Van Buren Timeline
December 5: Born in Kinderhook, New York, the third of five children of Maria Hoes Van Alen and Abraham Van Buren, five days after the preliminary articles of the Treaty of Paris are signed, making Van Buren the first U.S. president not born a British subject.
Abraham Van Buren elected Kinderhook’s first town clerk since independence.
Leaves the local village school, possibly for financial reasons; becomes a law clerk in the office of Federalist lawyer Francis Silvester.
Selected as a delegate to Democratic-Republican congressional caucus in Troy, New York, accompanying his cousin, John Peter Van Ness, a perennial candidate for Congress. With the help of Van Buren’s campaigning, Van Ness get the nomination and wins in the special election in the fall.
November: Enters as clerk in the New York City law office of William P. Van Ness, close associate of Vice President Aaron Burr. Van Ness later gains notoriety as the second in the fatal Burr-Hamilton duel of 1804.
November: Appears before the bar in New York City and is admitted into practice. Forms a partnership with his half brother James I. Van Alen in Kinderhook.
Spring: Breaks away from the Burrites and endorses Morgan Lewis for governor. Lewis is backed by the Clinton-Livingston wing of the Democratic-Republican party.
Forms the Kinderhook Law Society with six other young Republican attorneys.
July 4: Invited by Kinderhook’s Republicans to read the Declaration of Independence at the annual Fourth of July dinner.
April: James Van Alen elected to Congress.
February 21: Marries Hannah Hoes, his first cousin once removed, in Catskill, New York.
April: Supports Daniel D. Tompkins for governor, over the incumbent Morgan Lewis. Tompkins wins.
November 27: First son, Abraham, born in Kinderhook.
February 20: Appointed to his first public office, surrogate of Columbia County, shortly after Governor Tompkins took office.
December: Moves to Hudson, the county seat of government.
February 10: Second son, John, is born.
April: In a close, heated race, is elected to the New York state senate over Edward P. Livingston.
November: At the New York Republican caucus, leads effort to secure New York’s vote for DeWitt Clinton over James Madison’s reelection. Clinton wins New York’s electoral vote but loses race to Madison. Van Buren later regrets these actions.
December 20: Third son, Martin, is born.
February: Cuts ties with DeWitt Clinton.
March 19: Removed from surrogate’s office by Federalist-controlled Council of Appointment.
Fourth son, Winfield Scott, is born and dies during this year.
January 3 – March 28: One of two lead prosecutors in court-martial trial of William Hull, who surrendered Detroit to British in 1812 before a shot was fired. Hull is found guilty and is sentenced to death. Madison later rescinds the death sentence.
September: Introduces and secures passage of a “Classification Bill,” a draft proposal to conscript New Yorkers according to a class quota. The war ends before its implementation.
February 17: Appointed attorney general of New York. Continues to serve as state senator.
April: Moves to Albany and forms the “Albany Regency” with Benjamin F. Butler, William L. Marcy, Samuel A. Talcott, Silas Wright and Edwin Croswell. They are informally known as the Bucktails (for the feathers worn in their hats at meetings), a name Van Buren never likes.
January 16: Fifth son, Smith Thompson, is born.
April 8: His father, Abraham Van Buren, dies at the age of 80.
April: Campaigns against DeWitt Clinton’s election as governor of New York.
May: Votes for Erie Canal, after initial opposition.
February 16: His mother, Maria Van Buren, dies at the age of 68.
February 5: His wife, Hannah Van Buren, dies of tuberculosis, at the age of 35. She’s buried in Kinderhook. Van Buren never remarries.
March: Removed as attorney general by Clinton.
February 6: Elected to the United States Senate by the New York state legislature.
August 28: Bucktails force a new constitutional convention, abolishing the Council of Appointment and broadening suffrage for white men and reducing it for African-Americans.
December 3: Takes seat in Senate.
January 7: Loses a bitter fight with Postmaster General Return Jonathan Meigs over an attempt to block the appointment of a former Federalist, General Solomon Van Rensselaer, as postmaster of Albany. President Monroe backs Meigs.
