107 Facts About Van Buren


Martin Van Buren was an American lawyer and statesman who served as the eighth president of the United States from 1837 to 1841.

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Later in his life, Van Buren emerged as an elder statesman and an important anti-slavery leader who led the Free Soil Party ticket in the 1848 presidential election.

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Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, New York, where most residents were of Dutch descent and spoke Dutch as their primary language.

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Van Buren was the first president to have been born after the American Revolution — in which his father served as a patriot — and is the only president to have spoken English as a second language.

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Van Buren ran successfully for governor of New York to support Jackson's campaign but resigned shortly after Jackson was inaugurated so he could accept appointment as Jackson's secretary of state.

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Van Buren ultimately resigned to help resolve the Petticoat affair and briefly served as the US ambassador to the United Kingdom.

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Van Buren's presidency was further marred by the costly Second Seminole War ; and his refusal to admit Texas to the Union as a slave state as an attempt to avoid heightened sectional tensions.

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In 1840, Van Buren lost his re-election bid to William Henry Harrison, the nominee of the anti-Jacksonian Whig Party.

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Van Buren was initially the leading candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination again in 1844, but his continued opposition to the annexation of Texas angered Southern Democrats, leading to the nomination of James K Polk.

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Van Buren was the newly formed Free Soil Party's presidential nominee in 1848, and his candidacy helped Whig nominee Zachary Taylor defeat Democrat Lewis Cass.

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Van Buren returned to the Democratic Party after 1848, but grew increasingly opposed to slavery, and became one of the party's outspoken abolitionists.

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Van Buren supported the policies of President Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, during the American Civil War.

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Van Buren died of asthma at his home in Kinderhook, New York, on Thursday, July 24,1862, aged 79.

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Van Buren was a leader in the formation of the two-party system in the United States.

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Van Buren's father, Abraham Van Buren, was a descendant of Cornelis Maessen, a native of Buurmalsen, Netherlands who had emigrated to New Netherland in 1631 and purchased a plot of land on Manhattan Island.

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Van Buren was the first USPresident without any British ancestry.

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Abraham Van Buren had been a Patriot during the American Revolution, and he later joined the Democratic-Republican Party.

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Van Buren owned an inn and tavern in Kinderhook and served as Kinderhook's town clerk for several years.

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Van Buren had three children from her first marriage, including future US Representative James I Van Alen.

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Van Buren received a basic education at the village schoolhouse, and briefly studied Latin at the Kinderhook Academy and at Washington Seminary in Claverack.

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Van Buren was raised speaking primarily Dutch and learned English while attending school; he is the only president of the United States whose first language was not English.

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Also during his childhood, Van Buren learned at his father's inn how to interact with people from varied ethnic, income, and societal groups, which he used to his advantage as a political organizer.

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Van Buren accepted their advice, and subsequently emulated the Silvesters' clothing, appearance, bearing, and conduct.

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The lessons he learned from the Silvesters were reflected in his career as a lawyer and politician, in which Van Buren was known for his amiability and fastidious appearance.

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Van Buren returned to Kinderhook in 1803, after his admission to the New York bar.

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Van Buren married Hannah Hoes in Catskill, New York, on February 21,1807.

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Van Buren was his childhood sweetheart, and a daughter of his maternal first cousin, Johannes Dircksen Hoes.

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Van Buren grew up in Valatie, and like Van Buren her home life was primarily Dutch; she spoke Dutch as her first language, and spoke English with a marked accent.

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In 1812, Van Buren won his party's nomination for a seat in the New York State Senate.

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Van Buren was so favorably impressed by Scott that he named his fourth son after him.

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Van Buren moved from Hudson to the state capital of Albany, where he established a legal partnership with Benjamin Butler, and shared a house with political ally Roger Skinner.

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In 1816, Van Buren won re-election to the state senate, and he would continue to simultaneously serve as both state senator and as the state's attorney general.

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Van Buren was a member of the 1820 state constitutional convention, where he favored expanded voting rights, but opposed universal suffrage and tried to maintain property requirements for voting.

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Van Buren arrived in Washington during the "Era of Good Feelings", a period in which partisan distinctions at the national level had faded.

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Van Buren quickly became a prominent figure in Washington, DC, befriending Secretary of the Treasury William H Crawford, among others.

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Van Buren chose to back Crawford over John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Henry Clay in the presidential election of 1824.

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Van Buren hoped to engineer a Crawford victory on the second ballot of the contingent election, but Adams won on the first ballot with the help of Clay and Stephen Van Rensselaer, a Congressman from New York.

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Van Buren was always courteous in his treatment of opponents and showed no bitterness toward either Adams or Clay, and he voted to confirm Clay's nomination to the cabinet.

