8 Martin Van Buren

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8 Martin Van Buren

1cyderry
Editado: Mar 12, 2010, 12:22pm

The Presidency of Martin Van Buren
drneutron
Martin Van Buren and the Romantic Age of American Politics
gmillar
cyderry
Martin Van Buren and the American Political System
infopump
American Presidents: Martin Van Buren
vic33
Martin Van Buren
LittleTaiko
sjmccreary



1836 Election Van Buren (170 electoral votes) vs. WH Harrison(73)

Van Buren was the first president born after the Declaration of Independence was signed. He was the first president born as a citizen of the U.S.
The term "It's O.K." came from Van Buren, who grew up in Kinderhook, New York. After he went into politics, he became known by the nickname "Old Kinderhook." Soon people were saying "Is it OK?" reffering to Van Buren, and the word okay was derived.
Van Buren was the only incumbent President to run for re-election without a vice-presidential running-mate.
Van Buren was a third cousin twice removed to Theodore Roosevelt.
Van Buren made three unsuccessful bids for reelection.
His autobiography does not mention his wife once.
Van Buren took $100,000, the sum of his salary as president over four years, in a lump sum at the end of his term.
Of Dutch ancestry, Van Buren and his wife spoke Dutch at home.
Martin Van Buren's favorite foods were oysters, doughnuts, raisins, figs, and apples.
Van Buren owned two tiger cubs as pets.
Van Buren's favorite sport was riding horses.
He was named after his grandfather, Martin Van Buren.
When he was Vice President, he presided over the Senate with loaded pistols!

2A_musing
Editado: Dic 8, 2008, 9:16pm

One of my favorite Presidents, there's a good argument that he's the real father of the Democratic Party.

3cyderry
Dic 8, 2008, 8:33pm

Este mensaje fue borrado por su autor.

4A_musing
Dic 9, 2008, 9:16am

Has anyone read The Autobiography of Martin Van Buren? I see just one copy on LT, but it is supposed to be quite interesting.

His pre- and post-presidential life may both be more interesting than his presidential term, and have had a greater historical impact. Certainly, his organizational talent in NY had a huge impact on the development of the Democratic party and modern local party organization, he played a major role in calling the first real national party convention to select Jackson, and his championing of the anti-slavery cause post-Presidency did much to break up Jackson's coalition and lay the groundwork for Lincoln.

5tututhefirst
Dic 9, 2008, 11:11am

Amusing- this is why we wanted to do this challenge. These wonderful insights you have, and the tip about VB's autobiography are tidbits we might not have unearthed on our own. I am truly looking forward to this challenge.

Tina

6stellarexplorer
Dic 11, 2008, 12:14am

Might as well mention his two well-known nicknames: "The Little Magician" and "Red Fox of Kinderhook". Both spoke to his skill at maneuvering through difficult political terrain. He spent much of his boyhood in his father's tavern in Kinderhook, Ny, stopping-off point for many NY politicians traveling between NY City and Albany.

7cweller
Jun 14, 2009, 9:07pm

I just purchased the Easton Press biography of Van Buren by John Niven. Unfortunately there is not alot of biographies for him.

8drneutron
Editado: Ago 22, 2009, 9:04pm

I just finished up The Presidency of Martin Van Buren by Major L. Wilson, one of the American Presidency series. I wasn't impressed. Here's the review:

Van Buren isn't high on most lists of US Presidents. He's usually considered a politician in the worst sense of the word and his presidency less than successful. Wilson attempts to dispel that impression in The Presidency of Martin Van Buren. I say attempts because, honestly, the argument isn't convincing. The text is dense and overly academic. But worse, very little of the man shines through - this is mostly a discussion of policy without any sense of who Van Buren really was.

9gmillar
Sep 20, 2009, 12:07am

Some time ago I read Martin Van Buren: The Romantic Age of American Politics by John Niven.
Each night for the last week or so, I've been sitting looking at the book and trying to think of some strong impression that I might have got from it about Mr. Van Buren or the author. I still can't bring one to mind.
I have a feeling from it of a fairly nice man with a nice face and a nice nature. He seemed to be a fairly competent politician, a fairly good Secretary of State for Andrew Jackson and a fairly commited "Free Soiler". The 77 pages of Notes-to-Pages attached to the back of the biography would indicate a fairly thorough research of subject man and his times. But - I have no strong impressions.
The most interesting thing I could find on diving back into the book was that he was a perpetual candidate. He served a four year term, was defeated in the 1840 election, was defeated in another run for the Democratic Nomination in 1844 and ran again but received no electoral votes in 1848.
Here endeth my fairly brief review.

