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The New International Encyclopædia/Eaton, Margaret (O'Neill)

EATON, Margaret (O'Neill), best known as Peggy O'Neill (c.1796-1879). The wife of J. H. Eaton (q.v. ), Secretary of War under President Jackson. She was the daughter of a Washington tavern-keeper. About 1823 she married a man named Timberlake, a purser in the United States Navy, who in 1828 committed suicide while on duty in the Mediterranean. In January, 1829, she was married to Major J. H. Eaton (q.v.), who soon afterwards entered President Jackson's Cabinet as Secretary of War. Various charges were brought against her in connection with her alleged conduct toward Major Eaton himself while she was still Mrs. Timberlake. On this account the wives of other Cabinet members and Washington society generally refused to recognize her. Jackson, an old friend of both Mr. and Mrs. Eaton, endeavored to break down the opposition against her, and even seems to have threatened to remove several of the Secretaries should their wives remain obdurate; but his efforts met with little success, and partly for this reason Jackson effected an almost complete reorganization of his Cabinet. Politically the incident was chiefly significant from the fact that it helped to strengthen the friendship between Jackson and Van Buren, who had ostentatiously befriended Mrs. Eaton, and to alienate Jackson and Calhoun, then Vice-President, whose wife had persistently refused to recognize Mrs. Eaton socially, and thus to assure the nomination of the former in preference to the latter for the Presidency by the Democratic Party in 1836. In later years Mrs. Eaton is said to have been exceedingly popular in the society of Madrid while her husband was Minister of the United States to Spain. Some time after the death of her husband (1856) she married a young Italian dancing master, Antonio Buchignani, then only about twenty years old, from whom she eventually secured a divorce. Consult: Parton, Life of Andrew Jackson, vol. iii. (New York, 1860); and an article, “Margaret O'Neill Eaton,” in the International Review, vol. viii. (New York, 1880).