Andrew Jackson left his home near Nashville for Washington. He was the newly elected president and a new widower. Not having Rachel at his side, made prospects lonely and desolate. He took with him Rachel’s niece Emily to be the White House hostess and Rachel’s nephew and Emily’s husband, Andrew Donelson, to be his personal secretary. They were a safe place for Jackson and a shore line. The essential elements in Jackson’s life was “clan, faith, country.”
Jon Meacham, in his Pulitzer Prize book, American Lion, (Random House ©2009, tells a story that touches me and calls me to repentance and dedication to my clan, faith, country.
“Emily went to Jackson to talk about Mary Rachel’s baptism. She had barely raised the subject when Jackson interrupted her. ‘Spare no expense nor pains, ma’am’ he said. ‘Let us make it an event to be remembered; we will do all honor to the baby.’
The service would be in the East Room, the liturgy taken from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Congressmen, senators, diplomats, secretaries, judges, and military officers filled the elegant room. Emily and Andrew had chosen to have one godfather, Martin Van Buren, and one godmother, Cora Livingston, for their daughter.
Van Buren was to hold Mary Rachel as the minister read the office, but she burst into tears and would be calmed only when Jackson himself swept her up in his long arms. Then the officiant hushed the gathering and began with the Lord’s Prayer.
Addressing Cora and Van Buren, the officiant asked,
“Dost thou, in the name of this child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them?’
Cora and Van Buren did not have a chance to answer. Hearing the question, Jackson, who was not supposed to have a speaking part, could not help himself, and announced with authority,
“I do, sir, I renounce them all!”
History says that Mary Rachel’s tears caused the audience to stir and desire to comfort her. President Jackson’s confession caused the audience to smile. I wonder if it caused any of the audience to say, “Me, too!”
Author Jon Meacham says,
“No little girl ever had a more sincere protector speak for her at such a moment.”
Jackson’ goals were to make it an event to be remembered and to honor the child. Check! Check! Accomplished.
©2020 D. Dean Benton