Martin Van Buren: The 8th Retrospective
“Whatcha got ain’t nothin new. This country’s hard on people, you can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” – Ellis, No Country for Old Men (2007)
Martin Van Buren was the true father of Andrew Jackson’s Democratic party, as well as Andrew Jackson’s handpicked heir in 1836. This endorsement gave him the election.
Panic of 1837
Van Buren inherited the financial ruins of Jackson’s Bank War immediately upon his inauguration. During the Panic of 1837, Van Buren had to respond to an enormous crisis of unemployment, bankruptcy, and economic depression that only gets worse.
Panic of 1839
After a brief recovery, the Panic of 1839 took hold mainly due to a glut in the cotton market. Cotton was the backbone of the American economy at the time, so when the price of cotton collapsed, the American economy went with it.
Texas and Slavery
Van Buren avoided the question of the annexation of Texas for fear it would inflame the brewing slavery issue. Failing to move on these issues were exacerbated by his lack of a plan for the ailing economy. We went into a deep depression in 1840.
A combination of economic and political factors made it pretty clear that Martin Van Buren would be a one term president. The new Whig Party could have run anybody and won. If they knew that, they probably would have run Henry Clay. Instead they chose William Henry Harrison because he resembled the ever popular Andrew Jackson in that he was a frontier general. Unlike Van Buren and Jackson, Harrison supported rechartering the of Bank of the United States.
Election of 1840
The election of 1840 was the first campaign to feature open public rallies, songs, and slogans. Van Buren was called “Martin Van Ruin” by Harrison supporters while their cry was “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” as the Battle of Tippecanoe was where Harrison gained his war time acclaim, and John Tyler was Harrison’s running mate. American expansion west (with log cabin imagery) was the symbol of the election of 1840. For his part, Harrison was accused of being too old, a pseudo-Jackson, and a phony general. None of this mattered as ultimately the disastrous economy decided the election.
Martin Van Buren
Van Buren was the ultimate political protegé and machine politician. A back room organizer, he was better as a builder of a party but not for executive office. This is one of the earliest public outcries about the president’s inability to manage the economy. This is ironic because the economic distress was caused by Van Buren’s predecessor. Sound familiar?
We are about 50 years deep into the country. By now it should be evident that what people are bitching about in the present day, people bitched about from the very beginning. Van Buren was incapable of making tough decisions. He always straddled the fence as a builder and architect of a political party.
William Henry Harrison would follow Martin Van Buren
Andrew Jackson preceded Martin Van Buren
It all started with George Washington.