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party machinery and discipline, particularly the system of regular nominations, as established in the state of New York, and had been practised by the democratic party in previous nominations of president and vicepresident, by a caucus of members of Congress. The congressional caucus which nominated Mr. Crawford, in February, 1824, proved a signal failure, as it was attended by only about one fourth of the whole number of the members of Congress. In the state of New York, where the friends of Mr. Van Buren had defeated a law proposed to provide for the choice of presidential electors by the people, and retained the choice in the legislature, Mr. Crawford only obtained five of the thirty-six electoral votes of the state. The election of president devolved on the house of representatives, and Mr. Adams was elected on the first ballot, receiving the vote of New York, although the friends of Mr. Van Buren adhered to Mr. Crawford.
In the gubernatorial election in the state of New York, in 1824, the party which acted with Mr. Van Buren met with a decisive defeat, and De Witt Clinton was elected governor. The next year, however, the party recovered its power in the state; but Mr. Clinton was re-elected in 1826, and continued in office until his death, in February, 1828.
Mr. Van Buren took an active part in the opposition which was organized against the administration of Mr. Adams immediately after his election to the presidency. He opposed the mission to Panama, and most of the bills for internal improvement. His personal feelings were adverse to a high tariff of duties for protection, but as his constituents were generally in favor of protective duties, he voted for the tariff laws of 1824 and 1828.
In February, 1827, Mr. Van Buren was re-elected to the United States senate for another term of six years, by the legislature of New York. Circumstances, however, soon occurred to cause his resignation. He was zealous and active in sustaining General Jackson for the presidency in opposition to Mr. Adams, in 1828. Governor Clinton, who was also favorable to the election of Jackson, died suddenly, in February, 1828. This event induced the political friends of Mr. Van Buren to nominate him for governor of the state, to succeed Mr. Clinton, and he was elected to that office in November, 1828.
Having resigned his seat in the senate of the United States, Mr. Van Buren entered upon the duties of the office of governor, January 1, 1829. His message to the legislature was remarkable for the attention bestowed upon banks and the currency. On the 20th of January, in a brief message, he introduced to the legislature the celebrated safety-fund system. This plan originated with the Hon. Joshua Forman, and was by him laid before Mr. Van Buren. It was somewhat modified by the suggestion of the latter, and finally adopted by the legislature. The safety-fund system combined the moneyed interests of the state in a league of mutual depend
ence, but the experience of a few years proved its inadequacy to answer public expectation.
Mr. Van Buren remained but a short time in the chief magistracy of his native state. On the 12th of March, 1829, he resigned the office of governor, in consequence of his appointment as secretary of state of the United States. Of this appointment, General Jackson (who was said to have intended to have offered it to Governor Clinton, had he lived) said, in his letter to the democratic members of the legislature of New York, in February, 1832: "In calling him [Mr. Van Buren] to the department of state, from the exalted station he then occupied, I was not influenced more by his acknowledged talents and public services, than by the general wish of the republican party throughout the Union."
Of Mr. Van Buren's course as secretary of state we have already taken notice, in our account of General Jackson's administration. The causes of the dissolution of the cabinet have also been stated. In June, 1831, Mr. Van Buren retired from the office of secretary of state, and was immediately appointed by the president minister to Great Britain. He arrived in London in September, 1831, and was received with distinguished favor at the court of St. James.
Soon after the meeting of Congress, the president submitted the nomination of Mr. Van Buren to the senate. He was rejected by that body, in consequence of their disapproval of the instructions which he issued, while secretary of state, to Mr. M'Lane, our minister to England, in reference to the West India trade.
The democratic party condemned the rejection of Mr. Van Buren as an act of political persecution, and vindicated the propriety of his course. The democratic members of the legislature of New York addressed a letter to the president, expressing their indignation at what they deemed a proscriptive act of the senate, and their high respect for the public and private character of Mr. Van Buren. The president, in reply, assumed the entire responsibility of the instructions condemned by the senate; declared they were "the result of his own deliberate investigation and reflection, and still appeared to him to be entirely proper and consonant to his public duty."
On the 22d of May, 1832, Mr. Van Buren was nominated as a candidate for vice-president, by a national democratic convention assembled at Baltimore, and at the same time with the renomination of General Jackson for president. The result was the triumphant election of both to the respective offices to which they were nominated, Mr. Van Buren receiving the same number of electoral votes as General Jackson, with the exception of those of Pennsylvania, the democracy of which state refused to give him their vote; and it was given to William Wilkins, of that state.
Mr. Van Buren returned from England to triumph over his political opponents, by being elevated to the second office in the government. He
was inaugurated as vice-president on the 4th of March, 1833, and presided over the senate for four years, when in session; during which he had the good fortune to escape the censure of all parties. In 1833 he accompa nied General Jackson in his tour to the eastern states.
To secure the support of the democratic party as a candidate for the presidency, as successor to General Jackson, whose favor and good wishes he already possessed, Mr. Van Buren seems to have relied upon an avowal of hostility to a national bank, and on a national convention for the nomination of president and vice-president. Accordingly, we find him. giving as a sentiment, at a public entertainment, "Uncompromising hostility to the United States bank; the honor and interest of the country require it;" which toast was adopted as a motto, by the democratic party. We also find the most strenuous efforts made to reconcile Pennsylvania to a national nominating convention, which efforts were finally successful.