January: Named chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
March 30: Decides to accept appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court if offered to him. Monroe offers seat to Smith Thompson instead, infuriating Van Buren.
Spring–Summer: Makes trips to Virginia to promote Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford for president.
September: Continues working for Crawford's nomination even after the Georgian suffers debilitating stroke.
January: Proposed constitutional amendment removing from the U.S. House the election of president in the event a candidate did not receive an electoral majority, proposing instead for a new election by the electors. Also proposed constitutional amendment to give Congress power to make internal improvements, but only with consent of states within which improvements were to be made and only under such states’ supervision of funds. Congress voted against both amendments.
April: Albany Regency removes Clinton from his office as canal commissioner.
November 2: Clinton wins governorship, largely a reaction to his removal as canal commissioner.
November 16: Outmaneuvered by Thurlow Weed and anti-Regency factions so that New York’s electoral vote was split, with Crawford last.
December 1: Receives Georgia's nine votes for vice president.
February 23: Votes against appropriation to extend Cumberland Road.
March: Votes for Henry Clay as secretary of state.
November 2: Does not participate in Erie Canal ceremonies.
February 15: Introduces first of series of proposals to defeat President Adams’ Panama Mission, Van Buren’s first move against the administration.
April 7: Unsuccessfully pushes for legislation adding three justices to U.S. Supreme Court.
January 9: The Albany Argus reports the formation of the first political convention for a president.
April–May: Travels throughout the South campaigning for Andrew Jackson.
August 3: Convention at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, opposes tariff increase. Van Buren does not attend.
September 26: Commits the Albany Regency to Jackson, confirming the North-South alliance. This could be considered the official beginning of the Democratic Party.
November: Re-elected U.S. senator by large majorities in both houses of New York legislature.
January 31: Hopes that Bucktail lieutenant Silas Wright's introduction of a tariff bill with high duties on raw materials will shore up support for Jackson in the western and mid-Atlantic states. Critics memorably call the bill a “Tariff of Abominations.”
February 11: DeWitt Clinton dies suddenly of a heart attack, ridding Van Buren of his chief rival in New York.
July: Decides to run for governor of New York in order to strengthen Jackson’s campaign in his native state.
November: Elected governor. Jackson takes a majority of New York’s electoral votes and is elected nation’s seventh president.
January 1: Inaugurated as governor. Delivers an ambitious inaugural address calling for reforms in banking and campaign financing.
February 15: Accepts Andrew Jackson’s offer to serve in his cabinet as secretary of state, a position four of the past five presidents occupied.
March 12: Resigns as governor.
April 5: Takes up duties as secretary of state, becomes the cabinet’s leader and one of Jackson’s closest advisers.
May: Visits Margaret Eaton, wife of Secretary of War John Eaton, who was snubbed by other cabinet members for her supposed scandalous past. Jackson appreciates the gesture, and Van Buren secures his position in the administration.
April 13: In a rebuke to Calhoun, delivers toast at Jefferson Birthday Dinner declaring support for the Union above states’ rights.
May 7: Negotiates treaty with Turkey that gives America shipping rights in the Black Sea.
May 27: Writes Jackson’s veto message on the Maysville Road, drawing a sharp line between Democratic Party and Henry Clay’s National Republicans.
October 5: Negotiates treaty with Great Britain securing trade with the West Indies.
May 23: Resigns as secretary of state to give Jackson opportunity to remove entire cabinet and replace with members loyal to him instead of to Calhoun.
June 23: Appointed minister to Great Britain.
July 4: Negotiates treaty with France in which America is compensated for damages from Napoleonic wars.
August 16: Sails to London with his son John.
January 25: Rejected by U.S. Senate as minister to England, with Vice President Calhoun casting the tie-breaking vote against him.
May 21–23: Democratic National Convention in Baltimore nominates Van Buren for vice president to run with Jackson.
