President Martin van Buren's Pearls

Origin of Name :-

The Van Buren pearls consisting of two drop-shaped oriental pendant pearls each weighing about 30 grains and a necklace made up of 148 oriental pearls, with a total weight of 700 grains, get their name from the 8th president of the United States, Martin van Buren, ,whose term of office extended from 1837 to 1841.

The pearls in the form of a loose collection of oriental pearls from the Persian Gulf, contained in a gift box, was actually part of an impressive array of exquisite gifts given to President Martin van Buren in 1840, by the Sultan of Muscat, Sayyed Sa'id bin Sultan, following the signing of the 1833 Treaty of Friendship and Commerce, between the United States and the Sultanate of Oman. This was a period when colonization of Asia, Africa and Latin America by western powers was at its peak, and the British Empire was holding sway over large areas spread out across the world, popularly referred to as the "Empire where the sun never sets." However, in the case of the Sultanate of Oman, save for a 140-year period, from 1508 t0 1648, when the country was colonized by the Portuguese, with the help of their fire power, the country had fiercely remained independent, and had the strength and the resources, including the maritime power, to colonize parts of east Africa, such as Zanzibar, Mozambique and Mombassa, ousting the Portuguese in the process, and creating the Omani Empire. In fact Sayyed Sa'id bin Sultan made Zanzibar, the capital of his empire in 1837, where he built impressive palaces and gardens. Thus the signing of a treaty of Friendship and Commerce with the United States in 1833, was a very intelligent diplomatic move by Sayyed Sa'id bin Sultan, in the context of the volatile power play of colonial politics in the Indian Ocean region at that time. Incidentally, this treaty was one of the first treaties signed by the United States, with a country in the Middle East, since the declaration of independence from the kingdom of Great Britain, on July 4, 1776.

Characteristics of the Van Buren pearls

The number and weight of the pearls

Apart from the number of pearls and their weight as given by Kunz, the foremost authority on Pearls in the early 20th-century, in his book "The Book Of The Pearl," on page 464, under the chapter "Famous Pearl Collections," all other characteristics of the pearl, such as the size, shape, color, luster, orient, surface quality etc. are not known. According to Kunz, the Van Buren pearl collection in the United States National Museum (Smithsonian Museum), consisted of two pendant pearls each weighing about 30 grains, and a necklace containing 148 pearls with an aggregate weight of 700 grains. The pearls were actually presented as a collection of loose pearls in a gift box, by the Sultan of Oman, and later fashioned into a necklace and pendants, probably in New York, and worn by the President's daughter-in-law Angelica van Buren, who acted as the first lady or the presidential hostess in the White House, as President van Buren was a widower, whose wife died in 1819 of consumption, and did not get married thereafter.

The approximate size of the pearls

Given that 148 pearls in the necklace had a total weight of 700 grains, the average weight of each pearl in the necklace is approximately 4.7 grains. For cultured Akoya pearls based on data provided by Shima Pearl Co. a weight of 4.7 grains is approximately equal to a diameter of 5.0 to 5.5 mm. For natural pearls which do not carry a mother-of-pearl nucleus within, the size will be slightly higher than this. Thus, we can safely assume that the Van Buren pearls are medium sized pearls with a diameter of approximately 5.0 to 6.0 mm.

The pearls can be characterized as oriental pearls

Since the pearls were a gift from the Sultan of Oman, a country situated at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, we can safely assume that the pearls originated in the pearl banks of the Persian Gulf. Thus the pearls can be characterized as "oriental pearls" a term traditionally used for pearls originating in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Mannar, the hub of the international pearl  trade since ancient times.

Van Buren pearls originated in the pearl oyster Pinctada radiata

Thus the Van Buren pearls undoubtedly originated in the pearl oyster species Pinctada radiata, the predominant species of pearl oyster found in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Mannar. Pinctada radiata which grows to a maximum size of about 7 to 8 cm, has a pale yellow shell with several brown radial bands, and a pinkish or reddish lip. The oyster has maximum life span of about 7 to 8 years. The color of the nacre is usually white, but other colors such as cream, yellow, pink, brown, violet etc. also sometimes occur. Accordingly the pearls produced by Pinctada radiata are usually white, but other colors such as cream. yellow, pink etc. are also rarely produced.

The Van Buren pearls are white, spherical or near-spherical pearls ?