On the 20th of May, 1835, the Jackson democratic convention met at Baltimore, for the nomination of a candidate to succeed General Jackson as president, also a vice-president of the United States. About 600 delegates were in attendance; and as all were selected as friends of Mr. Van Buren, he received the unanimous vote of the convention, for president. Colonel Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky, was nominated for vice-president. These nominations, it was well understood, received the express approbation of General Jackson, and the influence of the administration was, of course, exercised in favor of the election of these candidates.
The result of the vote by the electoral colleges was 170 for Mr. Van Buren, including Michigan (3), which was informal, and 124 for all other candidates. There was no choice of vice-president by the people, in consequence of the state of Virginia refusing to vote for Colonel Johnson. He received 147 electoral votes, including Michigan, and there were 147 for all other candidates. Colonel Johnson was, thereupon, elected by the senate, agreeably to the constitution.
Mr. Van Buren was inaugurated as president, on the fourth of March, 1837. The history of the four years of his administration is given in another place in this volume, to which we refer for this part of his life. In May, 1840, he was nominated for re-election, by a convention of his political friends, but such was the unpopularity of his measures as chief magistrate of the nation, that the election of 1840 resulted in the total defeat of Mr. Van Buren and the party with which he was connected, and the triumphant success of the whig candidates, General Harrison and Mr. Tyler, to the presidency and vice-presidency. The electoral votes for Harrison were 234-for Van Buren 60.
General Harrison succeeded Mr. Van Buren, as president, on the 4th of March, 1841; soon after which the ex-president left Washington for his seat at Kinderhook, Columbia county, New York, near the Hudson river, to which retreat he gave the name of "Lindenwold." He attended on the
occasion of the funeral honors which were paid to General Harrison in the city of New York, in 1841.
Having acquired, during an active professional and political life, a large fortune, Mr. Van Buren retired to his estate before mentioned, to enjoy the possession of his wealth, and retaining the confidence of the large and powerful party of his countrymen which had sustained him. His friends, however, were not willing that he should rest under the political sentence which had been pronounced against him, as they deemed, under fortuitous circumstances. It was argued that, as an act of justice to him, he should be elected for another term to the presidency, to place him in history along side of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Jackson, who were considered as the four democratic presidents, each of whom had been honored with a second term in the presidential chair. The most strenuous efforts, therefore, were made to effect the nomination of Mr. Van Buren for the presidency, in 1844; and when the democratic national convention met to nominate a president, in May of that year, there was an apparent majority of his friends in that body. But a new element was introduced into the political canvass for the presidency, by the democratic party, namely, the annexation of Texas to the United States. To that measure Mr. Van Buren had expressed himself adverse, in some particulars, in a letter to a southern gentleman, which was published previous to the meeting of the convention. Some of his friends regretted that he had not inserted a clause in his letter which, looking to the certain extension of the limits of the republic, would have been satisfactory to the democrats of the south. After protracted ballottings, it was found that Mr. Van Buren could not obtain the vote of two thirds of the delegates to the convention, as required by their rules. His name was therefore withdrawn, and James K. Polk, of Tennessee, received the nomination for president.
In the nomination of Mr. Polk, Mr. Van Buren cordially acquiesced, and urged upon his political friends the propriety and importance of sustaining the same in good faith. By the efforts of the democrats of New York, the election of Mr. Polk was effected, the popular majority in that important state, which turned the scale in favor of the democratic candidates, being but about one per cent. on the whole number of votes.
We conclude this brief memoir of Mr. Van Buren with the following notice of his personal appearance and character, from his life, by Professor Holland, written, of course, with all the partiality of friendship:
"In personal appearance, Mr. Van Buren is about the middle size; his form is erect (and formerly slender, but now inclining to corpulence), and is said to be capable of great endurance. His hair and eyes are light, his features animated and expressive, especially the eye, which is indicative of quick apprehension and close observation; his forehead exhibits in its depth and expansion, the marks of great intellectual power. The physi ognomist would accord to him penetration, quickness of apprehension, and VOL. II.-26
benevolence of disposition. The phrenologist would add unusual reflective faculties, firmness, and caution.
"The private character of Mr. Van Buren is above all censure or suspicion. In the relations of father and son, of husband, brother, and friend, he has always displayed those excellencies of character and feeling which adorn human nature. Extending our view to the larger circle of his personal friends, rarely has any man won a stronger hold upon the confidence and affection of those with whom he has been connected. The purity of his motives, his integrity of character, and the steadiness of his attachments, have always retained for him the warm affection of many, even among the ranks of his political opponents.
"The ease and frankness of his manners, his felicitous powers of conversation, and the general amiableness of his feelings, render him the ornament of the social circle. Uniting in his character, firmness and forbearance; habitual self-respect and a delicate regard for the feelings of others; neither the perplexities of legal practice, nor the cares of public life, nor the annoyance of party strife, have ever been able to disturb the serenity of his temper, or to derange for a moment the equanimity of his deportment. He has with equal propriety mingled in the free intercourse of private life, and sustained the dignity of official station."