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Martin Van Buren was the eighth president of the United States. His shrewd dealings laid the foundations for the Democratic Party and the modern political machine.
Martin Van Buren was considered the first professional politician to hold the office and was known as the "ok" president.
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Martin Van Buren was born on December 5, 1782, in Kinderhook, New York. He studied law and held various political positions before serving as U.S. senator, as secretary of state and as vice president. He was elected the eighth president of the United States in 1836, but his policies were unpopular and he failed to win a second term. He died on July 24, 1862, in Kinderhook.
"As to the presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it."
Martin Van Buren was born on December 5, 1782, in Kinderhook, New York. His parents, Abraham and Maria, were of Dutch descent and modest means. His father was a farmer but also ran a tavern, which frequently served as a political meeting place and where young Martin was first exposed to politics. The boy attended local schools and the Kinderhook Academy until age 14, when his father, unable to afford to send Martin to college, managed to secure him an apprenticeship with a lawyer. He studied law in the subsequent years, and in 1803 was admitted to the bar. Van Buren began his own practice shortly thereafter.
In 1807, Van Buren married his cousin, Hannah Hoes, and the couple would eventually have four children, two of whom would later serve in their father’s Cabinet. Around this time, Van Buren also become more involved in politics, specifically with the so-called Bucktail faction of the Democratic- Republican Party, a group committed to the Jeffersonian concepts of limited government. In 1812, Van Buren was elected to the first of his two terms in the New York State Senate, and in 1815 he was appointed as New York’s attorney general. During this time, he proved himself to be an adept politician, using political appointments and financial contributions to secure votes, and effectively establishing what would prove to be the foundations of the modern political machine.
As Van Buren was finishing his second term in the New York Senate, Hannah died of tuberculosis, leaving him to look after their four children. Despite this personal tragedy, he continued to pursue his political aims and was elected to the United States Senate in 1821. Following the election of 1824, in which John Quincy Adams was elected president, Van Buren and other Democratic-Republicans, including Andrew Jackson, William Crawford and John Calhoun, sought to create a new political party based on the idea of a minimalist government. This group would later evolve into the Democratic Party.
In 1828, Van Buren gave up his Senate seat when he was elected governor of New York. However, he resigned that post only a few months later when Andrew Jackson, whom he had helped win the presidency, selected Van Buren as his secretary of state. Van Buren served Jackson faithfully during his first term, but then resigned as part of a strategy that would allow Jackson to reorganize his Cabinet as a means of ridding himself of John C. Calhoun, with whom Jackson had developed a contentious relationship. Following this reorganization, Jackson rewarded Van Buren’s loyalty and sacrifice by appointing him minister to Great Britain.
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