Martin Van Buren
Martin attended the local New York schools until the age of fourteen, when he was sent to study law. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1803. In 1807, he married Hannah Hoes, a cousin, and they had four sons. Hannah died at an early age in 1819, and Van Buren never remarried.
He continued his law practice until 1812 when he pursued his political career. Van Buren rose rapidly in New York politics after joining with Dewitt Clinton in a long battle opposing Aaron Burr. In 1812, he was elected to the New York State Senate. He was chosen Attorney General of the state in 1816, and two years later he was elected to the United States Senate.
In 1824 Martin Van Buren was opposed to his party running Andrew Jackson for President. However, in 1828 he became Jackson’s confidential political advisor, and managed his election campaign throughout the northeast part of the United States. As a reward for this service, he was appointed Secretary of State in Jackson’s new cabinet.
With Jackson supporting him, Van Buren was elected President in 1836, handily defeating Daniel Webster, William Henry Harrison and H.L. White, the anti-Jackson candidates.
Van Buren was opposed to slavery, but promised to support it in states where it already existed. The most difficult problems he had to meet, were those connected with the Financial Panic of 1837 and the resulting depression. Banks suspended payment on specie, and for the next three years, the country was beset by unemployment and extreme financial difficulties. An accompanying crop failure added to the problem. States were unable to meet their financial obligations, banks closed, and many working men in the eastern cities went without food and jobs.
It was generally believed that the government should abstain from interfering with the country’s general economic life, so Van Buren did nothing to alleviate the effects of the depression. With this background of depression, hunger, and general malcontent in the nation, Van Buren was re-nominated in 1840 to run against William Henry Harrison, and he was decisively beaten.
Martin Van Buren retired to his home in Kinderhook, New York. He made two more attempts to regain the presidency, but was unsuccessful both times. He died in Kinderhook, New York, on July 24, 1862.
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