White color has been the most favored and sought after color in saltwater pearls, since ancient times and usually fetched a much higher price than other colors. Like wise the round or spherical and near-spherical shape, were the most favored shapes for pearls. The Van Buren pearls being a gift from the ruler of an empire, the Omani Empire, to the President of the United States of America, undoubtedly has to be of the highest quality and value, fit enough to be given as a gift to the President of a country. Thus the pearls had to be nothing but the best in terms of quality and value. Hence, it may not be far from the truth if one describes the Van Buren pearls as white, spherical or near-spherical pearls. The same could be said of the other characteristics of the pearls, such as the luster, orient, and surface quality of the pearls.

History of the Van Buren Pearls

Reasons that led to the signing of the friendship treaty between the United States and the Sultanate of Oman

The political circumstances that led to the signing of the "Treaty of Amity and Commerce" between the United States and the Sultanate of Oman in 1833, was considered earlier. Perhaps other reasons that might have led the United States to sign this treaty were :- 1) Having come out of the yoke of British imperialism in 1776, only around 50-60 years ago, the U.S. was genuinely interested in preventing independent nations like Oman, being trapped under the same yoke. 2) A genuine desire on the part of the United States to make friends with independent nations, and thereby expand their sphere of influence. The Sultanate of Oman was perhaps the first country in Asia and the Middle East, with which the United States signed a friendship treaty.

Sayyed Sa'id bin Sultan, Imam and Sultan of Oman, Muscat and Zanzibar

Sayyed Sa'id bin Sultan, Imam and Sultan of Oman, Muscat and Zanzibar

The Sultan of Oman sends a ship laden with valuable gifts to President Martin van Buren in 1840

After the signing of the friendship treaty in 1833, the Sultan of Oman, who now had his palace and headquarters in Zanzibar, the new capital of his empire, decided to sent one of his ships laden with valuable gifts, to President Van Buren, the incumbent president of the United States, in 1840, in order to further consolidate the friendship between the two countries. An Omani vessel called "Sultanah" carrying an impressive collection of exquisite gifts for President Martin Van Buren from the Sultan of Oman, Sayyed Sa'id bin Sultan, accompanied by the Sultan's special envoy Ahmad bin Na'aman, set sail from Zanzibar to New York in 1840. After a journey of several weeks round the Cape and across the Atlantic, the ship sailed into the New York harbor. Among the gift items carried by the ship,  included Arabian horses, a box of oriental pearls, ivory, skins of wild animals, gold-mounted sword, Arabian dates, attar (perfume) of roses, five demijohns of rosewater, a package of Cashmere shawls, a bale of Persian rugs etc.

The gifts were accepted by President Martin van Buren in his official capacity as the President of the United States

The gifts caused great excitement among the New Yorkers who saw them, and sparked a protracted debate in the Congress about whether they could be accepted by the President. Eventually, the gifts were accepted by President Van Buren in his official capacity as the President of the United States of America, and not in his personal capacity. The Arabian stud horses were sold at a public auction, and the money credited to the treasury. Other gifts that could be preserved were sent to the vaults of the U.S. treasury, as at that time the Smithsonian National Museums were not yet founded. The Smithsonian Institution was established on August 10, 1846, during the presidency of James K. Polk, and the gifts subsequently entered the museums of the institution where they reside today.

The Van Buren pearls were fashioned into a necklace and a pair of pearl pendants for the first lady Angelica van Buren

It appears that a New York jeweler was commissioned to string the pearls together to form a suitable necklace and a pair of pendant pearls, for the first lady Angelica van Buren, the President's daughter-in-law, but the pearls still remained the property of the United States Government. It is not known whether the three-strand pearl necklace with a single pendant pearl hanging from it, and another pearl pendant hanging from a head band and lying at the center of the forehead, as seen in the portrait of the first lady Angelica van Buren, hanging in the Red Room of the White House, were actually the Van Buren pearl necklace and pendant pearls, the subject of this webpage. Readers who may have information on this are requested to share the benefit of such information, by posting a comment in our forums at forums.internetstones.com. In the portrait, Angelica van Buren stands against a bust of President Martin van Buren in the background.

First Lady Angelica Van Buren- Is she wearing the Van Buren Pearl Necklace and pendant pearls?

First Lady Angelica Van Buren- Is she wearing the Van Buren Pearl Necklace and pendant pearls?

