Martin Van Buren: 8th President: First Born in the United States

Updated on April 5, 2018
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past or else be destined to repeat it.

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The Little Magician

Martin Van Buren was the first president to be born after our country officially became the United States. Up until Van Buren, all of the presidents were born when it was still considered Colonial America. On December 5,1782, Abraham and Maria became parents to Martin. They lived in Kinderhook, New York at the time. It was an old Dutch village, where they spoke Dutch more often than English. His ancestors came from the Netherlands.

His first experience with politics was in the tavern his father owned. Many traveling politicians would stop there to rest on their way between New York City and Albany. This not only perked Martin's interest in politics but also law. His father helped him get his first job as a law clerk at the age of 14. By the time he was 20, he was running his own law practice.

Despite his success as a lawyer, he soon started working as a politician, where he got the nickname "Little Magician. "Magician" because he was very skilled at achieving his goals, and "Little" because he stood only 5 feet 6 inches. He was very friendly and often enjoyed making people laugh. He was also known for dressing impeccably.

In 1808, he moved to Hudson, New York, where he served as the Surrogate of Columbia County, in which he served until 1813. He then was elected to the State Senate and served until 1820. While serving as a Senator, he became the New York Attorney General from 1816-1819.

In the 1820's, he became elected to the United States Senate from 1821-1828. One of his first successful political endeavors was the "Holy Alliance," known better as the "Albany Regency." It was created in New York state, and received its nickname of regency, because when he was elected to the United States Senate in 1821, he often served out of state. The Holy Alliance continued to run by designated people, much like the government of a regency does when the king is not available. The Albany Regency was very successful in maintaining party discipline, but many felt it was manipulating people and gained control over party conventions.

Towards the end of his time in the senate, his wife Hannah died, leaving behind him and his four children. This did not disrupt his success and was soon recognized by Andrew Jackson.

In 1827, Jackson appointed him Secretary of State, and Van Buren became one of his most trusted advisers. Jackson respected him deeply and was quoted calling him "a true man with no guile." While serving as Secretary of State he became the Governor of New York in 1829. Then in 1832, during Jackson's second term, the president chose Van Buren to become the eighth Vice President, due to conflict he had with John Calhoun his previous Vice-President.

Satirical Caption against Barnburner Democrat Van Buren
Satirical Caption against Barnburner Democrat Van Buren | Source

His Presidency

Jackson was one of Martin's greatest supporters when he ran for Presidency in 1836. Van Buren won the election and serve one term. Unfortunately, tragedy struck only two months after he was inaugurated. The financial panic of 1837 happened. This caused banks to close, many workers to lose their jobs, and thousands to lose their land. This became the worst depression thus far in the United States history and lasted for about five years.

Van Buren, having been part of the Bucktail faction, which was a group that believed in the Jeffersonian concept of limited government, felt that the government should stay out of private business affairs. As a result, many felt he did little to help during this time. He did continue in Jackson's efforts with deflationary policies, but unfortunately his efforts only caused the depression to get worse and more persistent.

He believed that the panic was a result of recklessness in business and overextension of credit. He was adamant against the creation of a new Bank of the United States and was unwilling to place any government funds in state banks. Instead, he felt that establishing an independent treasury system to handle government spending would be more successful. During this time, he also did not allow any federal expenditures for internal improvements.

Unfortunately due to the state of the country at the end of his presidency, he was very unpopular. His opponents portrayed him as a rich man who drank out of silver goblets and ate off of gold plates. This caused him not to win the next election, since many felt he could not relate to the everyday person.

During the 1848 election, the democratic party no longer supported him; therefore, he was nominated by the Free Soil Party. They were a party that strongly opposed slavery, which was a cause he had supported during his own presidency. While in office he blocked the annexation of Texas, because he knew if he did not, it would add to slave territory, plus it could have caused war against Mexico.

In his later years, he mostly traveled and wrote his memoirs. At 79, on July 24, 1862, he died in his hometown of Kinderhook.

Exerpt from the History Channel on the 8th President

Fun Facts for the President

  • He spoke Dutch better than he spoke English, although he was fluent in both.
  • Credited as the person who began the phrase, "OK," because he was from Old Kinderhook, and somehow "OK," or "Okay," came to be known as "all right."
  • He is one of only two elected vice-presidents who went on to become elected presidents. Although there were 14 vice-presidents to become presidents, some were either not as elected as a vice-president like Gerald R. Ford. While others were not elected as Presidents, but became President due to the death of their predecessor like Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • He was the first president to be born in the "new" United States. The first seven presidents were born in Colonial America.

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Basic Facts about the Eighth President

Question
Answer
Born
December 5, 1782 - New York
President Number
8th
Party
Democratic-Republican
Military Service
none
Wars Served
none
Age at Beginning of Presidency
55 years old
Term of Office
March 4, 1837 - March 3, 1841
How Long Served as President
4 years
Vice-President
Richard Mentor Johnson
Age and Year of Death
July 24, 1862 (aged 79)
Cause of Death
bronchial asthma and heart failure
Source

List of American Presidents

1. George Washington
16. Abraham Lincoln
31. Herbert Hoover
2. John Adams
17. Andrew Johnson
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Thomas Jefferson
18. Ulysses S. Grant
33. Harry S. Truman
4. James Madison
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. James Monroe
20. James Garfield
35. John F. Kennedy
6. John Quincy Adams
21. Chester A. Arthur
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Andrew Jackson
22. Grover Cleveland
37. Richard M. Nixon
8. Martin Van Buren
23. Benjamin Harrison
38. Gerald R. Ford
9. William Henry Harrison
24. Grover Cleveland
39. James Carter
10. John Tyler
25. William McKinley
40. Ronald Reagan
11. James K. Polk
26. Theodore Roosevelt
41. George H. W. Bush
12. Zachary Taylor
27. William Howard Taft
42. William J. Clinton
13. Millard Fillmore
28. Woodrow Wilson
43. George W. Bush
14. Franklin Pierce
29. Warren G. Harding
44. Barack Obama
15. James Buchanan
30. Calvin Coolidge
45. Donald Trump

References

  • "Albany Regency." Albany Regency. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
  • "Biographies of the Secretaries of State: Martin Van Buren (1782–1862)." U.S. Department of State. Accessed April 02, 2018. https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/van-buren-martin.
  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2006). Theodore Roosevelt. Retrieved April 20, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/theodoreroosevelt
  • "Martin Van Buren." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
  • Sullivan, G. (2001). Mr. President: A book of U.S. presidents. New York: Scholastic.
  • U.S. Presidential Fun Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2016, from http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/presidential-fun-facts/#geo-washington.jpg
  • What are some interesting facts about presidents and first ladies? (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2016, from https://www.whitehousehistory.org/questions/what-are-some-interesting-facts-about-presidents-first-ladies

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Angela Michelle Schultz

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