MvB old










December 5: Born in Kinderhook, New York, the third of five children of Maria Hoes Van Alen and Abraham Van Buren, five days after the preliminary articles of the Treaty of Paris are signed, making Van Buren the first U.S. president not born a British subject.


Leaves the local village school, possibly for financial reasons, becomes a law clerk in the law office of Federalist Francis Silvester.


Selected as a delegate to Democratic-Republican Congressional Caucus in Troy, New York, accompanying his cousin, John Peter Van Ness, a perennial candidate for Congress. Van Ness gets the nomination, largely thanks to Van Buren’s campaigning. He wins in the special election in the fall.


November: Enters as clerk in the New York City law office of William P. Van Ness, close associate of Vice President Aaron Burr. Van Ness later gains notoriety as the second in the fatal Burr-Hamilton duel of 1804.


November: Appears before the bar in New York City and is admitted immediately. Forms a partnership with his half brother James I. Van Alen in Kinderhook to practice law in the state of New York.


Spring: Breaks away from the Burrites and endorses Morgan Lewis for governor. Lewis is backed by the Clinton-Livingston wing of the Democratic-Republican party.


April: Elected to his first office, Kinderhook’s important “fence viewer,” adjudicated disputed property boundaries. James Van Alen elected to congress.


April: Supports Daniel D. Tompkins for governor, over the incumbent Morgan Lewis. Tompkins wins.


February 20: Appointed to his first public office, surrogate of Columbia County, shortly after Governor Tompkins took office. 

December: Moves to Hudson, the county seat of government.


April: In a close, heated race, is elected to the New York State Senate over Edward P. Livingston. 

November: At the New York Republican caucus, leads effort to secure New York’s vote for DeWitt Clinton over James Madison’s reelection. Clinton wins New York’s electoral vote but loses race to Madison. Van Buren later regrets these actions.


February: Cuts ties with DeWitt Clinton 

March 19: Removed from surrogate’s office by Federalist-controlled Council of Appointment..


February 17: Appointed attorney general of New York. Continues to serve as state senator.


April: Campaigns against DeWitt Clinton’s election as governor of New York. 

May: Votes for Erie Canal, after initial opposition.


February 5: His wife, Hannah Van Buren, dies of tuberculosis, at the age of 35. She’s buried in Kinderhook. Van Buren never remarries.

March: Removed as attorney general by Clinton.


February 6: Elected to the United States Senate by the New York state legislature. Van Buren would be Senator 1821-1829.

April – New York State elections. Polls decided that the idea of reforming the political structures of the state in a Constituent Convention should take place. Each county had to send delegates – Albany, where van Buren then lived, chose members of the opposing Federal party. It was the Otsego County which chose Martin van Buren as delegate to the Convention.

August - September. New York State Constituent Convention. The franchise was extended to all white male citizens of the state, irrespective of property; governor tenure was reduced to two years. Van Buren argued successfully for the extension of franchise.

December 21: Takes seat in Senate.


April–May: Travels throughout the south campaigning for Andrew Jackson.

August 3: Convention at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, opposes tariff increase. Van Buren does not attend.

September 26: Commits the Bucktails and the Regency to Jackson, confirming the North-South alliance. This could be considered the official beginning of the Democratic Party 

November: Re-elected New York’s Senator by large majorities in both houses of New York legislature.


January 31: A tariff bill with high duties on raw materials is introduced in the House by Bucktail lieutenant Silas Wright. Van Buren hopes the bill will shore up support for Jackson in the West and Middle states. Its critics memorably call it a “Tariff of Abominations.”

February 11: DeWitt Clinton dies suddenly of a heart attack, ridding Van Buren of his chief rival in New York.

July: Decides to run for governor of New York in order to strengthen Jackson’s campaign in his native state.

November: Elected governor. Jackson takes a majority of New York’s electoral votes, is elected nation’s seventh president.


January 1: Inaugurated as governor. Delivers an ambitious inaugural address calling for reforms in banking and campaign financing.

February 15: Accepts Andrew Jackson’s offer to serve in his cabinet as secretary of state, a position four of the past five presidents occupied.

March 12: Resigns as governor.

April 5: Takes up duties as secretary of state, becomes the cabinet’s leader and one of Jackson’s closest advisers.

May: Visits Margaret Eaton, wife of Secretary of War John Eaton, who was snubbed by other cabinet members for her supposed scandalous past. Jackson appreciates the gesture, and Van Buren secures his position in the administration.


May 23: Resigns as Secretary of State to give Jackson opportunity to remove entire Cabinet and replace with members loyal to him instead of to Calhoun.

June 23: Appointed Minister to Great Britain.

July 4: Negotiates treaty with France in which America is compensated for damages from Napoleonic wars.

August 16: Sails to London with his son John.


January 25: Rejected by Senate as minister to England, with Vice President Calhoun casting the deciding vote after a tie.

May 21–23: Democratic National Convention in Baltimore nominates Van Buren for vice president to run with Jackson. 

July 5: Arrives in New York after taking a long trip throughout Europe. 

July 10: Jackson vetoes the bill to recharter the Bank of the United States. Van Buren supports the president but with reservations 

November: Elected Jackson’s vice president. Thirty electors refuse to support Van Buren..


March 4: Inaugurated vice president. 

December 16: Presides over the Senate for the first time.