Angelica van Buren returns the pearl necklace and the pair of pearl pendants to the U.S. Treasury Department, from where they were transferred to the National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution

When President Martin van Buren left the White House in 1941, following his defeat at the presidential elections of 1840, by William Henry Harrison, Angelica van Buren returned the pearl necklace and the pair of pearl pendants to the vaults of the treasury department, where they remained, until they were transferred to the custody of the National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, at the turn of the 20th-century.

Today the Van Buren pearl necklace and pendants are part of the historic First Lady's collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Today, the Van Buren pearl necklace and the pair of pearl pendants are part of the most popular and fascinating permanent exhibit, The First Ladies Collection, which is located on the second floor of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The collection contains apart from first lady's inaugural gowns, other materials and objects once owned by the first ladies of the United States, such as jewelry, chinaware, White House furnishings, photographs and portraits, and campaign and personal memorabilia. The collection was started in 1912. Thus, the Van Buren pearl necklace and pendants must have entered this collection, after being re-located from elsewhere in the museum. Even though the Van Buren pearl necklace and pendants are part of the the First Ladies Collection, it does not mean that they will be on permanent display with the other items in the collection. Out of the thousands of items in the collection, only a select few representing a cross section of the collection are put out on display for short periods of time, on a rotational basis.

The History of the First Ladies Collection

The collection was started in 1912, when Helen Taft wife of President William Howard Taft donated her 1909 inaugural gown

The Smithsonian First Ladies Collection began in 1912, when Helen Taft, the wife of the 27th President of the United States, William Howard Taft (1909-1913) donated her white-silk chiffon inaugural gown from her husband's 1909 inauguration, to the Smithsonian Institution. The gown was appliquéd with floral embroideries in metallic thread and trimmed with rhinestones and beads. This was the first ever inaugural gown to be presented by a first lady to the National Museum. The authorities of the museum understood the historical significance of this unique gesture by a first lady, and immediately set about laying the foundation for  building up of a First Ladies Collection, incorporating the inaugural gowns, and other personal effects of the first ladies while in office.

First ladies of all presidential administrations are represented either by the inaugural gown or by some other article of clothing

The Smithsonian Institution had requested the first ladies to donate something to represent them in the collection, but it had become the tradition of most of the first ladies to follow the worthy example set by Helen Taft in 1912. However not all the gowns in the collection are inaugural ball gowns. Sometimes other articles of clothing that belonged to the first ladies have been included. Almost all presidential administrations are represented in the collection, if not by the inaugural gown, by some other article of clothing used by the first lady. Not all first ladies were wives of presidents. There have been instances where the president's wife had died or had been unable to serve as first lady, in which case, he usually chose a family member to act as his hostess. First Lady Angelica van Buren, the daughter-in-law of President Martin van Buren  is an example, when she served as hostess in the White House, as her father-in-law was a widower. The oldest gown in the collection, is not an inaugural gown and belonged to Martha Washington, wife of the first president of the United States, George Washington (1789-97). The oldest inaugural gown in the collection belonged to the niece of President Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), Emily Donelson, who acted as hostess in the White House and wore the gown for his 1829 inaugural ball. Thus it appears that most of the articles of clothing prior to the inception of the collection in 1912, were not inaugural gowns, but some other article of clothing worn by the first ladies. One can no doubt appreciate the difficulties that would have been encountered in collecting gowns and personal effects of first ladies of the previous 123 years, before the collection was inaugurated in 1912.

Only a select few of the items in the collection, representing a cross section are displayed in rotation for a given period of time

The First Ladies Collection is now nearly a century old, and has accumulated a vast array of personal effects that was once owned and used by the first ladies of the United States, ranging from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama, that include inaugural gowns, evening gowns and other articles of clothing, jewelry, shoes and other personal effects, Chinaware used in the White House, furnishings, photographs and portraits, and campaign and personal memorabilia. However all the items in the collection are not on display. Most of the items are in storage under optimal conditions in order to preserve them for posterity. Displaying items such as gowns for long periods can be harmful, due to the effects of light, gravity and climate, and some gowns have been badly damaged as a result. Thus only a select few of the items are put out on display for short periods of time, on an on-off rotatory basis, in order maintain the items in good condition.

National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History- Washington D.C.