10cyderry
Nov 26, 2009, 10:47pm


Martin Van Buren and the Romantic Age of American Politics
Author: John Niven
Read: Nov 10 - 26
Source: Public Library
Category: History /Bios
Pages: 715


Martin Van Buren, eighth President of the United States, "may have been a conservative, an advocate of States Rights, an agrarian, a party regular, but he was overall a New Yorker, a Northerner, and a pragmatic politician." The Little Magician as he was called, ruled New York politics for the majority of his lifetime, manipulating the selection process of who would have what office, who would be supported and who would be denounced. Behind the scenes of numerous vital issues, MVB would work the state legislature negotiating the passage of legislation that had far-reaching effects.

On the national scene, Van Buren worked tirelessly in support of Andrew Jackson and served as his Secretary of State as well as Vice President. In these capacities, he traipsed through the quagmire of issues of the day - bank dissolution, abolition, Indian removal - frequently calming a volatile Jackson and preventing numerous catastrophes. Van Buren's Presidential candidacy was complicated not by the issues of the day, but the selection of a running mate.

Upon his election, he was confronted with the banking issues, a depression and costs of the Indian removal - all issues inherited from Jackson. Trying to use the concept of a subtreasury to combat the depression, VB was handicapped by a hostile congress.

Defeated when he ran for re-election, Martin VanBuren felt that the importation of voters by the Whig Party constituted election fraud. The following years he spent trying to rebuild the Democratic party which he had built in New York state. He was drafted in a later Presidential election to run for the Free Soil Party which advocated the end of slavery.

This book was overwhelming in the amount of details that were dispensed regarding the politics of the State of New York elections and national politics during the Presidencies of Jackson, Van Buren, Tyler, and Polk. Since this was titled to be a biography of Van Buren, I was disappointed with the amount of information about unrelated people and events regarding the political machine that MVB was credited to have created. It was also difficult to read because the print was smaller than normal so that 1 page was probably equivalent to 2 pages of a normal book, so 700 pages was really many more.

A description of Martin Van Buren which seems appropriate - " An American Statesman who with his faults, his weaknesses, his little vanities had made no little consequence on his state and his nation."

11LittleTaiko
Ene 3, 2010, 3:54pm

I would recommend Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer from The American Presidents series. He does a good job of hitting the highlights of Van Buren's political career. It helped that I had just read the Jackson biography in which Van Buren played a big role so I felt like I knew him a bit already.

Van Buren seemed to be the ultimate politician. I'm not sure if I'm happy about the push for such party loyalty but he was very devoted to his ideals and sincere in wanting to do the right thing. I was particularly surprised to find out how much his life intertwined with Lincoln's with Lincoln giving a very nice tribute when Van Buren passed away. Ultimately Van Buren didn't stand a chance - too many problems to try and fix during one presidency.

The author did a nice job of tying in Van Buren's presidency to modern times and with a bit of sense of humor too. You won't find references to Seinfeld or Yahoo in many other biographies.

12tututhefirst
Ene 3, 2010, 4:42pm

Thanks cheli for the review of the Niven book. I think, given Van Buren's relative importance in the scheme of things, I'll look for a more condenced tome when he comes up in the rotation.

13infopump
Editado: Ene 14, 2010, 8:01pm

I've already read Ted Widmer's book, so I've chosen another for the challenge.
Martin Van Buren and The American Political System by Donald B Cole - finished 1/14/2010

Here are some videos that I shot of Ted Widmer accompanying Martin Van Buren on guitar.
Martin Van Buren vs. Rudy Giuliani
Martin Van Buren Scandalized in Song
The True Martin Van Buren Song

14Vic33
Ene 26, 2010, 12:32pm

I just finished up Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer. I was expecting a lull in the presidential action until we get to Lincoln but Van Buren was a pretty interesting guy. Although only a so-so president, according to Widmer, he was the father of the Democratic Party.

It is interesting that in the last 2 biographies we have seen a big change in presidential campaigning and a shift way from the "intellectual" president.

