Our 8th President: 1837-1841
Just the Facts:
- Martin Van Buren coined the phrase “O.K.” – he was from Kinderhook, New York and his nickname was “Old Kinderhook.”
- English was his second language – he spoke Dutch at home.
- His nickname was “The Little Magician” because he was such as persuasive politician.
- The Sultan of Oman gave him a pair of tiger cubs, which he donated to the Washington Zoo.
Martin Van Buren grew up in a Dutch community in New York. He was the first present to be born an American citizen (all presidents before him were born as English subjects, before America gained independence). His parents owned a tavern, which was a popular meeting place for some of New York’s most prominent politicians. Meeting these men helped to launch his career in politics. He had a lot of government jobs before becoming president – governor of New York, secretary of state under Andrew Jackson, and vice-president for Andrew Jackson.
Martin Van Buren was president during the first major economic crisis in America – it was known as the Panic of 1837. He was blamed for the problem, even though he was president for less than 2 months when the stock market crashed. People lost their savings, lost their jobs and some didn’t have enough money to take care of their families. President Van Buren spent the rest of his term trying to turn things around. One of his ideas was for the government to have its own bank, rather than just relying on private banks.
While he was president, Texas won its independence from Mexico and applied for statehood. Van Buren didn’t admit Texas into the Union, because it would upset the balance between free and slave states. The “Trail of Tears” took place during his presidency, which was the mass relocation of Native Americans. He ran for re-election and lost.
Martin married his childhood sweetheart, Hannah. They had five kids (but only four survived – Abraham, John, Martin Jr, and Smith Thompson). Unfortunately, she died from tuberculosis when she was 35 years old. Martin never remarried. His daughter-in-law, Anna, acted as the First Lady. She had the first babies born in the White House – she had twins XXX. After Van Buren lost re-election, he remained very involved in politics. He even traveled across the country making speeches against slavery. He died at his estate in New York, called Lindenwald, in 1862.
“The people in our system, like the king in a monarchy, never dies.”
“The less government interferes with private pursuits, the better for general prosperity.”
Want to learn more?
Take a virtual tour of his estate, in Kinderhook, New York at: http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents/van_buren_lindenwald.html
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