Martin Van Buren and the American Political System

Donald B. Cole

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Born at the end of the Revolution and dying during the Civil War, Van Buren represented the second generation of American political leaders—those who lived between the generation of Washington and that of Lincoln.

  • about Martin Van Buren
    • p. 3 (Easton Press, 1997)

    When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1831, he found this new society so modern and so democratic that he become convinced—even fearful—that democracy would succeed everywhere, and he made Van Buren's generation immortal in Democracy in America.

  • about Alexis de Tocqueville, Martin Van Buren
    • p. 4 (Easton Press, 1997)

    [Martin Van Buren] spent half a century building, perfecting, and defending a new system of political parties at first the state and then the national level. In New York he reorganized the Republican party and set up the Albany Regency to keep the party in power. Then he moved on to Washington where he did more than anyone to construct the Democratic party, which dominated American politics down to the Civil War.

  • about Martin Van Buren
    • p. 4 (Easton Press, 1997)

    I: NEW YORK POLITICIAN 1782-1821

    1: A Republican in a Federalist World

    Van Buren grew up as the son of a tavern-keeper in Kinderhook, NY, a small Dutch town near the Hudson River just south of Albany. He was exposed to politics from a young age, and became deeply involved as a [Democratic/Jeffersonian] Republican in a Federalist district while working as a very successful lawyer (despite not having much formal schooling). His skill, personal charm, and early experience in politics enabled him to win election to the New York Senate in 1812.

    When Martin Van Buren, son of Abraham, was born in 1782, he was one of the sixth generation of Van Burens in America.

  • about Martin Van Buren
    • p. 9 (Easton Press, 1997)

    Martin Van Buren rose from a "small freeholder" family, like many others in Kinderhook and the rest of the United States, a family not unlike that of Clay, Benton, and Webster.

  • about Martin Van Buren, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Thomas Hart Benton
    • p. 10 (Easton Press, 1997)

    His father was both a political and a gentle man. A captain in the militia and a tavern keeper whose tavern served as a polling place, Abraham was a leading figure in the politics of Kinderhook.

  • about Abraham Van Buren, Martin Van Buren
    • p. 12 (Easton Press, 1997)

    2: Principles and Party

    3: The Albany Regency