Robards | Jackson
Marriage in Natchez | Divorce
Remini found several pieces of evidence that do not reconcile with
Judge Overton's narrative and contradict his story in significant
ways. It would appear that Overton's dates
are off by one year and the dates are important because
they were offered as proof that Andrew and Rachel were innocent
of charges of adultery and bigamy by Robards and Jackson's enemies.
first contradiction relates to the time of arrival of the Stark
party in Natchez. Rachel Donelson Robards decided to flee for Natchez
in January 1791. According to Overton, it was "in the winter or
spring of 1791," almost six months after Rachel heard the rumor
of Robards' intentions that Rachel, Jackson and Stark and his family
floated down river from Nashville to Natchez. According to Spanish
records, the Spanish kept precise records requiring you to sign
an oath upon entry into their territory, including Natchez, Stark
arrived in Natchez on January 12, 1790not 1791.
A second piece of evidence supports the likelihood of this date.
It is a letter written by George Cochran in Natchez to Jackson,
dated November 3, 1790, which he concludes, "My best respects wait
of Mrs. Jackson." Could Jackson have been, "married in the fall
of 1790 as this letter suggests? But Robards did not obtain legislature
approval to begin divorce proceedings until December 20, 1790. Did
Jackson "marry" even before the Virginia legislature acted?
In addition, a second letter from Cochran to Jackson, dated October
21, 1791, states that Jackson's letter of the previous April 14,
was the only communication Cochran had received from him since his
"departure from this country." If the marriage occurred in Natchez
in the summer of 1791, as Overton contended, Cochran would hardly
have made this statement.
piece of evidence indicating that Andrew and Rachel "married" a
full year earlier than was later claimed is an inventory of the
estate of John Donelson, Rachel's father. The July and October 1790
terms of the Davidson County court list Rachel as "Rachel Donelson,"
but the January 1791 term lists her as "Rachel Jackson." (There
is no mistaking the date; it is given twice, January 28, 1791.)
Thus, at the approximate time Overton said she fled to Natchez,
she was already officially referred to as "Rachel Jackson."
If this is true, they "married" when Rachel was still legally bound
to another man (Robards received legislative approval for the divorce
proceedings December 20, 1790). Remini says it's also possible they
never married in Natchez (which would explain the absence of documentation)
and simply lived together as common-law husband and wife. This would
not have been unusual on the frontier. Indeed cohabitation often
preceded formal marriage in the west because a minister or a justice
of the peace was not always available when needed.
Official | Reminis
Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson, Volume One, The Course of the
American Empire, 1767-1821 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1998) Chapter 5, "Marriage"