Friday, March 04, 2005

The American President: Martin Van Buren

The American President: Martin Van Buren. Fact file and comprehensive biographical sketch from PBS. Also includes lesson plans.

From the site:

Martin Van Buren said that the two happiest days of his life were his entrance into the office of president and his surrender of the office. While his political opponents were glad to see him go – they nicknamed him “Martin Van Ruin” - many Americans were not. Even though he lost the 1840 presidential election, Van Buren received 40,000 more votes than he had in his 1836 victory. In subsequent years, historians have come to regard Van Buren as integral to the development of the American political system.

Van Buren was the first president not born a British subject, or even of British ancestry. The Van Burens were a large, struggling family of Dutch descent. Martin's father, Abraham Van Buren -- a supporter of Thomas Jefferson in a region populated by supporters of Jefferson’s opponents, the Federalists -- ran a tavern where politicians often gathered as they traveled between New York City and Albany. This environment gave young Martin a taste for politics. Though the Van Burens could not afford to send Martin to college, he managed to get a job as a clerk in a law office where he began studying law independently. After he became a lawyer, Van Buren joined the Democratic-Republicans and began his political career, as a minor county official.

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