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Van Buren considered Adams's proposals to represent a return to the Hamiltonian economic model favored by Federalists, which he strongly opposed.

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Van Buren believed that these national parties helped ensure that elections were decided on national, rather than sectional or local, issues; as he put it, "party attachment in former times furnished a complete antidote for sectional prejudices".

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Van Buren forged alliances with other members of Congress opposed to Adams, including Vice President John C Calhoun, Senator Thomas Hart Benton, and Senator John Randolph.

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Van Buren's candidacy was aided by the split between supporters of Adams, who had adopted the label of National Republicans, and the Anti-Masonic Party.

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Van Buren campaigned on local as well as national issues, emphasizing his opposition to the policies of the Adams administration.

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Van Buren appointed several key supporters, including William L Marcy and Silas Wright, to important state positions.

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Van Buren quickly agreed, and he resigned as governor the following month; his tenure of forty-three days is the shortest of any Governor of New York.

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Van Buren reached an agreement with the British to open trade with the British West Indies colonies and concluded a treaty with the Ottoman Empire that gained American merchants access to the Black Sea.

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Van Buren became involved in a power struggle with Calhoun over appointments and other issues, including the Petticoat Affair.

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Van Buren initially sought to mend the divide in the cabinet, but most of the leading citizens in Washington continued to snub the Eatons.

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Calhoun's move backfired; by making Van Buren appear the victim of petty politics, Calhoun raised Van Buren in both Jackson's regard and the esteem of others in the Democratic Party.

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Van Buren won the nomination over Philip P Barbour and Richard Mentor Johnson due to the support of Jackson and the strength of the Albany Regency.

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Van Buren had long been distrustful of banks, and he viewed the Bank as an extension of the Hamiltonian economic program, so he supported Jackson's veto of the Bank's re-charter.

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Van Buren played little direct role in the passage of the Tariff of 1833, but he quietly hoped that the tariff would help bring an end to the Nullification Crisis, which it did.

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Van Buren helped undermine a fledgling alliance between Jackson and Daniel Webster, a senator from Massachusetts who could have potentially threatened Van Buren's project to create two parties separated by policy differences rather than personalities.

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Van Buren moved to obtain their support by assuring them that he opposed abolitionism and supported maintaining slavery in states where it already existed.

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Van Buren considered slavery to be immoral but sanctioned by the Constitution.

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Van Buren's victory resulted from a combination of his attractive political and personal qualities, Jackson's popularity and endorsement, the organizational power of the Democratic Party, and the inability of the Whig Party to muster an effective candidate and campaign.

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Van Buren retained much of Jackson's cabinet and lower-level appointees, as he hoped that the retention of Jackson's appointees would stop Whig momentum in the South and restore confidence in the Democrats as a party of sectional unity.

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Lone open position of Secretary of War, Van Buren first approached William Cabell Rives, who had sought the vice presidency in 1836.

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However, Van Buren saw value in avoiding contentious patronage battles, and his decision to retain Jackson's cabinet made it clear that he intended to continue the policies of his predecessor.

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Additionally, Van Buren had helped select Jackson's cabinet appointees and enjoyed strong working relationships with them.

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Van Buren held regular formal cabinet meetings and discontinued the informal gatherings of advisors that had attracted so much attention during Jackson's presidency.

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Van Buren solicited advice from department heads, tolerated open and even frank exchanges between cabinet members, perceiving himself as "a mediator, and to some extent an umpire between the conflicting opinions" of his counselors.

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Van Buren was closely involved in foreign affairs and matters pertaining to the Treasury Department; but the Post Office, War Department, and Navy Department had significant autonomy under their respective cabinet secretaries.

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When Van Buren entered office, the nation's economic health had taken a turn for the worse and the prosperity of the early 1830s was over.

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Van Buren blamed the economic collapse on greedy American and foreign business and financial institutions, as well as the over-extension of credit by US banks.

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In 1838, Van Buren directed General Winfield Scott to forcibly move all those who had not yet complied with the treaty.

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Van Buren proposed a diplomatic solution to a long-standing financial dispute between American citizens and the Mexican government, rejecting Jackson's threat to settle it by force.

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Van Buren, looking to avoid a war with Great Britain, sent General Winfield Scott to the Canada–United States border with large discretionary powers for its protection and its peace.

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Van Buren was unwilling to go to war over the disputed territory, though he assured Maine that he would respond to any attacks by the British.

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Van Buren sent General Scott to the northern border area, both to show military resolve, and more importantly, to lower the tensions.

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Van Buren viewed abolitionism as the greatest threat to the nation's unity, and he resisted the slightest interference with slavery in the states where it existed.

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Van Buren's administration supported the Spanish government's demand that the ship and its cargo be turned over to them.

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Van Buren appointed eight other federal judges, all to United States district courts.