Photo Above- Creative Commons

The upgraded display known as "First Ladies at the Smithsonian" was reopened on December 19, 2008

The first time the First Ladies Collection was put out on display was in 1914, when the collection was exhibited at the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building. In the period 1992 to 2006, the display of the First Ladies Collection was christened "First Ladies : Political Role and Public Image." The exhibition was then closed for a two-year period of renovation of the museum, and the upgraded exhibition with new artifacts and several restored, never before seen inaugural gowns, and a new title, "First Ladies at the Smithsonian" was reopened on December 19, 2008. The permanent exhibit is contained in single gallery located on the second floor of the National Museum of American History, on Washington D.C.'s  National Mall.

The exhibition is reorganized under three sections - The first section is known as "The evolution of the First Ladies Collection

The re-organized exhibition is divided into three main sections : 1) The evolution of the First Ladies Collection, 2) The tradition of the inaugural gown and 3) A first lady's contribution to the presidency and American society. The first section, "The evolution of the First Ladies Collection," traces the evolution of the collection from the establishment in 1912 of the "Collection of Period Costumes" the first collection focused on women, that subsequently became the foundation of the First Ladies Collection; the display of the collection starting in 1914 at the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building; the display becoming one of the most popular permanent exhibits of the National Museum of American History, portrayed under different names, and exhibited under the title "First Ladies : Political Role and Public Image" from 1992 to 2006. A 50 feet long display case containing gowns and personal effects will introduce visitors to a broad cross section of the collection.

The second section - The tradition of the inaugural gown

The second section, known as "The tradition of the inaugural gown" traces the origin of the collection of inaugural gowns by the Smithsonian, starting from the 1912 presentation of Helen Taft's 1909 white-silk chiffon inaugural gown, exhibited in a special display case. 13 other dresses representing a cross section of first ladies from Martha Washington to Laura Bush are also exhibited in this section, inside a 50 feet long display case  and includes a flapper style evening dress that belonged to Grace Coolidge (1923-29), pink-rayon crepe gown worn by Eleanor Roosevelt for the 1945 inaugural reception, and a yellow-silk gown worn by Jackie Kennedy to the Kennedy administration's first state dinner in 1961. Apart from dresses other personal effects such as shoes, hats, handbags, purses, feather-fans etc. are also displayed. One of the most interesting category of artifacts displayed is the White House chinaware, consisting of several services designed by some first ladies to commemorate various American themes and anniversaries.

The third section - A first lady's contribution to the presidency and American society

The third section, examines a first lady's contribution to the presidency and American society. This sectio,n highlights some of the contributions made by first ladies, as campaigners, hostesses, public policy advocates, and the public faces for the presidential administrations. Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the most prominent examples of the first ladies' evolution from White House hostess to advocate for social justice at home and abroad. Since then most of the first ladies had devoted themselves to public causes and the elimination of social ills, such as Jacqueline Kennedy for the Arts, Betty Ford for mental health, Nancy Reagan for preventing drug abuse, Hilary Clinton for women's rights, and Laura Bush for literacy.

Exhibited across the four walls of the Gallery are portraits of all the first ladies, beginning with Martha Washington and Abigail Adams, and ending with first ladies of the modern era, Hilary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, with the period served as first lady and the relationship to the president indicated below each portrait.

Martin Van Buren - A short biography

His birth and early education

Martin Van Buren was born in 1782 in Kinderhook, New York, to Abraham Van Buren, a farmer and tavern-keeper and Maria Hoes, both of Dutch ancestry originating from early Dutch settlers who settled along the Hudson River in the early 17th-century. Maria Hoes was previously married and widowed with three children, at the time she married Abraham Van Buren in 1776. He had his early education in a single-roomed village school in Kinderhook, and later studied Latin at the Kinderhook Academy. Young Martin had excelled in composition and speaking while at school.

He begins his legal studies at the age of 14, and is admitted to the bar at 21 years of age

Abraham Van Buren had noted his child's aptitude for learning at a very young age, and as soon as he finished schooling at the village, in 1796 at the age of 14, apprenticed him to a lawyer from Kinderhook by the name of Francis Sylvester, a prominent Federalist attorney. As it was the practice those days, when college education had not yet fully developed, seven years of study in a law office under a practicing lawyer was required before one could be admitted to the bar. The young boy had shown extraordinary promise in his legal studies which he pursued with much vigor and interest. Having successfully completed the first six years of his training under Francis Sylvester, Martin was re-assigned for a final year of apprenticeship in the New York City office of attorney William P. Van Ness, which too he completed successfully, and was admitted to the bar in 1803, at the age of 21 years.

