Martin Van Buren

Early Career

He was reared on his father's farm, was educated at local schools, and after reading law was admitted (1803) to the bar. He practiced law successfully and soon became active in politics. After he was (1808–13) surrogate of Columbia co., he served (1813–20) in the state senate and became prominent in the state Democratic party. While still a senator Van Buren was made state attorney general in 1815, but because of his mounting rivalry with De Witt Clinton, the governor of New York, he was removed from this post in 1819. Meanwhile he had helped to secure the election (1816) of Daniel D. Tompkins as Vice President.

Van Buren served (1821–28) in the U.S. Senate, where he firmly backed the tariffs of 1824 and 1828. His record there was inconsistent as to states' rights, slavery, and internal improvements; this wavering was later brought up against him by his political enemies. Van Buren was far more important as a political leader than as a legislator. He organized the closely knit political group known as the Albany Regency and was a leading supporter of William H. Crawford, who ran for President in 1824. After the election of John Quincy Adams, Van Buren gradually swung his power to the support of Andrew Jackson.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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