Martin Van Buren was born to a family
of Dutch ancestry in Kinderhook, New York. He became a lawyer through
self-study and worked as a clerk in a law office. He was a passionate
Republican, and he became a dominant figure in New York politics. Though
a strong partisan, Van Buren was known for his amiability, snappy dress,
and his ability to maintain friendships with political foes. He was
elected to the U.S. Senate in 1821, distinguishing himself on the national
stage. Andrew Jackson selected him for secretary of state in 1829, and
Van Buren eventually became Jackson's vice president. He won the presidency
in his own right in 1836 with Jackson's blessing, but his administration
suffered under the economic depression that followed the Panic of 1837.
He was defeated in 1840 by the Whig William Henry Harrison.
For more information about politics in the 19th century, please look at Lincoln/Net's Getting the Message Out! National Political Campaign Materials, 1840-1860 Web site.