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His professional life. — Elected to the state senate. — Opposed to Clinton.--Elected to the U. S. senate. York. There he became acquainted with many of the leading politicians of the day, among whom was Aaron Burr, then vice-president of the United States.
In November, 1803, Mr. Van Buren was admitted to practice in the supreme court of the United States, and in his native town he formed a law-partnership with his half-brother Mr. Van Alen. In 1806, he married Miss Hannah Hoes, who was distantly related to him. She died in 1818, leaving him four sons. Mr. Van Buren has never married again. In 1808, he was appointed surrogate of Columbia county, and from that time until 1815 he had a lucrative practice, and gained almost the apex of renown in his profession. In 1815, he was appointed attorney-general of the state, and he continued the practice of law until 1828, when he was elected governor of the state of New York.
Mr. Van Buren's political career has been a brilliant one. tered the field as early as 1804, when Aaron Burr and Morgan Lewis were the opposing democratic candidates for governor of the state. He supported Mr. Lewis. In 1807, he warmly supported Daniel D. Tompkins for the same office; and during the entire administration of Mr. Jefferson it received his support. He was opposed to the rechartering of the United States bank in 1811, and he warmly defended the course of the vice-president (George Clinton), who gave his casting vote against the measure.
In 1812 (then thirty years of age), he was elected to the state senate. Although favorable to all the strong measures (even to the declaration of war) adopted against Great Britain in 1812-'13, yet he gave his vote in the senate to De Witt Clinton for president of the United States.*
In 1816, he was appointed a regent of the university, and was also re-elected to the senate for four years, where he warmly advocated the Erie-canal project. He became personally and politically opposed to Mr. Clinton; and when, in 1818, that gentleman was elected governor, Mr. Van Buren opposed his administration, and was one of the leaders of that portion of the democratic party an alleged association of which at the seat of government was known by the name of the “ Albany Regency.” Mr. Clinton's friends having a majority in the “Council of Appointment,” Mr. Van Buren was removed from the office of attorneygeneral. It was afterward tendered to him, but he declined it.
In 1821, Mr. Van Buren was elected to the senate of the United States. He was also an active and leading member of the convention that met that year to revise the constitution of the state of New York. Appointed secretary of state. — Appointed minister to England. -Elected president of the United States. In 1827, he was re-elected to the United States senate for six years. In 1828, he was elected governor of his state. In a brief message in January, 1829, he proposed the celebrated “safety-fund” system for banking institutions. In 1829, General Jackson appointed him secretary of state, and he resigned the office of governor. In 1831, on the dissolution of Jackson's cabinet, Mr. Van Buren was appointed minister to Great Britain. The appointment was not confirmed by the senate, and he was recalled. His friends looked upon this as political persecution, and he was nominated for and elected vice-president of the United States in 1832. In 1836, he was elected president, and Colonel Richard M. Johnson was elected vice-president. Mr. Van Buren was inaugurated on the 4th of March, 1837. Like General Jackson, he selected his cabinet from among his political friends.*
* Mr. Clinton was nominated by that portion of the democratic party in New York who were opposed to the war. He was also very popular with the people at large ; and, in sup. porting him, Mr. Van Buren believed he was acting in accordance with the wishes of a ma. jority of his own party.
In consequence of the expansion of the paper currency by the almost limitless discounts of the newly-created banks, mad speculations at home and excessive importations from abroad were fostered, which finally reached a crisis, and in 1837 a revulsion took place, and a commercial panic spread over the whole country, producing wide-spread distress. The banks suspended specie payments (sanctioned in New York by a legislative act), and so deranged became the currency and the whole machinery of trade, that in September, 1837, the president convened an extraordinary Congress,t in compliance with the prayer of petitions from all parts of the Union. In his message, the president proposed what his opponents termed the “sub-treasury scheme.” This measure was opposed, not only by his political enemies, but by his democratic friends who were concerned in banks,& and it was at that time very unpopular. The subject of the sub-treasury was postponed. An act was passed authorizing the issue of ten millions of dollars in treasury-notes ; also an appropriation of $1,600,000 for the Florida or Seminole war.
At the opening of the session of Congress in December, the president again pressed the independent-treasury scheme; but the measure, though supported in the senate, was defeated in the house. It was adopted at the next session, and received the president's signature on the 4th of July, 1840. In 1838, the territory of Iowa was established; and Mr. Preston, of South Carolina, introduced a resolution in the senate in favor of the annexation of Texas to the United States. During the
He appointed John Forsyth, of Georgia, secretary of state ; Levi Woodbury, of New Hampshire, secretary of the treasury; Joel R. Poinsett, of South Carolina, secretary of war ; Mablon Dickerson. of New Jersey, secretary of the navy; Amos Kendall, of Kentucky, postmaster-general; and Benjamin F. Batler, of New York, attorney-general. With the excep. tion of Mr. Poinsett, these gentlemen were all members of Jackson's cabinet.
It remained in session forty-three days.
This portion of the democratic party separated from the administration, and were known as conservatives. They subsequently fell into the ranks of the old opposition, or, as it was (and still is) termed, “wbig party."
The Canada revolt. - Election of Harrison. - Van Buren's retirement.
years 1837-'8, the “Canada rebellion” broke out : and so strongly were the sympathies of the Americans aroused, that large numbers flocked to the standard of the insurgents. This threatened serious consequences to the peace existing between our government and that of Great Britain, and the president, by proclamation and other measures, successfully checked the belligerent movements of our people on the frontier.
During the summer of 1839, the president visited the state of New York for the first time since his inauguration, and was everywhere greeted with enthusiasm by his political friends, and with great personal respect by his opponents. The derangement of the currency and prostration of trade (attributed, as usual, to the mal-administration of the government) caused great political changes : and of the representatives in the twenty-sixth Congress, there were one hundred and nineteen democrats and one hundred and eighteen whigs, * leaving out of view five representatives from New Jersey whose seats were contested. After several stormy debates, the democratic members were admitted.
In 1840, Mr. Van Buren was a candidate for re-election, but the great political changes, from causes before hinted at, as indicated in the state elections, gave but little hope for his success. General Harrison, the candidate of the opposition, was elected by a large majority. John Tyler, of Virginia, was elected vice-president,
Mr. Van Buren's administration closed on the 3d of March, 1841. It was an exciting one, and its character can not now be properly estimated. It must be left to the just verdict of posterity to decide how far its measures have been conducive of good to the country. It has been remarked that the great event of his administration, by which it “ will hereafter be known and designated, is the divorce of bank and state is the fiscal affairs of the federal government, and the return, after half century of deviation, to the original design of the constitution." Since his retirement from office, Mr. Van Buren has resided upon
his beautiful estate at Kinderhook, where he enjoys, in a large degree, those essentials of human happiness, "health, wealth, and troops of friends." His private character is above all censure, and in public life no man ever had or deserved warmer or truer friends. Pure motives, stern integrity, felicitous powers of conversation, amiability of character, habitual selfrespect, yet a delicate regard for the feelings of others, and equanimity of deportment in both public and private life, he is an ornament of the social circle, and justly the pride of his country.
In personal appearance, Mr. Van Buren is about the middle size, erect, and rather inclined to corpulency. His hair (formerly light) is now white, his eye is bright and deeply penetrating, and his expansive forehead indicates great intellectual power. He is now (1847) sixty-five years of age. .
* The name of "wbig" was adopted by the opposition during the second administration of General Jackson, and is still the name of that party.