Congress and used his power of veto more often than all six previous Presidents combined. Their meetings were informal, they smoked their pipes together and formed his "kitchen cabinet." He rarely called an official cabinet meeting and when he did it was usually to tell the members what he had decided to do. The official cabinet was given the nickname of the "parlor cabinet".
Who made up Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet?
Andrew Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet consisted of his loyal friends, journalists and newspaper editors. The term "Kitchen Cabinet" might sound cozy and friendly but its members were all extremely powerful and clever men. The names of the most influential members of the Kitchen Cabinet were:
Martin Van Buren who had supported Jackson through the Peggy Eaton scandal
John Eaton who had been the subject of the gossip
Francis Preston Blair, editor of the Washington Globe
Duff Green, editor of the highly influent United States Telegraph (he later supported Calhoun)
Amos Kendall a lawyer, journalist and editor-in-chief of the Argus of Western America
Important William Berkeley Lewis who had served as quartermaster under General Andrew Jackson
Isaac Hill a politician and editor of the New Hampshire Patriot newspaper
General Roger B. Taney, politician, Attorney General and Chief Justice
Kitchen Cabinet Significance
Following the cabinet reorganization of 1831, the Kitchen Cabinet became less important but the significance of the Kitchen Cabinet was:
It reversed the political fortunes of several leading politicians
The events surrounding the formation of the Kitchen Cabinet led Jackson to advocate the wide use of the "Spoils System" which would later lead to corruption in the government
Martin Van Buren was elected president, rather than John C. Calhoun