Biographies >>US Presidents
President Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren
was the 8th President of the United States.
Served as President: 1837-1841
Vice President: Richard M. Johnson
Age at inauguration: 54
Born: December 5, 1782 in Kinderhook, New York
Died: July 24, 1862 in Kinderhook, New York
Married: Hannah Hoes Van Buren
Children: Abraham, John, Martin, Smith
Nickname: The Little Magician
What is Martin Van Buren most known for?
Van Buren became known for being a shrewd politician. He earned the nicknames "Little Magician" and the "Red Fox" for his cunning politics. He was unable to get elected to a second term as president, however, when a financial panic hit the country and the stock market crashed.
Martin grew up in Kinderhook, New York where his father was a tavern owner and farmer. His family primarily spoke Dutch at home. Martin was intelligent, but only received a formal education to the age of 14. He learned law by working and apprenticing for attorneys in New York. In 1803 he passed the bar and became a lawyer.
Martin became involved in politics at a young age. When he was just 17 he attended his first political convention. He became attracted to politics and soon entered political office himself.
Before He Became President
Van Buren became a key player in New York state politics. Many considered him a master manipulator of "machine politics". He also helped to start another political tool called the "spoils system". This was where supporters of a candidate would receive good jobs in the government as a reward when their candidate won.
In 1815, Van Buren became the New York Attorney General. He then was elected to the U.S. Senate representing New York. He was a strong supporter of Andrew Jackson during this time, helping him in the north during the presidential election. After Jackson was elected, Van Buren became his Secretary of State.
Due to some scandals, Van Buren resigned as Secretary of State in 1831. However, he remained loyal to President Andrew Jackson. When Jackson found that his current Vice President, John Calhoun, was disloyal, he picked Van Buren as his Vice President for his second term.
Martin Van Buren's Presidency
Andrew Jackson supported Van Buren for president after deciding not to run for a third term. Van Buren won the election of 1836 becoming the 8th president of the United States.
Panic of 1837
Van Buren's presidency was defined by the Panic of 1837. Just a few short months after he became president, the stock market crashed. The economy ground to a halt as banks failed, people lost their jobs, and companies went out of business. The failure was largely due to policies set forth by his predecessor President Jackson and there was little Martin could do.
Other Events of Van Buren's Presidency
- Van Buren continued with Jackson's policy of moving American Indians to new lands in the west. The Trail of Tears took place during his administration in which the Cherokee Indians were marched across the country from North Carolina to Oklahoma. Many thousands of Cherokees died during the trip.
- He refused to allow Texas to become a state. This helped to ease tensions between the northern and southern states at the time.
- Van Buren pushed for peace with Great Britain settling a dispute over the border between Maine and Canada.
- He set up a system of bonds to help pay for the national debt.
Van Buren tried to regain the White House two more times. In 1844 he came close to regaining the Democratic nomination, but came up short to James K. Polk. In 1848 he ran under a new party called the Free Soil Party.
How did he die?
Van Buren died at home on July 24, 1862 at the age of 79 from a heart attack.
Fun Facts About Martin Van Buren
- He was the first president to be born as a citizen of the United States. The presidents before him were born as British subjects.
- He was the only president to speak English as a second language. His first language was Dutch.
- Martin was Governor of New York for a very short period of just a few months before resigning to become the Secretary of State.
- He lived longer than the next four presidents; William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor all died before Van Buren.
- After the stock market crashed his opponents called him "Martin Van Ruin".
- The word "Okay" or "OK" became popular when it was used in Van Buren's campaign. It stood for one of his nicknames "Old Kinderhook".
Biographies >>US Presidents