Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren


Attorney General of New York, 1815-1819

Martin Van Buren was born on December 5, 1782 in the village of Kinderhook, New York. He was educated at the local schoolhouse and later studied at the Kinderhook Academy and the Washington Seminary in Claverack. Van Buren began his legal studies in the law office of Francis Sylvester in Kinderhook and later studied with William P. Van Ness in New York City. He was admitted to the bar in 1803.

Returning to Kinderhook, Van Buren opened a very successful law office with his half-brother James Van Allen. He practiced law for 25 years, and became financially independent. His clients included the Hudson Valley tenant farmers known as the anti-rent agitators who contested landlords’ colonial-era claims to the land they farmed. Martin Van Buren was counsel to John V. N. Yates in the landmark case before the Court of Errors, Yates v. Lansing.

As a young lawyer, Van Buren became involved in New York politics. He was Surrogate of Columbia County between 1808 and 1813. He served in the New York Senate from 1813 to 1820 and thus was a member of the Court for the Correction of Errors, the highest court in New York until 1847. A supporter of the War of 1812, he sponsored the classification act for the enrollment of volunteers. He also supported the building of the Erie Canal. Van Buren held the office of New York Attorney General from 1815 to 1819, and was a delegate to the 1821 New York State Constitutional Convention, where he opposed the grant of universal suffrage.

In 1821, he was elected to the United States Senate, a seat he held until 1828, when he resigned to take office as Governor of New York. His governorship, which commenced January 1,1829, was short-lived — President Andrew Jackson appointed Van Buren United States Secretary of State on March 5th of that year.

Van Buren had been a staunch supporter of Jackson in 1827 and now became his most trusted advisor. Martin Van Buren was elected Vice-President on the Jacksonian ticket in 1832, and won the Presidency in 1836. He ran for re-election in 1840, but was defeated by William Henry Harrison. At the end of his term, he returned to his estate at Kinderbook and unsuccessfully ran again for President in the elections of 1844 and 1848.

Martin Van Buren died in Kinderhook on the 24th of July, 1862.



Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.


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