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Who is Martin Van Buren?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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Martin Van Buren, the eighth US President, was the first president born after the United States won independence. He served only one term as president, and was saddled with the nicknames "Little Magician" and the "Red Fox of Kinderhook," presumably because he was regarded as a sly and cunning politician. The president managed to create policy that would develop the national independent treasury, modern labor laws, and federally insured bank deposits, however. He is also credited with a role in developing the Democratic Party.

Born in Kinderhook, New York on 5 December 1782, Van Buren was of Dutch descent, and the son of a tavern owner. He became familiar with politics as a young child since his father also served as a town clerk and his tavern doubled as a polling station in early national elections. After being educated, Martin became a lawyer, which eventually instigated his political career.

Van Buren, a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, would often appear in court arguing against Federalist attorneys. He was skillful, and therefore was held in high regard by various political heads. Van Buren was elected to the New York State Senate in 1812 and the United States Senate in 1821. Siding strongly with Andrew Jackson, he helped Jackson win the election of 1828. His own election to the presidency came in 1836, largely due to the support of Jackson, who was popular among the American people and owed Van Buren his gratitude for years of service.

Almost immediately after he took office, the panic of 1837 hit the country. As the depression expanded, the president's popularity quickly diminished. He sought a second term in the election of 1840, but was defeated by the Whig Party's nominee, William Henry Harrison. Though Van Buren would seek a third election in 1848, he never again won the majority vote but remained active in politics, publicly supporting Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election. Martin Van Buren died in his home in Kinderhook on 24 July 1862.

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Discussion Comments
By anon3167 — On Aug 14, 2007

This might be improved by mentioning that Van Buren was Jackson's vice president (2nd term) and his 1848 race was as candidate of the Free Soil Party. (He lost the Dem. nomination in 1844 by opposing the admission of Texas as a slave state - wise man!) Also, if I'm not mistaken, English was his second language.

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