Martin Van Buren

Summary

Martin Van Buren (December 5, 1782 – July 24, 1862) was an American statesman who served as President of the United States from 1837 to 1841. He was the first president whose native language was not English (but Dutch) and the first president of the republic born after the independence of the United States from Great Britain. One of the founders of the Democratic Party, he had served as governor of New York, secretary of state, and vice president in Andrew Jackson’s administration. Van Buren won the 1836 presidential election, receiving half the vote. However, he was not re-elected, losing the 1840 election to William Henry Harrison (of the Whig Party), especially thanks to the country’s poor economic situation following the Panic of 1837. Years later, Van Buren emerged again as a respected statesman and a leader of the abolitionist movement who led the Free Soil Party in the 1848 presidential election.

Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, Columbia County, New York State, into a family of Dutch-Americans; his father was one of the Patriots during the United States War of Independence. He was raised speaking Dutch and learned English in school, making him the only American president who had English as his second language. He was educated as a lawyer and quickly became involved in politics as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. He was elected to the New York State Senate and became the leader of the Bucktails, the faction that opposed then Governor DeWitt Clinton. Van Buren established a political machine known as the “Albany Regency” and in the 1820s emerged as one of New York’s most influential politicians. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1821 and supported William H. Crawford in the 1824 presidential election. John Quincy Adams won that election and Van Buren opposed his proposals to increase government spending on domestic affairs and expand federal powers. Van Buren’s main political goal was to re-establish a two-party system based on ideological differences rather than just personalities and sectional differences, and so he supported Andrew Jackson’s candidacy against Adams’ in the 1828 election. To support Jackson’s candidacy, Van Buren decided to run for governor of New York; he won this election, but resigned a few months later to accept the position of Secretary of State in the Jackson administration, beginning in March 1829.

Van Buren was a key advisor to Andrew Jackson’s presidency and he built an organizational structure for the fledgling Democratic Party, particularly in New York. He resigned his position as Secretary of State to help resolve the “Petticoat Scandal” and then served briefly as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. At Jackson’s request, at the 1832 Democratic Convention, Van Buren was nominated for vice president and he assumed that position after the 1832 presidential election. With strong support from Jackson, Martin Van Buren faced little opposition when he was nominated as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate at the 1835 Convention, where he defeated the Whig candidate in the 1836 election, becoming, in March 1837, the eighth president of the United States. In his very first year, his administration faced problems. Van Buren’s response to the Panic of 1837 was centered on his ‘independent treasury’ system, a plan where the US federal government would store its funds in vaults rather than in banks. He also continued Jackson’s policy of Indian Removal; he maintained peaceful diplomatic relations with Britain and denied the state of Texas admission to the Union, trying to avoid increasing sectional tensions. In the 1840 election, the Whigs supported William Harrison and used his extensive military career as propaganda, while ridiculing Van Buren as “Martin Van Ruin,” and then he was eventually defeated by Harrison.

During his presidency (1837-1841), Van Buren, in order to gain support from the southern states, came out against abolishing slavery on a national level, advocating the thesis that the states should decide for themselves how to resolve the issue. At the 1844 Democratic Convention, Van Buren was the favorite to receive the party’s nomination for election and thus try to claim the presidency again. Southern Democrats, however, were angry because Van Buren had denied Texas entry into the Union as a slave state and so the Democrats ended up nominating James K. Polk for 1844. After leaving the presidency in 1841, Van Buren became a staunch opponent against the institution of slavery in the country. In the election of 1848, he tried to get himself elected as a candidate of a third party, the Free Soil, additionally motivated by intra-party differences at the state and national levels. He finished far behind the two leading candidates, but his presence on the ballot may have helped Whig candidate Zachary Taylor, who defeated Democrat Lewis Cass. Van Buren returned to the Democratic Party after 1848, but he supported Abraham Lincoln’s policies at the beginning of the American Civil War. His health began to decline in 1861 and he died in July 1862 at the age of 79. In the rankings of historians and scholars, Martin Van Buren is considered an “average” president in reputation.

Martin Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, a New York village, on December 5, 1782, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Albany, the capital of New York. His father, Abraham Van Buren (1737-1817) was a farmer, owner of six slaves, and a tavern keeper in Kinderhook. Abraham Van Buren supported the American Revolution and, later, the Democratic-Republican Party. Martin Van Buren’s mother was Maria Van Alen (nee Hoes) Van Buren (1747-1818).

Van Buren was the first president born as a citizen of the United States, as all previous presidents were born before the American Revolution. His great-great-grandfather, Cornelis van Buren Maessen, had arrived in the New World in 1631 from the small town of Buren, Dutch Republic, the present Netherlands. Van Buren grew up in a Dutch-speaking community. His native language was Dutch, and he was the only president who spoke English as a second language.

Van Buren received his basic education in a dimly lit school in his home village and later studied Latin briefly at Kinderhook Academy and Washington Seminary in Claverack. His formal education ended before he was 14, when he began studying law in the office of Francis Sylvester, a prominent federalist lawyer in Kinderhook. After six years of study with Sylvester, he spent a final year interning in New York City in the office of William P. Van Ness, a political lieutenant of Aaron Burr. Van Buren was admitted as a lawyer in 1803. Van Buren began practicing law the same year in Kinderhook, together with James Van Alen. As a lawyer he gained recognition from De Witt Clinton, nephew of Governor George Clinton. Van Buren supported Clinton’s candidate for governor in 1807, future vice president Daniel D. Tompkins, who eventually won the election and with that Van Buren was appointed as the Columbia County attorney.

