Inauguration Surprises


President Andrew Jackson’s 1829 inauguration, courtesy Wikimedia Commons, via Library of Congress


Today Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President of the United States after a contentious election that emphasized the country’s divisions. Many worry about security and coming demonstrations.

This has not been the first conflicted election. Scandalous accusations of adultery and greed filled Andrew Jackson’s 1828 campaign against John Quincy Adams, the sitting president. Jackson, considered America’s first pioneer frontier president, did not hail from the east coast establishment.  Jackson’s victory was considered a victory for the people’s democracy.

During  jackson’s inauguration, a mob broke through the ship’s cable that blocked the Capitol’s East Portico. Descriptions of the inaugural balls that night are mixed. Eyewitness to quotes Margaret Smith of Washington Society,

“What a scene did we witness! The majesty of the people had disappeared and a rabble, a mob…scrambling, fighting, romping. No arrangements had been made, no police officers placed on duty… Ladies fainted, men were seen with bloody noses…those who got into the White House could not get out by the door again, but had to scramble out of windows.” notes that “to be fair, historians David and Jeanne Heidler’s  2004 account plays down the drunken brawl aspect. The crowd at the White House was mixed. The first arrivals were the people who made up Washington society. The second crowd that showed up at the mansion were Jackson supporters who were dressed in their best clothes.

“What happened next doesn’t seem to be disputed. The White House wasn’t prepared for the crowd as it pressed in through the front door and sought out Jackson, along with the food and whiskey-laced punch. Jackson found himself pressed with his back to the wall until his people were able to get him away from the crowd and back to his hotel. The sheer number of people inside the White House led to collisions with furniture and food.

“As for the image of a riot of drunken Jackson supporters, the Heidlers believed that the incident was used as a metaphor by Washington society and Jackson’s enemies who feared the new regime and its lower-class roots.”

2020’s issues and personalities are not those of 1828. There is no question that Donald Trump’s security will be as tight as plans can make it. Nor is there any question that conflicting reports will continue to emphasize the country’s polarization.

We must remain thankful for freedom of the press.


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