Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren (/væn ˈbjʊərən/ van BYUR-ən; born Maarten van Buren (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈmaːrtə(ɱ) vɑm ˈbyːrə(n)]); December 5, 1782 – July 24, 1862) was an American lawyer and statesman who served as the eighth president of the United States from 1837 to 1841. A founder of the Democratic Party, he had previously served as the ninth governor of New York, the tenth United States secretary of state, and the eighth vice president of the United States. He won the 1836 presidential election with the endorsement of popular outgoing President Andrew Jackson and the organizational strength of the Democratic Party. He was the third incumbent vice president to be elected president, and the last until 1988. He lost his 1840 reelection bid to the Whig nominee, William Henry Harrison, thanks in part to the poor economic conditions surrounding the Panic of 1837. Later in his life, Van Buren emerged as an elder statesman and an important anti-slavery leader who led the Free Soil Party ticket in the 1848 presidential election.

Martin Van Buren
Van Buren by Mathew Brady, c.1855–1858
8th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1837  March 4, 1841
Vice PresidentRichard Mentor Johnson
Preceded byAndrew Jackson
Succeeded byWilliam Henry Harrison
8th Vice President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1833  March 4, 1837
PresidentAndrew Jackson
Preceded byJohn C. Calhoun
Succeeded byRichard Mentor Johnson
13th United States Minister to the United Kingdom
In office
August 8, 1831  April 4, 1832
PresidentAndrew Jackson
Preceded byLouis McLane
Succeeded byAaron Vail (acting)
10th United States Secretary of State
In office
March 28, 1829  May 23, 1831
PresidentAndrew Jackson
Preceded byHenry Clay
Succeeded byEdward Livingston
9th Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1829  March 12, 1829
LieutenantEnos T. Throop
Preceded byNathaniel Pitcher
Succeeded byEnos T. Throop
United States Senator
from New York
In office
March 4, 1821  December 20, 1828
Preceded byNathan Sanford
Succeeded byCharles E. Dudley
14th Attorney General of New York
In office
February 17, 1815  July 8, 1819
Preceded byAbraham Van Vechten
Succeeded byThomas J. Oakley
Member of the New York Senate
from the Middle district
In office
Preceded byEdward Philip Livingston
Succeeded byJohn Miller
Surrogate of Columbia County
In office
Preceded byJames I. Van Alen
Succeeded byJames Vanderpoel
Personal details
Maarten van Buren

(1782-12-05)December 5, 1782
Kinderhook, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 24, 1862(1862-07-24) (aged 79)
Kinderhook, New York, U.S.
Cause of deathBronchial asthma and heart failure
Resting placeKinderhook Reformed Church Cemetery
Political party
(m. 1807; died 1819)
Children5, including Abraham II and John
RelativesFamily of Martin Van Buren
EducationKinderhook Academy
Washington Seminary
  • Little Van
  • Old Kinderhook
  • The Little Magician
  • The Red Fox of Kinderhook[1]
  • Martin van Ruin[2]
  • The Mistletoe Politician[3][lower-alpha 1]

Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, New York, where most residents were of Dutch descent and spoke Dutch as their primary language. He was the first president to have been born after the American Revolution—in which his father served as a patriot—and is the only president to have spoken English as a second language. Trained as a lawyer, he quickly became involved in politics as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, and won a seat in the New York State Senate, and then in the United States Senate in 1821. As the leader of the Bucktails faction, Van Buren emerged as the most influential politician from New York in the 1820s and established a political machine known as the Albany Regency. Following the 1824 presidential election, Van Buren led to re-establish a two-party system with partisan differences based on ideology rather than personalities or sectional differences; he supported Jackson's candidacy in the 1828 presidential election with this goal in mind. He ran successfully for governor of New York to support Jackson's campaign, but resigned shortly after Jackson was inaugurated so that he could accept appointment as Jackson's secretary of state.

In his cabinet position, Van Buren became a key Jackson advisor, and built the organizational structure for the coalescing Democratic Party. He ultimately resigned to help resolve the Petticoat affair, and briefly served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. At Jackson's behest, the 1832 Democratic National Convention nominated Van Buren for vice president of the United States, and he took office after the Democratic ticket won the 1832 presidential election. With Jackson's strong support, Van Buren won the presidential nomination at the 1835 Democratic National Convention, and he defeated several Whig opponents in the 1836 presidential election. However, his presidency soon eroded with his response to the Panic of 1837, which centered on his Independent Treasury system, a plan under which the Federal government of the United States would store its funds in vaults rather than in banks; more conservative Democrats and Whigs in Congress ultimately delayed his plan from being implemented until 1840. His presidency was further marred by the costly Second Seminole War (a result of continuing Jackson's Indian removal policy); and his refusal to admit Texas to the Union as a slave state, done as an attempt to avoid heightened sectional tensions. In 1840, a surge of new voters—who nicknamed him "Martin Van Ruin"—helped turn him out of office.

Van Buren was initially the leading candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination again in 1844, but his continued opposition to the annexation of Texas angered Southern Democrats, leading to the nomination of James K. Polk. Van Buren was the newly formed Free Soil Party's presidential nominee in 1848, and his candidacy most likely helped Whig nominee Zachary Taylor defeat Democrat Lewis Cass. Van Buren returned to the Democrats after 1848, but grew increasingly opposed to slavery, and became one of the party's outspoken abolitionists. He supported Abraham Lincoln's policies during the American Civil War. He died in Kinderhook in July 1862, aged 79.

In historical rankings, historians and political scientists often rank Van Buren as an average or below-average U.S. president, due to his handling of the Panic of 1837. However, Van Buren is largely remembered today as a leader in the formation of the two-party system in the United States.