His successful legal career spanned a period of 25 years

He first began his legal practice in his native village of  Kinderhook  in 1803, where he practiced for nearly 6 years. The success and fame he achieved at Kinderhook as a lawyer, led him to shift his practice to Hudson, the seat of his county, where he continued to practice his profession with vigor for the next 7 years, emerging as a leading lawyer in the Hudson courts, contending with some of the eminent lawyers who had appeared before these courts. He pursued his legal career for 25 years with much enthusiasm and vigor and turned out to be one of the most successful lawyers of his period.

His marriage and children

On February 21, 1907, Martin Van Buren married his distant cousin Hannah Hoes, his childhood sweetheart, in Catskill, New York. Like him she too was raised in the Dutch tradition, in a Dutch home. The marriage that lasted 12 years produced 5 children, out of whom four, all boys, survived into adulthood. Unfortunately, after the birth of her last son Smith Thompson  in 1817, she contracted tuberculosis and died in 1819 at the age of 35 years. She was buried in the Dutch Reformed Church cemetery beside her fourth child who died in infancy. The death of his childhood sweetheart at a relatively young age was a severe blow to Martin Van Buren, who remained unmarried for the rest of his life. It was also a severe blow to the children - the eldest who was 12 and the youngest only 2 years old - who felt the loss of their mother very deeply.

Hannah Van Buren- Wife of Martin Van Buren

Hannah Van Buren- Wife of Martin Van Buren

His early political career

Martin Van Buren was exposed to political thoughts and views at a very young age in his life time while eavesdropping to live political meetings, discussions and debates, taking place in his father's tavern, the favorite meeting place of Republican politicians, that also entertained guests such as Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. His early legal training and subsequent carrier was a stepping stone to both state and later national politics. In fact developments in his legal career as well as his political career had been taking place side by side during his lifetime. His first political activity was at the age of 17, while he was still a legal apprentice, when he attended a party convention in Troy, New York, while working to secure the Congressional nomination for John Van Ness. With the success achieved in his legal practice, and with sufficient funds at his disposal, especially after his relocation to Hudson in 1809, he increased his focus in politics, and supported Aaron Burr, and allied himself with the Clintonian faction of the Democratic Republican Party. In 1812, he was elected to the New York State Senate, and supported the war of 1812. He was also appointed as member of the State Constitutional Convention, where he opposed the grant of universal suffrage. According to his contention, while the privilege of voting should be open to every man without any distinction, no one should be invested with that sacred prerogative, unless he were in some degree qualified for it by intelligence, virtue and some property interests in the welfare of the state. The role he played in the convention received the approval of men of all parties. He served two terms in the New York Senate from 1812 to 1820, and in 1815 was appointed the State Attorney General.

Portrait of Martin Van Buren- 8th President of the United States

Portrait of Martin Van Buren- 8th President of the United States

His entry into national politics. His election to the United States Senate.

In 1821, he was elected a member of the United States Senate from the New York constituency. In the Senate he rose to a conspicuous position as an active and useful legislator. He then created the "Albany Regency" an effective New York political organization, and as its leader shrewdly dispensed public offices and bounty in a fashion calculated to bring votes. Granting of political patronage for party supporters, known as the "spoils system" was not originated by Van Buren, but he was given the nickname "little magician" for the skill with which he exploited it. The "Albany Regency" dominated much of the politics of New York for more than a generation, and powerfully influenced the politics of the nation.

Van Buren was the prime mover who helped to establish the Democratic Party

Van Buren as a member of the Jeffersonian faction of the Republican party, supported the doctrine of states' rights, opposing a strong federal government and disapproving of federally sponsored internal improvements. In the 1824 presidential elections there were four candidates in the fray, Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and House Speaker Henry Clay. Van Buren supported William H. Crawford in the 1824 presidential elections, also a Jeffersonian Republican. Andrew Jackson received the most popular votes. The Electoral votes were split four ways, and since no candidate received a majority, the election was decided by the House of Representatives, which chose John Quincy Adams as the President. After John Quincy Adams, previously an independent Federalist, was elected president by the House of Representatives, Van Buren brought together a diverse coalition of Jeffersonian Republicans, that included followers of William H. Crawford, Andrew Jackson and John Calhoun and founded a new political party, that was soon named the Democratic Party. Thus Van Buren is regarded as the prime mover who helped to establish the Democratic Party.

