He came from a Dutch descent; that is why he primarily spoke Dutch at home and eventually learned English in school. His father, Abraham Van Buren, was a patriot during the American Revolution. He had a half-sister and two half brothers from his mother’s previous marriage.
He only received a formal education when he was already fourteen years old.
Martin was close to his father. He would often help in his father’s tavern after school. Influenced by the prominent lawyers and politicians who frequently visit their bar, he dreamed of becoming a lawyer.
He was apprenticed by Francis Silvester in 1796 when he was only 15 years old. At a very young age, he participated in a court case and won.
He pursued studying law and completed his legal studies in New York. As he returned to his hometown, he opened a small firm with his half-brother, James Van Alen, and practiced law in 1803 when he was 21 years old.
Soon, he married his childhood sweetheart and cousin, Hannah Hoes, in 1807. They had four children; however, Hannah died in 1819 due to tuberculosis leaving Martin widowed and never remarried.
Martin Van Buren ventured into politics and ran for New York State Senate. He won and served for two terms from 1812 until 1820. He also held the position of the state attorney general. In 1821, he was elected as a U.S. Senator and co-created Albany regency. During his time as a senator, he served in the finance committee and led the judiciary committee.
During John Quincy Adams’ administration, he led the opposition of his administration in the Senate and formed a coalition to support Andrew Jackson in 1828. The coalition subsequently became the birth of a new political party, the Democratic Party.
In 1829, he served as the Governor of New York and only served for 12 weeks. He joined the cabinet of President Andrew Jackson as the new Secretary of State.
During his tenure as the Secretary of the State, he was able to reach a settlement with Great Britain regarding U.S. trade to be allowed in the British West Indies. He also managed to defray compensations for the properties seized during the Napoleonic Wars with France. He even tapped the Ottoman Empire and granted U.S. traders to access the Black Sea. For more information on the said empire, check out A Brief History of the Ottoman Empire.
Andrew Jackson’s current Vice President, John Calhoun’s reputation and relationship with the president started to deteriorate because of the petticoat scandal.
He soon replaced Calhoun as the president’s running mate with the platform of opposing the chartering of the Bank of the United States. In 1833, he became the Vice President to Andrew Jackson until 1837.
After Andrew Jackson’s term, he handpicked Martin Van Buren as his successor.
Martin Van Buren’s administration
Andrew Jackson endorsed Martin Van Buren for the presidency and received a landslide vote.
On March 4, 1837, he became the eighth president of the United States. He had a rough start as the president. He faced a national financial crisis due to the transfer of federal funds made during Jackson administration’s Specie Circular, wherein lands should be purchased using gold or silver, not money. He proposed to transfer the federal funds to an independent treasury and was approved by the Congress. As he continued Andrew Jackson’s deflationary policy, the economic crisis worsens.
Also, the Native American removal occurred during his administration, wherein thousands of Cherokee Indians migrated westward and died due to starvation, heat exhaustion, and disease.
The United States engaged in a costly war with the Seminole Indians in Florida. He even denied the statehood of Texas.
In 1839, Americans and Canadians disputed for the territory of Maine and New Brunswick Border, which resulted in the Aroostook War. In the end, diplomatic settlements made between Baron Ashburton, a British diplomat, and Daniel Webster, the U.S. Secretary of State, resolved the dispute. In the Ashburton-Webster treaty, it established the official boundary between the countries.
After his term, he did not receive any presidential nomination from the Democrats. He ran as a Free Soil candidate, together with Charles Francis Adams as his vice-presidential nominee. Free Soil Party were antislavery factions. Unfortunately, he did not win a single state; however, it gave a particular highlight of slavery issues that nearly tear the country apart.
In his later life, Martin Van Buren did not pursue his political career anymore; however, he continued to look after the stirring secessionism in the South.
In 1861, his health began to depreciate due to pneumonia. On July 24, 1862, he died due to bronchial asthma and heart failure at the age of 79.
Martin Van Bruner was a successful political organizer who started the Democratic Party.