Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) was the eighth president and the first to take office who was born an American citizen. He was born on December 5, 1782 – just six years after the colonists declared independence from Britain. His parents were Dutch; his father was a farmer and tavern keeper in Kinderhook, New York.
As a young adult, Van Buren studied law. He opened his own practice in 1803. Four years later, he married his childhood sweetheart, Hannah Hoes. The couple had four sons, but Hannah died of tuberculosis in 1819.
Van Buren believed in the same type of politics as Thomas Jefferson. He favored states’ rights over a strong federal government. He began his political career by serving two terms from 1812 to 1820 in the New York State Senate. From there, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1821.
In 1824, John Quincy Adams became president and sparked a lot of controversy. Van Buren helped to form a group that supported Andrew Jackson during the election, and this new group became the Democratic Party.
Van Buren won the presidential election in 1836, but the nation suffered from the worst depression in its history. In 1844, Van Buren tried to get re-elected but was beaten by James K. Polk.
But Van Buren wasn’t done with politics yet. He helped form the Free Soil Party, a group that campaigned against slavery. In 1848, he ran for president as the Free Soil candidate. Van Buren only received 10% of the votes and lost to Zachary Taylor.
Van Buren retired to his Kinderhook estate. He continued to speak against slavery. He died in July 1862, just a year after the Civil War broke out.