Martin Van Buren – Eighth President of the United States – Vice President of Andrew Jackson – American President of Dutch Origin – 1782 CE – 1862 CE

Martin Van Buren (December 5, 1782 – July 24, 1862) Old Kinderhook

Martin Van Buren served as the 8th President of the United States for a single term, from 1837 until 1841 when he was defeated by William Henry Harrison. Before ascending to the presidency, Martin Van Buren served as vice-president under President Jackson and was a chief architect in the formation of the Democratic Party. During his political career, Martin Van Buren also served as Secretary of State, as well as New York Governor, Senator and Attorney General. Martin Van Buren is credited as one of the founders and main beneficiaries of “machine politics” which tended to reward loyalty to the party over merit and ability.

Martin Van Buren – President of United States of America – 1837 – 1841

Martin Van Buren – Early Life in Kinderhook

Martin Van Buren is noted as the only president to speak English as a second language. Martin was raised in a Dutch household in upstate New York. He was one of seven children to parents who supported the colonial revolution. His father Abraham, a farmer, served as a captain in the Albany County Militia. Martin Van Buren is also the first president born after the Declaration of Independence.

Martin Van Buren – 8th President of United States of America

Martin Van Buren – A Quick Rise through the Political Ranks

Unlike most American politicians, Martin Van Buren never served in the military. He was instead a career politician, starting at the age of 18 when he attended a Democratic-Republican Party convention. Unlike his predecessor, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren was not considered an ideologue or a firebrand. Martin Van Buren was always endearingly charming to his political opponents, which helped his ascent, since Van Buren changed political factions on multiple occasions during his career.

Martin Van Buren – Machine Politics

Prior to the rise of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, a successful political career was based on merit and prior accomplishments. Martin Van Buren changed that with his creation of the Bucktails, a New York political operation which prized loyalty above all else. Those who were loyal to the Bucktails would be rewarded with a good position after a successful election. His group would go on to form the Regency, a group of political figures which would dominate New York politics for more than forty years. The Bucktails, the Regency, and the ensuing Tammany Hall organization, would set the standard for patronage and machine politics which other state and national organizations would attempt to emulate.

Martin Van Buren – Playing the game of National Politics

In 1821, Martin Van Buren used his loyal following to get himself elected to the US Senate. His unique position as junior senator from a major state allowed him to wield undue influence in the backroom dealings which would decide the 1824 presidential elections. Although his preferred candidate, Treasury Secretary William Crawford, was defeated, Martin Van Buren’s participation lend him an opening to join with Andrew Jackson, also an 1824 loser, but who would run again and win the presidency four years later.  In 1928, Jackson ran for president and Van Buren resigned his Senate seat and ran for Governor of New York, in an attempt to guarantee votes for Jackson. Both men won, and within two months of their victories, Martin Van Buren had resigned the governorship and was assigned as Secretary of State.

Daguerreotype of Martin Van Buren – 1855

Martin Van Buren – A Lackluster Presidency

Andrew Jackson would cruise to 1832 re-election with Van Buren as his vice president. Jackson wanted to ensure that his policies would continue after his eight years ended and chose Van Buren as his successor. Martin Van Buren won the presidency in 1836 as the Democratic nominee but his presidency did not go as hoped. Although he kept on almost all of Jackson’s cabinet, Martin Van Buren did not capture the decisive mood of his mentor. The economy crashed in 1837 in the event known as The Panic of 1837 and Martin Van Buren struggled through his entire presidency to deal with the fallout. Also notably, he failed to purchase the Texas territory from Mexico and made no decisive decisions on the issue of slavery. Van Buren was ousted from office in 1841 and followed by William Harrison.

Martin Van Buren – Later Life

Martin Van Buren – Presidential $1 Coin

Upon his defeat in 1840, Martin Van Buren returned home to New York and retired. Although he contemplated a few returns to politics, none were ever successful. In later life, Martin Van Buren became increasingly opposed to slavery and spoke out on the issue. Martin Van Buren supported the actions of Abraham Lincoln in contrast to most of his Democratic peers.

Martin Van Buren – Gravesite

Martin Van Buren died in 1862 at the age of 79 from bronchial asthma and heart failure.

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