US Presidents: Martin Van Buren

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US Presidents: Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren was an American statesman who served as the eighth U.S. from 1837 to 1841. Speaker. He was the first American president to use a language other than English (Dutch), and since the US proclaimed his independence from Britain the first to be British. A member of the Democratic Party, he had previously served as the ninth governor of New York, the 10th secretary of state of the United States and the 8th vice president of the United States. He won the presidential election of 1836, with support of the organizational power of influential outgoing president Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party. He lost his reelection bid to Whig Party nominee William Henry Harrison in 1840, owing largely to the poor economic condition that followed the crisis of 1837. Earlier in his career Van Buren emerged as an elder statesman and an prominent anti-slavery abolitionist figure who led the ticket of the Free Soil Party during the presidential election of 1848. Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, New York, into a Dutch American family after the American Revolution. He was taught Holland speaking and learned English at university, making him the first and only US president to use English as his second language. He studied as a lawyer as a political leader and later became involved in politics. He was the Bucktails leader, the Democratic-Republican party loyal to New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, and secured a primary seat for the state of New York. Van Buren formed a political coalition called the Albany Regency, and in the 1820's emerged as the most influential leader in the nation state. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1821, and backed William H. Crawford in the 1824 presidential election. In 1824 John Quincy Adams dominated the presidency and Van Buren backed his internal reforms and other Federal Government-sponsored measures. The primary political goal of Van Buren was to re-establish a two-party system based on principles rather than interests or sectional distinctions or theological differences and with this in mind he endorsed Jackson's campaign against Adams in the 1828 presidential election. Van Buren ran in favor of Jackson's New York Governor bid; after securing the U.S. nomination, he won but left a few months. After setting up office as Secretary of State at Cleveland, in March1829. During Jackson's eight years as U.S. President, Van Buren has been a key strategist who has built the organizational structure for the Democratic Party, especially in New York. He resigned from his job to help address the Petticoat problem and served as United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom for a brief time. Despite Jackson's wish, Van Buren was elected as U.S. vice president by the Democratic National Convention of 1832, and he took office after the Democratic ticket won the 1832 presidential election. With good support from Jackson, Van Buren faced no opposition to the presidential candidacy of the Democratic National Convention in 1835, and he beat several Whig rivals during the 1836 presidential election. Van Buren's solution to the crisis of 1837 was based on a Independent Banking scheme, a program in which the central government of the United States should hold the capital in vaults rather than in deposits. He was also pursuing Jackson's Indian strategy of removal; retaining good relations with Britain but refusing the invitation to add Texas to the Union, seeking to avoid increasing sectional tensions. In the 1840 race, the Whigs grouped behind Harrison's war record, mocked Van Buren as "Martin Van Ruin," and a surge of new supporters helped drive him out of office. When 1844 marked the inauguration of the Democratic Convention, Van Buren was the party's best candidate to lead the nomination. Southern Democrats however were angry at his continuing opposition to Texas expansion, and the party supported James K. Polk. Since taking power Van Buren had been strongly opposed to slavery, so in the presidential election of 1848 he chose to head a ticket for a new faction, perhaps inspired by tensions between the state and the democratic intraparties. He finished in a distant third nationally but his political position most likely helped Whig challenger Zachary Taylor defeat the Democrat Lewis Cass.

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