15gmillar
Ene 27, 2010, 1:41pm

That's an interesting comment. I hadn't quite thought of it like that but I think you're right.
A bit silly of America really - the body politic had moved from "nation building" to "jostling for importance" - as agreement on the Declaration and the Constitution became disagreement on the way forward.
Intellectuals would perhaps have been very good at navigating through the shoals of disparate opinion, ever widening economic abilities, growing power of the rich business class, and the belligerence of land-grabbing.
Instead, the bellicose, unelectable politicos saw fit to install perceived ineffectuality at the top of their parties, and consequently the administrative branch, so that their own legislative powers could be wielded with some degree of safety from the voting public – names like Sumner, Wade, Weed, Webster, Clay and Calhoun.
It was quite a long time before we saw an intellectual, even approaching Jefferson and Madison, elected President. A couple of them scared some of their countrymen so much that they were assassinated. God protect Mr. Obama.

16sjmccreary
Mar 9, 2010, 4:47pm

I also just read Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer and agree with the comments in #14 about the changing mode of presidential campaigning. However, unlike #11, I did not see the relevance in bringing up so many of our recent presidents in this book. Widmer (former Bill Clinton speech writer) failed to make me see the relevance of Clinton, Reagan, both Bushes, Kennedy and LBJ as related to Van Buren, and I did not appreciate his blatant partisianship in praising only the democrats and blasting only the republicans. This alone undermined his reliability in my eyes and detracted from an otherwise perfectly acceptable book.

17auntmarge64
Editado: Abr 8, 2010, 12:41pm



Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer *** 3/22/10

This biography of Martin Van Buren, our 8th President, reminded me of Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, in which Shakespeare's Hamlet is seen through the eyes of two minor characters. In Stoppard's case, the result is very funny, although it helps to know the main story to start with. Here, Van Buren's story, which would seem to be the main topic, is seen only in glimpses sprinkled through a history of the times. For a President so little known to modern readers, the result is frustration.

I'm not sure this is the author's fault, given his subject. Most of Van Buren's career was dedicated to forging a new political party, accomplished by years of backroom (and therefore hidden, even to historians) political maneuvering, which often found him promoting a middle ground between opponents he was trying to woo. In many instances he was thought to have no strong views himself, and, unlike his predecessors, he left no reams of correspondence or voluminous diaries to give us a peak at his inner turmoil. (He did leave an autobiography written only late in life.)

Van Buren was the first of a lesser-known group to hold the Presidency between Jackson and Lincoln. It was a difficult time for the nation, as the addition of territory brought to a head the oft-sidetracked issue of slavery. Sectional divisions strengthened, and, like others, Van Buren foresaw the Civil War, but it was only in the late 1840s that he could bring himself to publicly criticize slavery and call for its end, after many years of letting the issue slide as he courted Southerners. Although his presidency was expected to be at least somewhat successful, the economic policies of previous years came to a head within weeks of his inauguration, and the Panic of 1837 was only the beginning of the downswing which led to Van Buren's defeat in 1840. Born near the end of the Revolution, he lived to see the beginning of the Civil War, having survived most of his political contemporaries.

Two quotes of note:
p. 69. To this day we still do not know how close young Andrew Jackson came to throwing his lot in with Burr's efforts to create an American empire outside the jurisdiction of the United States. (OK, that's not a thread I recall from the bio of Jackson I just read.)

p. 16. His failures showed how difficult it was to assemble a democratic coalition in the face of withering pressure from economic chaos, regional discord, and the conservative enemies who never gave him a moment's peace. (Doesn't that sound familiar?)

And I was surprised to read that Davy Crockett wrote a (very negative) biography of him leading up to the election of 1836. (RIP Fess Parker, who died this week.)

For all its brevity and lack of detail on a personal level, this entry in Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s The American Presidents Series is a very readable introduction. I would have liked more information on Van Buren's home life and children, and sometimes the author's style is off-putting, as when he refers to Van Buren by all the cute/sarcastic/nasty nicknames employed by his adversaries. But I found myself drawn in and interested till the end.

18TedV
Jul 21, 2010, 11:21am

I wasn't a fan of the Widmer book. It was very entertaining, but light on substance.

I have to disagree with drneutron on Wilson's work. The Kansas University series is supposed to be less about the men themsleves and more about their presidencies. That's why I read a bio to couple with those works. I think the portions about the fiscal issues could have been edited down, but Wilson's meticulous research shines through for a much better and more complete portrait than Widmer's work. This work is dispassionate and objective, and it truly shows how Van Buren was a victim of the events that surrounded his reign.

