John Henry Eaton, born June 18, 1790, Florida’s second Territorial Governor, was a politician and diplomat originally from Tennessee. At 28 and 4 months and 29 days, he was elected to the United States Senate. Today he remains the youngest U. S. Senator in history.
A supporter of Andrew Jackson, Eaton was a lawyer from Tennessee and severed as a major in the militia during the War of 1812 as an aid to Jackson. Not only did he serve with Jackson during the War of 1812, but he also severed with him in all his wartime campaigns and battles including, the Battle of New Orleans.
Once Jackson was elected president in 1828, he resigned his Senate seat and joined his cabinet as Secretary of War. During Jackson’s first term, Eaton and his wife Peggy were embroiled in a controversy called the Petticoat affair. In order to try and resolve the controversy, he resigned as Secretary of War.
In 1834, he was appointed as the Florida Territory’s second governor by President Jackson and served until 1836. After members of the Seminole Indians signed the Treaty of Payne’s Landing agreeing to move westward, in 1835, violence began to escalate between the Seminoles and white settlers. Many of the Indians began to resist. Jackson wanted to send in more military, fearing an excessive show of military would only provoke more violence, Eaton warned Jackson not to. In the beginning, Jackson took his advice, but eventually, the violence led to the Second Seminole War.
Governor Eaton was replaced by Richard K. Call and later was appointed as Ambassador to Spain, which he served as until April 1840. He had an undistinguished career as an ambassador–his predecessor Cornelius P. Van Ness, reporting that the Spanish government thought little of Eaton’s abilities.
Upon returning from Spain in 1840, he announced he would not support Van Buren’s campaign for reelection to the president. The deeply upset Jackson accused Eaton of having “apostatized and taken the field with piebald opposition of abolitionists, antimasons and blue light federalists. Eventually, Eaton joined the Whig Party and, for the remainder of his life, was not politically active. He returned to Washington, D. C. and resumed his law practice becoming the President of the Washington Bar Association. He died in Washington at the age of 66 on November 17, 1856.