Martin Van Buren was our 8th President, and served from 1837-1831.

Nicknames: Little Magician, Red Fox of Kinderhook

Quotes: “There is a power of public opinion in this country which will not tolerate an incompetent or unworthy man to hold in his weak or wicked hands the lives and fortunes of his fellow-citizens.”

“Those who look to the action of this government for specific aid to the citizen to relieve embarrassments arising from losses by revulsions in commerce and credit, lose sight of the ends for which it was created, and the powers with which it is clothed.  It was established to give security to us all…It was not intended to confer special favors on individuals…The less government interferes with private pursuits, the better for the general prosperity.”

I read the book “Martin Van Buren” by Ted Widmer.

Some facts about the 8th President of the United States:

  • when people are asked to list the Presidents in order of how successful they were in office, Martin Van Buren comes in dead center nine out of ten times
  • he was a close friend and one time room mate of author Washington Irving
  • was the first President from the state of New York
  • he was also the first President not of Anglo Saxon blood, he was Dutch – 100%
  • he was one of only 2 Presidents to never attend college or join the military
  • Van Buren was the first person in his county to own a porcelain toilet
  • his idol was Aaron Burr, and some people even wondered if he was related to Burr
  • while he was a very talented lawyer, it was obvious through his life he was born to be a politician
  • was known for being able to handle his liquor, he could drink nearly anyone under the table despite his small stature
  • was born in a tavern…that might have something to do with it
  • favorite foods (via The Awl) – Boar’s head, oysters, doughnuts, figs, raisins, and apples.
  • he ran as both a Federalist and a Democrat at some times
  • at 29, he was the second youngest senator, ever, in New York
  • he married a distant cousin, Hannah, and she died of TB in 1819
  • but not before giving him four sons
  • Van Buren served as the Attorney General for four years
  • he helped rewrite the New York Constitution
  • also, he was a terrific flirt – especially with Jefferson’s grand-daughter
  • he was mortal enemies with John C. Calhoun
  • during an election year, he pushed a paralyzed man (Crawford) to run for President even though he knew the guy was unfit for office
  • Van Buren is credited as the creator of the first Democratic Party
  • that party was the first to have members nation-wide
  • was always considered an impeccably dressed man, although he wore loud prints and bright colors
  • he served as the governor of New York for only one month
  • then he began serving as Jackson’s Secretary of State
  • his arch-enemy, John Calhoun, is the only man to ever serve as Vice President under 2 consecutive Presidents, although he resigned from the VP of Jackson
  • President Jackson and Van Buren were close friends
  • from 1831-1832, Van Buren served as the Minister to England but was called back due to Calhoun’s scheming
  • people made fun of his sideburns allllllll the time
  • he was President Jackson’s Vice President during Jackson’s second term
  • by 1835, New York City was one of the biggest commercial cities in the world, second only to London
  • when he ran for President in 1836, he won by a landslide
  • was an expert at straddling the fence on important issues
  • he was sworn into office the same year the Queen Victoria took the throne
  • unfortunately, 13 days after he took office, the Financial Panic of 1837 hit (the worst recession/depression in US history until the Great Depression)
  • he called the first special session in US history that wasn’t concerning military matters, it was about the financial state of the US
  • President Van Buren formed an Independent Government Treasury
  • during his lifetime, there was a political group named the Locofocos, which one of his sons supported
  • his oldest son married Dolley Madison’s cousin
  • President VB sent out the first American sea exploration voyage
  • was called “Matty”
  • he was the first President to visit Chicago while in office
  • he had a chance meeting with Abraham Lincoln in an inn on one of his trips.  The two men hit it off immediately and both of them remembered it later as “one of the most agreeable evenings of my life.”
  • he ran for President a total of three times, but only won the first time
  • by the second and third times he ran for the office, his views had cemented and placed him firmly on the side of abolishing slavery
  • he was one of only 2 Americans to ever serve as the Secretary of State, the Vice President, and the President.  The other was Thomas Jefferson.
  • Martin Van Buren died in July of 1862

Post title taken from Jonathan Coulton’s song “The Presidents.”

<—- Andrew Jackson ***** William Henry Harrison —>