(12.) MARTIN VAN BUREN (1782-1862)
“The Little Magician”
Democrat Van Buren/Richard Johnson
Defeated by Whig William Henry Harrison/John Tyler, 1840
Van Buren was admitted to the bar in 1803, but had his first taste of politics at 18. He gained prominence as a state senator in New York and with election to the U. S. Senate in 1821 he entered the national picture. He resigned to become Governor of New York.
Van Buren resigned as Governor to enter Jackson’s cabinet as Secretary of State. He secured Great Britain’s consent to open direct trade with the British Isles and then resigned to become Minister to Great Britain, but Calhoun blocked this confirmation in the Senate. He was elected Vice President under Jackson the same year and was his choice as a successor. Van Buren’s Independent Treasury Policy was his effort to offset the hard times caused by Jackson’s monetary policy. By his unrelenting opposition to slavery, his insistence on neutrality during the Canadian rebellion, and by his opposition to the annexation of Texas, he lost the election in 1840 and again in 1848 having been denied nomination in 1844.
Van Buren was active in the society of “Barn-burners,” opposing the extension of slavery. He was a Free Soil Candidate in 1848, later returning to the Democrat Party but opposing secession.