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Van Buren Biography

Early Career

Born in December 1782 in Kinderhook, New York, Martin Van Buren held a number of important political positions, including the U.S. presidency. Prior to succeeding Andrew Jackson as chief executive, Van Buren served as U.S. senator (1821–28), New York governor (1829), U.S. secretary of state (1829–31), U.S. minister to the United Kingdom (1831–32), and U.S. vice president (1833–37).

Presidential Years

During his one term as president (1837–41), Van Buren confronted a number of challenges. His most significant problem was the nation’s serious economic issues, but he also faced several diplomatic and domestic crises. His inability to adequately address these problems led to his defeat in the 1840 election. An attempt to win the Democratic nomination in 1844 failed when Van Buren publicly opposed the immediate annexation of Texas. Four years later, the Free Soil Party nominated Van Buren as its presidential candidate, but once again, he lost. He returned to the Democratic Party in retirement, offering his opinions on the growing sectional and partisan divide that gripped the nation. Van Buren died in July 1862.

Portrait of Martin Van Buren from the National Portrait Gallery

Some Facts

  1. Van Buren’s most significant contribution to United States history was his construction of the Democratic Party, which he helped to organize between the 1824 and 1828 presidential elections.
  2. By reinvigorating the passionate partisanship of the nation’s early years and by emphasizing the centrality of political parties to a democratic society, Van Buren played an integral role in creating the second American party system that produced the Civil War and provided a model of political activity that exists even today.
  3. Some of Van Buren's nicknames included "Little Magician," "Martin Van Ruin," and "the Sly Fox of Kinderhook."