The Jackson Era
Peggy Eaton in The Jackson Era
Margaret O'Neale (Peggy) Eaton (1799-1879) was the wife of John Eaton, President Andrew Jackson's Secretary of War from 1829 to 1831, and the focus of a Washington sex scandal that divided the Jackson administration. The daughter of a Washington, D.C. tavernkeeper, Peggy Eaton earned a reputation as a beauty. She married John Timberlake in 1815 and had two daughters. Timberlake died at sea in 1828; he may have committed suicide.
Peggy's 1829 marriage to John Eaton, a former senator from Tennessee and the soon-to-be Secretary of War, encouraged rumors that they had had along affair, and that the revelation of their affair had led Timberlake to suicide. The wives of other public officials ostracized Peggy Eaton, causing a crisis in Jackson's administration. Jackson defended her honor, but was unable to reconcile the divisions within his cabinet and thus accepted the resignations of all cabinet officers to form a new cabinet in 1831.