8th President of the United States of America (1837-1841).
Slave question. He did not take a clear position on the slave question, which was increasingly polarizing the young nation. There is much to suggest that Van Buren was not bothered by slavery in the United States, or at least was unwilling to risk his political career because of moral scruples about it. Overall, Van Buren’s approach to the slave issue showed a behavior typical of politicians, in that he avoided taking a clear position.
Indian policy. In principle, he shared the prevailing attitude of the whites over the Indians at the time. As president, to the satisfaction of the southern states, he continued Jackson’s ruthless and brutal American Indian policy of driving out the „Five Civilized Tribes“ out of United States territory. Most affected were the Cherokees, rounded up by the thousands and forced on the “Path of Tears” from Georgia to Oklahoma.
Foreign policy. Another challenge Van Buren faced during his presidency was increasing tension between the US and UK governments over a border dispute. In the winter of 1838 there was a conflict in the northeastern border area of Maine and the British colony of New Brunswick. Van Buren not only averted another British-American war, but also paved the way for the „Webster-Ashburton Treaty“. All in all, Van Buren’s foreign policy as President applies very positive.
Martin Van Buren was born on December 5, 1782 in Kinderhook, Columbia County, New York.
Van Buren’s family came from the Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands Through both parents had not been married to Americans of any other ethnic origin for five generations.
Abraham Van Buren was a small farmer but was later forced to convert the farmhouse into a pub in order to be able to feed the family. The family had six slaves, but in Kinderhook they belonged to the lower middle class at best.
The father had been a patriot and supporter of Thomas Jefferson during the American Revolution.
In 1807 Van Buren married Hannah Hoes, with whom he had four sons. Van Buren’s relationship with Hannah is a mystery, as he had hardly mentioned his wife in his surviving correspondence and autobiography.
Van Buren was admitted to the bar in November 1803 and opened a law firm that quickly became a business success. In the next few years he developed his political commitment parallel to his legal work. He enthusiastically supported the presidency of Thomas Jefferson.
In 1812 he was elected to the New York Senate.
In 1823 after the Constituent Assembly, Van Buren went to Washington to take his seat in the 18th United States Congress.
In 1828 Van Buren won the New York gubernatorial elections. At the same time he supported Andrew Jackson, who won the US presidential election.
In 1829 President Jackson appointed Van Buren to his cabinet as Foreign Minister.
In 1831 Van Buren resigned as foreign minister in order to secure his own goal of successor as president. President Jackson then appointed him American ambassador to London.
In 1832 in Baltimore, Van Buren was elected Jackson’s running mate for the presidential election in his absence. After winning the election, he became Vice President of the United States.
In 1836 he was elected as his party’s presidential candidate with a clear majority. He won the election. He became the youngest president in American history to date.
He was the eighth President of the United States from 1837 to 1841 and, along with his political friend Andrew Jackson, is considered the founder of the modern Democratic Party.
He was the first American president to be born as a “natural born citizen”.
After the year had got off to a promising start for the newly elected president, the economic crisis of 1837 broke out shortly after his inauguration, which was the worst crisis in the United States until the Great Depression in 1929. The crisis quickly infected cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Orleans besides New York City and spared no other business center in the United States. It spread across the Atlantic to Europe, which had invested heavily in the booming American economy.
The economic crisis of 1837 also had positive aspects for Van Buren, as it was now clear to everyone outside and inside America that the United States was no longer a sleepy agrarian state, but an influential economic power whose crises had consequence worldwide.
After the presidency
After a promising comeback, in 1844 he was long considered the most promising candidate for the nomination for the Democratic presidential candidate, but his refusal to join the Republic of Texas was his undoing. His politics were unpopular to many and he was unable to win a second term.
After the presidential election of 1848, Van Buren said goodbye to active politics and enjoyed his retirement.
The Civil War was a heavy blow for Van Buren. Previously, he had used all political influence still available to prevent the outbreak of civil war. To this end, he had urged the radical voices in North and South to moderate and proposed a constitutional convention to settle the conflict. When the southern states left the American Union and the Confederate States were formed, Van Buren stood steadfastly by the Union and Lincoln, although as the “Jeffersonian Republican” he had had sympathy for the south throughout his life.
Van Buren spent much of his later years traveling extensively, then returned to Kinderhook and wrote his memoirs.
He died on July 24, 1862 at the age of 79 and was buried in Kinderhook Cemetery.