Martin Van Buren
Ranked #24: Although Van Buren made great contributions to the development of the American political system, He didn't have a great or good presidency. He suffer an economical meltdown in 1837 that earned him the nickname "Martin Van Ruin."
Summary: A happy type, Van Buren was quick to smile and laugh. He was charming, courteous and sported fine manners. He was an engaging conversationalist and tended to guard his opinions as a politician which gave him the reputation of being a crafty partisan. He was a man of principle who spoke carefully. He enjoyed the theater, fishing and wine. He would also occasionally gamble, (mostly the outcome of elections.
Bio: Martin Van Buren was born on this day in 1782. Van Buren was the first President who was not either a war hero or directly tied to the American Revolution. He was without a doubt a person who got into office based on his political skills. This was recognized by Andrew Jackson who appointed him Secretary of State and eventually made him Vice President during Jackson’s second term.
Van Buren was slightly under 5’ 6” with a sturdy, small build. He dressed impeccably. He was a vain man who was rumored to wear a corset up until the age of 60 to keep his trim figure. However, what separated him from almost everybody was his prominent sideburns. They were first class by any measure.
Van Buren worked hard on his friendship and political alliance with Andrew Jackson. This would eventually pay off as he was considered Jackson’s hand-picked successor for the presidency, which he won in 1836. He also benefited from the political machine that he helped build before he took office. However, during his administration, the US economy took a pretty big hit in what was known as the Panic of 1837. It was a five-year depression that took out several banks and drove unemployment to record highs. Although he was blamed for it by some, this disaster proved to be no fault of his own; rather, it was actually the result of the banking policies of Andrew Jackson’s administration. So, in 1840 Van Buren managed to get his party’s nomination, but he lost in the general election to William Henry Harrison.
Martin Van Buren had a difficult presidency. Scholars have been torn between that and the tremendous contribution he made to the political system. He set out to build an effective and efficient political organization for the purpose of defending and extending the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian political ideas. It could be said he did so effectively, even at the cost of his own political success. After losing the 1840 election, he would go on to unsuccessfully run again in 1844 and 1848. To this extent, you cannot accuse Van Buren of being a slacker. He spent the 1850’s writing his memoirs. He also spent a good chunk of time traveling around the US and Europe. He died in 1862 at the age of 79.
Pros: Almost stopped the expansion of slavery in the North. Set up a bond system to help fund the national debt.
Cons: Was in favor of slavery in states where slavery already existed. Continued some of Andrew Jacksons bad policies.
Born: December 5, 1782, Kinderhook, New York
Died: July 24, 1862 (aged 79) Kinderhook, New York
Term: March 4, 1837 to March 3, 1841 (1 term)
Political Party: Democrat
Religion: Dutch Reformed
Education: Kinderhook Academy (graduated 1796)
Marriage: February 21, 1807, to Hannah Hoes (1783–1819)
Children: Abraham (1807–1873), John (1810–1866), Martin (1812–1855), Winfield Scott (1813), Smith Thompson (1817–1876)
Vice President: Richared Mentor Johnson