The New International Encyclopædia/Van Buren, Martin
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Van Buren, Martin
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|Edition of 1905. See also Martin Van Buren on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.|
VAN BU'REN, Martin, (1782-1862). Eighth President of the United States. He was born at Kinderhook, N. Y., December 5, 1782, studied law with William P. Van Ness in New York City, and was admitted to the bar in 1803. He early developed a fondness for politics and held successively the offices of Surrogate and State Senator, in the latter capacity being recognized as the leader of the Tompkins faction of the Republican Party. In 1815 he became Attorney-General of the State, a position from which he was removed in 1819 on account of his rupture with the administration of Governor DeWitt Clinton. In February, 1821, he was elected to the United States Senate, and in the same year served as a delegate in the State Constitutional Convention. In the Senate, to which he was reëlected in 1827, he served for a number of years as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, supported the tariff bills of 1824 and 1828, opposed internal improvements by the Federal Government, and became a strong advocate of States' rights (q.v.). He resigned from the Senate to accept the office of Governor of New York, to which he was elected in 1828. Van Buren was an enthusiastic supporter of General Jackson for the Presidency in 1828, and became Jackson's Secretary of State the following year, but resigned in 1831 to accept the post of Minister to England. The refusal of the Senate, for a trivial reason, to confirm his nomination after he had sailed only brought increased popularity to Van Buren, and with the support of Jackson easily secured his nomination and election to the Vice-Presidency in 1832. During all the vicissitudes of Jackson's administration Van Buren succeeded in retaining his confidence unimpaired, winning especial favor from the President because of his attitude in the Peggy O'Neill episode (see Eaton, Margaret O'Neill), and soon came to be regarded as his logical successor. In 1835 he was nominated by the Democratic Party, and in the following year was elected President, receiving 170 electoral votes, as against 73 given to his principal opponent, the Whig candidate, General W. H. Harrison. Van Buren's term was made notable by a widespread financial panic resulting partly from certain measures of President Jackson's Administration, and partly from the spirit of reckless speculation which prevailed at the time. The chief measure of his Administration was the establishment of the independent treasury system for the safekeeping and disbursement of the public moneys. This system, after a short interruption during the Whig supremacy, became a part of the permanent policy of the country. President Van Buren was renominated in 1840 for the Presidency, but chiefly on account of the financial distress of the time, for which he was to a considerable extent held responsible in the popular mind, he was overwhelmingly defeated by the Whig candidate, General Harrison. In 1844 he was again a candidate for the Democratic nomination, but on account of his opposition to the annexation of Texas he was opposed by the Southern Democrats, and was defeated. In 1848 he was nominated for the Presidency by the newly formed Free-Soil Party (q.v.). His ticket diverted sufficient votes in New York from General Cass, the Democratic candidate for President, to insure the latter's defeat and the triumph of the Whigs. He supported Pierce in 1852 and Buchanan in 1856, and remained to the day of his death a Democrat except on the question of slavery extension. He died at Kinderhook, his birthplace, on July 24, 1862.
Van Buren attained eminence at the bar, but never practiced after his election to the United States Senate in 1821. As a politician he was surpassed by few, if any, men of the time, and for many years was the controlling spirit of the Albany Regency (q.v.). He was the author of a fragmentary work entitled An Inquiry into the Origin and Cause of Political Parties in the United States, published in 1867. A number of biographies have been published, the latest and most valuable one to students being that of Edward M. Shepard (Boston, 1888), in the “American Statesmen Series.” (See United States.) One of his sons, John (1810-66), popularly known as “Prince John,” graduated at Yale in 1828, became an able and prominent lawyer, and was Attorney-General of New York in 1845-46.