Martin was an American politician who served a single term as the eighth President of the United States (1837–41). A member of the Democratic Party, he served in a number of senior roles, including eighth Vice President (1833–37) and tenth Secretary of State (1829–31), both under Andrew Jackson. Van Buren’s inability as president to deal with the deep economic depression following the Panic of 1837 and with the surging Whig Party led to his defeat in the 1840 election.
Of Dutch ancestry, Van Buren learned early to interact with people from multiple ethnic, income, and societal groups, which he used to his advantage as a political organizer. A meticulous dresser, he could mingle in upper class society as well as in saloon environments like the tavern his father ran. A delegate to a political convention at age 18, he quickly moved from local to state politics, gaining fame both as a political organizer and an accomplished lawyer. Elected to the Senate by the New York State Legislature in 1821, Van Buren supported William H. Crawford for president in the 1824 election, but by 1828 had come to support General Andrew Jackson. Van Buren was a major supporter and organizer for Jackson in the 1828 election, and ran for Governor of New York in the hope of using his personal popularity to boost Jackson’s campaign. Jackson and Van Buren were elected, and after serving as governor for two months, Van Buren resigned to become Jackson’s Secretary of State.