Early 19th century politics was a whirlwind of boisterous characters and opposing interest groups where a new party system was taking shape. Van Buren artfully positioned himself in the eye of the storm, persistently advocating the principles of the Jeffersonian Republicans: states’ rights, strict constitutional construction, civil liberties. His efforts, along with those of like-minded politicians, brought about an alliance of the “planters of the South and the plain people of the North,” the Democratic party. During the administration of the new party’s first President, the enormously popular Andrew Jackson, Van Buren was Old Hickory’s top advisor.
As eighth President – the first born under the U.S. flag – Martin Van Buren continued the era of Jacksonian Democracy. He faced daunting challenges: The nation suffered a severe and lingering economic depression. The extension of slavery into new states – opposed by Van Buren – divided the nation and his party. Crises with Great Britain, Spain, and Texas required varying degrees of firmness, negotiation, and delay to avoid conflict.
Not until his defeat for the presidency in 1848 did Van Buren give up public life. The 1850 census listed his occupation as “farmer.” Once settled at Lindenwald, he resisted all attempts to lure him back into politics. In 1862 Martin Van Buren succumbed to his “old enemy,” bronchial asthma. He was buried in Kinderhook, where in life he had always known a beloved home.