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When his eldest son Abraham Van Buren married Angelica Singleton in 1838, he quickly acted to install his daughter-in-law as his hostess.

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Van Buren solicited the advice of her distant relative, Dolley Madison, who had moved back to Washington after her husband's death, and soon the president's parties livened up.

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Van Buren referred obliquely to her as part of the presidential "household" in his famous Gold Spoon Oration.

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Van Buren easily won renomination for a second term at the 1840 Democratic National Convention, but he and his party faced a difficult election in 1840.

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Van Buren's presidency had been a difficult affair, with the US economy mired in a severe downturn, and other divisive issues, such as slavery, western expansion, and tensions with Great Britain, providing opportunities for Van Buren's political opponents—including some of his fellow Democrats—to criticize his actions.

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Van Buren was reluctant to drop Johnson, who was popular with workers and radicals in the North and added military experience to the ticket, which might prove important against likely Whig nominee William Henry Harrison.

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Whigs depicted Van Buren as an aristocrat living in high style in the White House, while they used images of Harrison in a log cabin sipping cider to convince voters that he was a man of the people.

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Issues of policy were not absent from the campaign; the Whigs derided the alleged executive overreaches of Jackson and Van Buren, while calling for a national bank and higher tariffs.

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Van Buren actually won more votes than he had in 1836, but the Whig success in attracting new voters more than canceled out Democratic gains.

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Van Buren remained silent on major public issues like the debate over the Tariff of 1842, hoping to arrange for the appearance of a draft movement for his presidential candidacy.

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Van Buren had hoped he would not have to take a public stand on annexation, but as the Texas question came to dominate US politics, he decided to make his views on the issue public.

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Van Buren's supporters attempted to prevent the adoption of the two-thirds rule, but several Northern delegates joined with Southern delegates in implementing the two-thirds rule for the 1844 convention.

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Van Buren convinced Silas Wright to run for Governor of New York so that the popular Wright could help boost Polk in the state.

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Van Buren declined, partly because he was upset with Polk over the treatment the Van Buren delegates had received at the 1844 convention, and partly because he was content in his retirement.

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Van Buren won no electoral votes, but finished second to Whig nominee Zachary Taylor in New York, taking enough votes from Cass to give the state—and perhaps the election—to Taylor.

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Van Buren never sought public office again after the 1848 election, but he continued to closely follow national politics.

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Van Buren was deeply troubled by the stirrings of secessionism in the South and welcomed the Compromise of 1850 as a necessary conciliatory measure despite his opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

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Van Buren worked on a history of American political parties and embarked on a tour of Europe, becoming the first former American head of state to visit Britain.

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Van Buren attempted to reconcile the Barnburners and the Hunkers, with mixed results.

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Van Buren supported Franklin Pierce for president in 1852, James Buchanan in 1856, and Stephen A Douglas in 1860.

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Van Buren viewed the fledgling Know Nothing movement with contempt and felt that the anti-slavery Republican Party exacerbated sectional tensions.

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Van Buren considered Chief Justice Roger Taney's ruling in the 1857 case of Dred Scott v Sandford to be a "grievous mistake" since it overturned the Missouri Compromise.

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Van Buren believed that the Buchanan administration handled the issue of Bleeding Kansas poorly, and saw the Lecompton Constitution as a sop to Southern extremists.

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Van Buren's reply suggested that Buchanan should be the one to call the meeting, since he was the former president who had served most recently, or that Pierce should issue the call himself if he strongly believed in the merit of his proposal.

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Van Buren is buried in the Kinderhook Reformed Dutch Church Cemetery, as are his wife Hannah, his parents, and his son Martin Van Buren Jr.

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Van Buren outlived all four of his immediate successors: Harrison, Tyler, Polk, and Taylor.

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Van Buren's most lasting achievement was as a political organizer who built the Democratic Party and guided it to dominance in the Second Party System, and historians have come to regard Van Buren as integral to the development of the American political system.

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Van Buren was one of the first statewide political machines in the country was success resulted from its professional use of patronage, the legislative caucus, and the official party newspaper.

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Van Buren was blamed for the Panic of 1837 and defeated for reelection.

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Van Buren's tenure was dominated by the economic conditions caused by the panic, and historians have split on the adequacy of the Independent Treasury as a response.

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Van Buren argues that Van Buren allowed the market to readjust fairly quickly after the Panic of 1837, reduced government spending, balanced the budget, and avoided potential wars with Canada and Mexico.

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Historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel states that Van Buren was America's greatest president, arguing that "historians have grossly underrated his many remarkable accomplishments in the face of heavy odds".

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Martin Van Buren appeared in the Presidential dollar coins series in 2008.

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Van Buren is portrayed by Nigel Hawthorne in the 1997 film Amistad.

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