Van Buren married Hoes Hannah, his childhood sweetheart and a distant cousin, on February 21, 1807, in Catskill, New York. Like Van Buren, she was raised in a Dutch household and never lost her Dutch accent. The couple settled in Hudson and had four sons and one daughter: Abraham (1807-1873), a graduate of the United States Military Academy and a career military man, John (Martin, Jr.) Winfield Scott (born and died 1814), and Smith Thompson (1817-1876), an editor and special assistant to his father when president. Their daughter was stillborn. After 12 years of marriage, Hannah Van Buren contracted tuberculosis and died on February 5, 1819, at the age of 35. Martin Van Buren never remarried.

Van Buren had been active in politics since the age of 17, when he attended a party convention in Troy, New York, where he worked to secure the nomination of John Van Ness for the United States Congress. However, once his law practice was established, he became wealthy enough to increase his focus on politics. He was an early supporter of Aaron Burr.

Van Buren joined the opposition party in 1813, and was a member of the New York State Senate from 1812 to 1820. As a member of the state senate he was an avid supporter of the war effort of 1812, publishing legislation that would facilitate the mobilization of the state’s defense. He was opposed to the Federalists’ stance on the war and broke with his political mentor, DeWitt Clinton. He was attorney general of New York from 1815 to 1819. He was also a presidential elector in the election of 1820, when he voted for James Monroe and Daniel D. Tompkins.

At first he opposed Clinton’s plan for the Erie Canal, but then supported it when the bucktails faction was able to gain a majority on the Erie Canal Commission, and supported a bill that raised money for the canal through state bonds.

In 1817, Van Buren’s connection with the so-called “political machine” began. He created the first political machine that encompassed New York, the bucktails, whose leaders later became known as the “Albany Regency.” The bucktails became a successful movement that emphasized party loyalty; they captured and controlled many patronages in New York. Van Buren did not originate from the system, but earned the nickname “little magician” for his skill. He also served as a member of the state constitutional convention, where he opposed granting universal suffrage and tried to maintain requirements for voting.

He was the leading figure in the Albany Regency, a group of politicians that for more than a generation dominated most of New York politics and powerfully influenced national politics. The group, together with political clubs like Tammany Hall, played an important role in the development of the “spoils system,” a recognized procedure in national, state and local affairs. He was a key figure in building the organizational structure for Jacksonian Democracy, especially in New York State. In Van Buren’s own words, “Without strong national political organizations, there would be nothing to moderate the prejudices between the free and slave states.”

Van Buren was the third president to serve only one term, after John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams. He was also one of the central figures in the development of modern political organizations. As Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of State and then Vice President of the Republic.

However, as a president, his government was largely characterized by the economic difficulties of his time, such as the Panic of 1837. Between the bloody war, and the Aroostook Caroline Affair, relations with Britain and its colonies in Canada also proved strained. Like it or not, these were directly his fault; Van Buren lost the election after four years, with a narrow popular vote, but a messy electoral vote. In 1848, he ran for the presidency on a third ticket, the Free Soil Party.

Martin van Buren is one of only two American political personalities (the other was Thomas Jefferson) to have served as Secretary of State, Vice President and President of the United States.

Sources

  1. Martin Van Buren
  2. Martin Van Buren
  3. A mãe de Martin foi casada com Johannes Van Alen, ele morreu e a deixou com três filhos. Em 1776, casou-se com Abraham Van Buren.[3] O primeiro casamento de sua mãe, Van Buren teve uma meia-irmã e dois meio-irmãos, incluindo James I. Van Alen, que exerceu advocacia com Van Buren por um tempo e serviu como um membro do Congresso Federalista (1807 – 1809). Van Buren teve quatro irmãos “puros”: Dirckie “Derike” Van Buren (1777-1865); Jannetje “Hannah” Van Buren (1780 -?); Lawrence Van Buren (1.786-1.868), que serviu como oficial na milícia de Nova York durante a guerra de 1812 e mais tarde foi ativo na Barnburners New York Democrats, e Van Buren Abraham (1788-1836).
  4. ^ World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 19, pag. 216.
  5. ^ Il Texas fu poi annesso all’Unione il 29 dicembre 1845. In séguito alla dichiarazione di indipendenza del Texas il Messico sospese le relazioni diplomatiche con gli Stati Uniti e nel 1846 iniziò la guerra tra Stati Uniti e Messico, che terminò nel 1848 con la vittoria americana.
  6. NARA.gov. «Martin Van Buren» (en inglés). Archivado desde el original el 10 de marzo de 2014. Consultado el 10 de octubre de 2013.
  7. «Copia archivada». Archivado desde el original el 15 de enero de 2013. Consultado el 1 de febrero de 2012.
  8. Sturgis, Amy H. (2007). The Trail of Tears and Indian Removal. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 93. ISBN 0-313-33658-X.
  9. L. Pastusiak: Prezydenci Stanów Zjednoczonych Ameryki Północnej. s. 185.
  10. a b c d e f g h L. Pastusiak: Prezydenci Stanów Zjednoczonych Ameryki Północnej. s. 186.
  11. a b c d e f L. Pastusiak: Prezydenci Stanów Zjednoczonych Ameryki Północnej. s. 187.
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