Martin Van Buren: The Eighth U.S. President
Martin Van Buren was the eighth president of the United States. He served from 1837 to 1841. His Vice President was Richard M. Johnson.
Martin Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, N.Y. on December 5, 1782. He was the first president not born a British subject. He became president in 1837 and served until 1841.
The Democratic party obeyed Jackson's orders and nominated Vice President Martin Van Buren as it's presidential candidate in 1836. Van Buren's opposition came from the whig party, formed by Jackson's political enemies in 1834.
Just two months after Martin Van Buren took office, the United States was hit by one of the worst depressions in the nation's history. The economic crisis that began during the summer of 1837 lasted nearly a decade. These hard times dominated Van Buren's presidency and eventually cost him re-election in 1840. Although Van Buren received much of the blame, the crisis was largely the fault of Andrew Jackson.
The panic of 1837 began when a number of banks in New York stopped converting paper money into gold and silver. Loans also became harder to get. As a result, speculators who were denied credit, stopped buying land, and land prices sharply fell.
Nearly one thousand banks around the country failed. When they did, work on the internal improvement projects, the banks had been financing also stopped, which put many people out of work.
At first, congress did little more than debate the country's problems. But, Van Buren had a plan. He wanted to set up an independent treasury, run by the government.
It was not until 1840, the last year of Van Buren's term, that Congress finally passed the Independent Treasury Act.
The 1840 election was dominated by the economic depression that followed the Panic of 1837. Many people blamed Van Buren and wanted a change. To oppose the president, the whigs put up General William Henry Harrison. The campaign was so exciting that an astounding eighty percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Van Buren kept the popular vote respectably close, but he lost the electoral vote by a wide margin, including his home state of New York.