July 5: Arrives in New York after taking a long trip throughout Europe.
July 10: Jackson vetoes the bill to recharter the Bank of the United States. Van Buren supports the president but with reservations.
November: Elected Jackson’s vice president. Thirty electors refuse to support Van Buren.
March 4: Inaugurated vice president.
December 16: Presides over the U.S. Senate for the first time.
April: Led by Henry Clay, the Whig Party is formed.
April: U.S. Senate censures Jackson for removing Bank of United States deposits, a decision Van Buren had advised the president not to take.
May 20–22: Nominated for president at second national convention of the Democratic Party held in Baltimore. Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky nominated for vice president. The Whigs held no nationwide convention, allowing the part's state officials to nominate multiple candidates.
March 2: Texas declares independence from Mexico during siege of Alamo. Van Buren opposes annexation.
June 23: Jackson signs Distribution Act, giving federal surplus revenue to the states.
July 11: Jackson issues Specie Circular, requiring gold and silver payments for public land.
November: Elected eighth president of the United States over former War of 1812 general William Henry Harrison and U.S. senators Hugh L. White of Tennessee, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Willie P. Mangum of North Carolina. Van Buren receives 170 electoral votes and captures 50.83% of the popular vote.
February: “Flour riots” in New York City, protesting high food prices, take place, signaling imminent depression.
March 3: Jackson recognizes Texas independence.
March 4: Inaugurated as eighth president of the United States.
March 7: Appoints Joel Poinsett as his secretary of war. The rest of his cabinet was retained from the Jackson administration.
March 8: Appoints John McKinley to the U.S. Supreme Court, the first of his two court selections.
May 7: Delegation of fifty New York merchants demands that Van Buren rescind the Specie Circular.
May 10: New York banks suspend specie payments. More than 600 banks will fold in the following year.
May 15: Calls for special session of Congress in September to address the economic crisis known as the Panic of 1837.
August 4: Texas applies for annexation.
August 25: Secretary of State John Forsyth refuses Texas's application for annexation.
September 5: Proposes Independent Treasury in his message to Congress.
October 14: Independent Treasury bill fails in the House after passing in the Senate.
November: Whigs sweep New York’s elections. Van Buren calls it the “New York tornado.” Other statehouses go to the Whigs as well.
December 5: Sends first annual message to Congress.
December 13: Canadian insurgent leader William Lyon Mackenzie arranges provisional government on Navy Island in the Niagara River.
December 29: British forces seize a private American steamship, the Caroline, which had been transporting supplies to rebels on Navy Island. The British remove the crew and guests and set fire to the ship. A bystander is killed in the melee.
January 5: Issues proclamation of neutrality regarding border violence in Canada. Sends Winfield Scott to the border to mediate.
January 13: U.S. forces Mackenzie to abandon Navy Island. He is later sentenced to 18 months in prison.
March 21: U.S. Senate votes against Van Buren’s bill to “divorce” the U.S. Treasury from all state banks.
April 17: New York bankers announce they will resume specie payments in May.
May 26: The forced removal of the Cherokee Indians begins, resulting in approximately 4,000 deaths on what comes to be known as the “Trail of Tears.”
June 12: Signs act establishing Territory of Iowa.
July 4: Appoints new attorney general, Felix Grundy, replacing Benjamin F. Butler.
November: Whig William H. Seward is elected governor of New York, ending the ten-year reign of the Albany Regency.
November 21: Issues second proclamation of neutrality regarding Canada.
December 3: Sends second annual message to Congress.
March 3: Sends troops to Maine in the so-called “Aroostook War,” which arose after a Maine land agent expelled Canadian lumberjacks from the region and was arrested by Canadians. Van Buren instructed General Winfield Scott to arrange a truce between Maine and New Brunswick. The dispute is later settled in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.
March 5: Pocket vetoes joint resolution providing for distribution of President James Madison's papers. This is Van Buren’s only veto as president.