April: Led by Henry Clay, the Whig Party is formed 

April: Senate censures Jackson for removing Bank of United States deposits. Van Buren had warned Jackson that his opponents would attack him for this..


May 20–22: Nominated for President at second national convention of the Democratic Party held in Baltimore. Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky nominated for vice president. The Whigs would hold no nationwide convention and nominate four candidates.


March 2: Texas declared independence from Mexico during siege of Alamo. Van Buren opposes annexation.

June 23: Jackson signs Distribution Act, giving federal surplus revenue to the states.

July 11: Jackson issues Specie Circular, requiring gold and silver payments for public land.

November 8: Election Day, in most states.

December 7: Elected eighth president of the United States, capturing 50.83% of the popular vote. He receives 170 electoral votes, winning 15 out of 26 states. Coming in second was William Henry Harrison (seven states), followed by Senators Hugh L. White of Tennessee (two states), Daniel Webster of Massachusetts (one state) and Willie P. Mangum of North Carolina (one state). Even though the race was a bit closer than expected, Van Buren still got more votes than his four Whig opponents combined.


February: “Flour riots” in New York City, protesting high food prices, take place, signaling imminent depression. 

March 3: Jackson recognizes Texas independence. 

March 4: Inaugurated as eighth president of the United States. 

March 7: Appoints Joel Poinsett as his secretary of war. The rest of his cabinet was retained from the Jackson administration.

March 8: Appoints John McKinley to the U.S. Supreme Court, the first of his two Court selections. 

May 7: Delegation of fifty New York merchants demand that Van Buren rescind the Specie Circular.

May 10: New York banks suspend specie payments. The Panic of 1837 starts. More than 600 banks will fold in the following year.

May 15: Calls for special session of Congress in September to address economic crisis.

August 4: Texas applies for annexation.

August 25: Secretary of State John Forsyth refuses the annexation.

September 5: Proposes Independent Treasury in his message to Congress.

October 14: Independent treasury fails in the House after passing in the Senate.

October 21: Osceola, Seminole Chief, seized and later dies in prison.


March 21: Senate votes against Van Buren’s bill to “divorce” the Treasury from all state banks.

April 17: New York bankers announce they will resume specie payments in May.

May 26: The forced Cherokee removal begins, resulting in the deaths of approximately 4,000 Cherokee Indians. This is later called the “Trail of Tears.”

June 12: Signs act establishing Territory of Iowa.


June 28: Two Spanish slave dealers bribe officials in Havana so they can transport 52 kidnapped Africans to America to be sold into slavery.

July 2: Led by Sengbe Pieh, later known as Joseph Cinque, the Africans stage a successful mutiny and order the slave dealers to return them to Africa. But the slave dealers send the ship in the other direction.

August 24: The ship, Amistad, drifts into the Long Island Sound and is seized by an American survey ship. Looking to cash in on salvage money, the commander of the ship steers it to New London, Connecticut. 

September: Van Buren administration accepts the Spanish position that the ship and its passengers belong to the Spanish government. The matter soon heads into the courts.


January 23: Federal court ruled that Africans who staged the mutiny on the Amistad were kidnapped and should be transported back to Sierra Lione. Van Buren administration appeals the decision.

March 31: Issues executive order limiting to a ten-hour day the work of all laborers on federal projects without reduction in pay.

July 4: Signs Independent Treasury Act, establishing subtreasuries in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, New Orleans, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Fall: Runs for reelection against William Henry Harrison.

November: Loses reelection.

December 2: Presidential electors cast ballots. Harrison received 234 electoral votes. Van Buren received 60.


February 22: Citing international treaties, Gilpin presents administration’s case to the supreme court on the Amistad case. Former President John Quincy Adams represents Cinque and the Africans.

May 8: Returns to Kinderhook, buys house on Albany Post Road once owned by the Van Ness family. He names the house “Lindenwald.”

August 13: Whigs repeal the Independent Treasury Act.


February–May: Makes trip to the South, visits Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson and an unknown legislator from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln.

November: Democrats take over Congress.


April: Publicly denounces the spread of slavery and writes a long statement that becomes the Barnburner Manifesto.

May: Barnburner and Hunkers send separate delegations to Democratic Convention in New York.

August 9–10: Free Soil Party formed by a heterogeneous group of people including Barnburners, Liberty Party men, “Conscience” Whigs and free land advocates. Van Buren nominated for President, with Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts for Vice-President. The platform called for “free soil, free speech, free labor, and free men.”

November 7: Van Buren receives 291,263 votes, fails to win a single state. He did come in second in New York, possibly giving the election to the Whig, Zachary Taylor. After the election, Van Buren announces his retirement from politics.


April: Becomes the first ex-President to leave the United States when he goes on a European tour with his son Martin. He visits England, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and Italy. 

He is later received by Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Pope Pius IX.


June 21: Begins work on his autobiography while vacationing in Sorrento, Italy. He never finishes the book but it is published in 1920 and is widely read today by scholars.


March 19: Martin Van Buren Jr. dies in Paris of tuberculosis. Van Buren returns to Kinderhook.


Supports Lincoln and the Union cause in the Civil War.


Spring: Travels to New York City to see doctors for several illnesses.

July 24: Surrounded by his family, Van Buren dies several months shy of his 80th birthday. Cause of death is asthma. Buried in Kinderhook.



“Van Buren Timeline.” The Papers of Martin van Buren.



Cantos LII - LXXI

confucius adams 2