Cole's work shows how hard it is to capture the Van Buren's personality. He was a very private man, and he kept his cards close to the vest politically. After reading these three books, I can't say I'm a fan of MVB. He embodies all the things we dislike in modren politicians: he was unprincipled, sneaky, and overly cautious. Ironically, his one lapse in caution, his disavowal of the annexation of Texas, cost him the chance to be President again. His cowardly political actions on the Amistad affair definitely don't speak well, and it's hard to see him as anything other than a power hungry flip flopper in his decision to run as a Free Soiler.

19Hamburgerclan
Editado: Sep 11, 2010, 12:23pm

Martin Van Buren by Edwin P. Hoyt

Ooops. One thing I've discovered whilst reading presidential biographies is that the Seattle and King County public libraries have a nice collection of them for the kids. I've tried to avoid those juvenile biographies, but this time I messed up. It was categorized as an adult book, but as the dust cover phrases it, it is really a "biography for young people." Anyway, I read it, and it's not a bad little tome. Compared to the larger volumes I had been reading, this noticeably condensed and simplified. Mr. Hoyt tried to put a positive spin on Van Buren's career, but I found it rather lacking. Van Buren truly sounds like a politician in the negative sense of the word. Perhaps a more in depth biography might cause me to change my mind. We'll see. As for Mr. Hoyt's book, it didn't fill my expectations, but that's not his fault at all. I would say that this is still worth checking out, if you want a quick biography of our eighth president.

An Epoch and a Man by Denis Tilden Lynch

In order to get a grown-up biography of Martin Van Buren from the Seattle Public Library, I had to go back to this 1929 tome. I've been prejudiced against older bios--I guess I expect the mid-20th Century works to be overly critical and the earlier ones to be too whitewashed. This one certainly attempted to be favorable to President Van Buren, but overall was nice and complete. I suppose any biography--unless the author's out to attack its subject--is going to put a positive spin on things. Anyway, I still wasn't overly impressed with Van Buren, but this book did give a richer picture of his life and times. It's worth checking out if you're researching that sort of thing. It was also good to stretch the literary muscles and attempt to follow the language and references of the book. (I did okay, but definitely had to skip over a couple of unfamiliar words and names.)

20tloeffler
Ene 25, 2012, 10:00pm

I read American Presidents: Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer. It was the only Van Buren book in my library. Although it seemed like "Van Buren Lite," it gave me enough of a sense of the man to fulfill what I expected of this challenge. I think I would have been disappointed in a really long biography of him. For a president that I knew little about, I came away with a grudging respect for Van Buren. He may have been a manipulator, but most politicians are, and I do feel like he gave the presidency his best shot, in spite of the attendant difficulties.

21Bill_Masom
Ago 16, 2013, 9:06am

I just finished Martin Van Buren by Edward M Shepard, which is a free ebook I found on Amazon.com. The author is very sympathetic to his subject, but tried to be objective. It is the only free book I found on this subject.

22tututhefirst
Sep 23, 2013, 11:02am

I just saw the Shepard book at Kindle for .99 - guess I missed the freebie, but this looks like a good place to start to see if I want to go further. Our library has tons of children and juvenile bios, but is lacking anything at the adult level. Thanks for the lead on this one Bill.

23tututhefirst
Sep 23, 2013, 11:10am

AHA...it's free on Barnes and Noble for the NOOK!!!

24swimmergirl1
Ene 29, 2014, 10:49pm

Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer. Wasn't expecting him to be as interesting as this read was. You never remember him when thinking of presidents. His desire for the job and his perseverance in getting to and getting back to the presidency was to be lauded.

25LisaMorr
Jul 21, 2016, 10:59am

Just read Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer.

This short biography was well-written and told me a lot about Martin Van Buren's political career. I would've liked to learn more about his personal life and also how he managed to create the modern political party as we know it - unfortunately he got rid of his personal letters and did not write down the specifics on how he actually created the political machine that is his legacy. He did write an autobiography, but as was noted in the biography, it was short on these details as well.

26tututhefirst
Feb 20, 4:19pm

Have gotten way behind, but am determined to continue marching forward. I did finally finish a real paper and hard cover book: Martin Van Buren: the American President Series by Ted Widmer. Well written and gives a good overview of a president who is only slightly known. It was short on specific details and does not give a detailed daily step by step, but rather concentrates on the larger spread of his centric positions. It gave me enough of a feel to continue on my quest to read a bio of each president in order. I can see how he fits in the line, and can now go on to read the next.

This book is regarded by many libraries as YA. It is rather erudite in its vocabulary, and presumes the reader has a better than average grasp of history and politics. I found it a pleasant addition to my rather thin knowledge of that era.