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The Rats Leaving a Falling House
- Jackson, Andrew
- Van Buren, Martin
- Ingham, Samuel D.
- Branch, John
- Eaton, John Henry
- Clay, Edward Williams
- Description (Brief)
- This well-known caricature of President Andrew Jackson refers to the break-up of his cabinet in 1831. This breakup of the so-called Kitchen Cabinet was highly unusual, as it was personal disputes amongst the wives of politicians rather than political ones that upset the cabinet. Known as the Petticoat Affair, this dispute centered around Margaret Eaton, the wife of the Secretary of War, John Eaton. Other cabinet wives like Second Lady Floride Calhoun, and Jackson’s niece and official White House Hostess, Emily Donelson, felt that Eaton was not a proper lady and lacked the moral standard needed to be married to a cabinet member. This questioning of her character stemmed from her marriage to Eaton, deemed hasty and drenched in controversy due to rumors that they had an affair before her first husband had passed. Jackson sympathized with the Eatons and supported them, as he felt that the death of his beloved wife, Rachel was due to the stress of intense campaign trail speculation that her marriage was not legal. After years of tension, Jackson called for the resignation of anti-Eaton cabinet members, with only Eaton aligned Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren and Postmaster General, William T. Barry staying on. In this print, Jackson is depicted slumped in a chair with his glasses on his head. Behind him are scrolls labeled “Resignation,” as well as two falling pillars reading “Public confidence in the stability of this administration,” and “Altar of Reform.” In front of Jackson are four rats with the faces of resigning cabinet members including, Secretary of War John H. Eaton, Secretary of the Navy John Branch, Secretary of State Martin Van Buren, and Secretary of the Treasury Samuel D. Ingham. Jackson has his foot on Van Buren’s tail, a reference to his attempted resignation that Jackon did not allow. Van Buren went on to become Jackson’s Vice President, replacing John C. Calhoun who joined his wife in disapproval of the Eatons.
- The lithographer of this print is Edward Williams Clay (1799-1857). Clay was a caricaturist, engraver, lithographer, and etcher, as well as a portrait painter. Before his career as an artist, Clay was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar, but quickly left to pursue art in New York City. After losing his eyesight he retired from art and held minor office in Delaware before his death in December of 1857.
- Currently not on view
- Credit Line
- Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
- ID Number
- catalog number
- Object Name
- Object Type
- image: 10 3/8 in x 7 3/4 in; 26.3525 cm x 19.685 cm
- place made
- United States: District of Columbia, Washington
- National Museum of American History
- U.S. National Government, executive branch
- Political Parties
- Chronology: 1830-1839
- Reform Movements
- Political Caricatures
- Record ID
- Usage of Metadata (Object Detail Text)