Knowing the Presidents: Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren

Eighth President, 1837-1841


Martin Van Buren entered the White House on the coattails of his illustrious predecessor, Andrew Jackson, making him the second vice president to succeed his immediate forerunner.


Three months into Martin Van Buren’s presidency, the Panic of 1837 engulfed the country in its worst depression to date. Van Buren was largely ineffective at stemming the economic collapse. He completely stopped any Federal aid to internal improvements.

Van Buren laid the groundwork for an independent treasury system to process government transactions.

Major Acts:

Martin Van Buren opposed the expansion of slavery to the point that he blocked the annexation of Texas because he feared it would become a pro-slavery state. He also feared that gaining Texas would mean a war with Mexico.

Van Buren enforced Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830. In a devastating move, the federal government forced the Cherokee Nation to relocate west of the Mississippi to present-day Oklahoma. Known as the Trail of Tears, a full quarter—approximately 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokee people—died.


Because he mishandled the financial Panic of 1837, Martin Van Buren left the White House as a discredited president.