July 2: Led by Sengbe Pieh, later known as Joseph Cinque, enslaved Africans on board the Amistad stage a successful mutiny and demand to be returned to Africa.
August 24: The Amistad drifts into the Long Island Sound and is seized by an American survey ship. Looking to cash in on salvage money, the commander of the ship steers it to New London, Connecticut.
September: Van Buren administration accepts the Spanish position that the Amistad and its enslaved passengers belong to the Spanish government. The matter soon heads into the courts.
December 2: Sends third annual message to Congress.
December 24: Urges adoption of Independent Treasury.
January 11: Appoints third attorney general, Henry D. Gilpin.
January 23: Federal court rules that enslaved Africans on the Amistad were kidnapped and should be transported back to Sierra Leone. The Van Buren administration appeals the decision.
March 31: Issues executive order limiting to a ten-hour day the work of all laborers on federal projects without reduction in pay.
July 4: Signs Independent Treasury Act, establishing subtreasuries in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.
Fall: Runs for reelection against Whig candidate William Henry Harrison.
November: Loses reelection to Harrison, who received 234 electoral votes to Van Buren's 60.
November 12: Canadian Alexander McLeod arrested in New York for murder in the Caroline affair. Great Britain strongly objects.
December 5: Sends fourth and last annual message to Congress.
February 10: Invites William Henry Harrison to visit him at the White House, an offer the president-elect accepts.
February 22: Citing international treaties, Gilpin presents administration’s position on the Amistad case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Former President John Quincy Adams represents Cinque and the Africans.
February 26: Appoints Peter V. Daniel on his last day in office to the U.S. Supreme Court.
March 13: Departs Washington.
March 9: Supreme Court affirms the lower court decision in the Amistad case.
May 8: Returns to Kinderhook, buys house on Albany Post Road once owned by the Van Ness family. He names the house “Lindenwald.”
August 13: Whigs repeal the Independent Treasury Act.
February–July: Makes trip throughout the U.S., visiting Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and James K. Polk, among others.
November: Democrats win control of Congress in the fall elections.
March 22: The Washington Globe publishes Andrew Jackson's letter calling for the annexation of Texas.
April 27: Publishes letter in the Washington Globe opposing immediate annexation.
May 27: Democratic national convention convenes in Baltimore. Van Buren fails to get two-thirds of the delegate vote. After days of wrangling, nomination goes to James K. Polk of Tennessee.
January–February: Polk appoints none of Van Buren's allies to his cabinet, leading to a major fallout between the two Democrats.
August 8: Wilmot Proviso introduced, banning the extension of slavery into territory acquired in the Mexican War.
August: Declines appointment as minister to Great Britain.
April: Publicly denounces the spread of slavery and writes a long statement that becomes the Barnburner Manifesto.
May: Barnburner and Hunkers send separate delegations to Democratic national convention in New York.
August 9–10: Free Soil Party formed by a heterogeneous group of people including Barnburners, Liberty Party men, “Conscience” Whigs and free land advocates. Van Buren nominated for president, with Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts for vice president. The party platform called for “free soil, free speech, free labor, and free men.”
November 7: Van Buren receives 291,263 votes, fails to win a single state. After the election, Van Buren announces his retirement from politics.
November: Returns to Democratic Party and supports Franklin Pierce for president.
April: Becomes the first ex-President to leave the United States when he goes on a European tour with his son Martin. He visits England, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, and Italy. He is later received by Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Pope Pius IX.
June 21: Begins work on his autobiography while vacationing in Sorrento, Italy. He never finishes the book, which is not published until 1920.
March 19: Martin Van Buren Jr. dies in Paris of tuberculosis. Van Buren returns to Kinderhook.
November: Supports James Buchanan for president, albeit with great reservations.
November: Supports Stephen A. Douglas for president.
Supports Lincoln and the Union cause in the Civil War.
Spring: Travels to New York City to see doctors for several illnesses.
July 24: Surrounded by his family, Van Buren dies several months shy of his 80th birthday. Cause of death is asthma. Buried in Kinderhook.