Van Buren's re-election to the Senate in 1827. He becomes a campaign manager for Andrew Jackson's presidential campaign

In February 1827, Van Buren was re-elected to the Senate by a large majority, and had emerged as the principal northern leader in support of  Andrew Jackson's presidential aspirations. He was one of the managers of the Jackson presidential campaign, and his tour of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia in the spring of 1827, won support for Jackson from Crawford. Thus, Martin Van Buren was able to re-organize and unite the old Republican Party behind Jackson.

Van Buren elected as Governor of New York, but resigns after a short time to take up appointment as Secretary of State in President Andrew  Jackson's cabinet

Andrew Jackson easily defeated incumbent president John Quincy Adams at the 1828 presidential elections, thanks to organizing capabilities of Van Buren, who introduced for the first time a grassroots style of political campaigning. Van Buren also resigned his Senate seat and ran for Governor of New York in 1828 and was easily elected. He became the Governor of New York, with effect from January 1, 1829, but resigned within 9 weeks on March 5, 1829 to take up the appointment of Secretary of State offered to him by President Andrew Jackson.

Van Buren's resignation as Secretary of State

With time a rift developed in Andrew Jackson's cabinet, as some Cabinet Members appointed at John C. Calhoun's recommendation, began to demonstrate only secondary loyalty to Jackson. Van Buren sided with Jackson during this rift, and emerged as the President's most trusted adviser. Jackson was said to have referred to him as "a true man with no guile." In 1831, the rift in the Cabinet became so serious, that Van Buren himself had to suggest a way out of the impasse created. Loyalists of both President Jackson and John Calhoun, were called upon to resign, making way for the president to appoint a new cabinet. Thus both Van Buren and the Secretary of War John H. Eaton, resigned from the cabinet in April 1831, together with Calhoun loyalists.

Van Buren's diplomatic appointment as Minister to Great Britain

President Jackson appointed a new cabinet, and in August 1831 sought again to reward Van Buren by appointing him Minister to Great Britain. Van Buren arrived in London in September 1831 to take up his diplomatic appointment and was cordially received. He served in this capacity until February 1832, when he learnt that his nomination had been rejected by the Senate on January 25, 1832. Vice-President Calhoun as President of the Senate, had cast the deciding vote against the appointment, when voting resulted in a tie, giving Calhoun the chance for vengeance against Van Buren. This rash move on the part of Calhoun resulted in his political undoing, and gave a great impetus to Van Buren's candidacy for the vice-presidency. Van Buren left London and after a brief tour of Europe, reached New York on July 5, 1832.

Van Buren's nomination and election as vice-president on the Jackson ticket, in the 1832 re-election of Andrew Jackson as President.

In May 1832, the Democratic National Convention, the party's first convention ever held endorsed Van Buren for vice-president on the Jackson ticket, and in the presidential elections that followed the Jackson-Van Buren combination won by a landslide. The duo was elected on a ticket opposing the continued operation of the Bank of the United States. Accordingly in 1833 all U.S. Government funds were withdrawn from the Bank of the United States, and invested in other State banks. Initially this had a beneficial effect and economic activities such as land sales, canal construction, cotton production and manufacturing industries boomed. However, the practice of issuing bank notes that were not backed by gold or silver reserves, led to rapid inflation and mounting State debts. Then followed in 1836, Jackson's Specie Circular that required buyers of government lands to pay in gold or silver coins (Specie). This resulted in increased demand for Specie, which many banks did not have enough of, to exchange for their notes. These banks collapsed. The ill effects of these wrong economic and monetary policies began showing up only towards the end of the second term in office of Andrew Jackson.

Andrew Jackson- 7th President of the United States

Andrew Jackson- 7th President of the United States

The election of Martin Van Buren as the 8th president of the United States in 1836

As the 1836 presidential elections approached, Andrew Jackson was determined to see that his vice-president Van Buren, gets the nomination as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, in order to continue his legacy. Accordingly, the Democratic National Convention held at Baltimore in 1835, unanimously nominated Van Buren as the presidential-candidate of the Democratic Party. Van Buren's opponents at the elections, were the Whigs who adopted the strategy of fielding several regional candidates, including William Henry Harrison from the western states, with the hope of sending the elections to the House of Representatives for a final decision. However, Martin Van Buren was elected comfortably as the 8th president of the United States, and entered the White House as a 55-year old widower with four sons. He pledged to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor, and retained all but one of Jackson's cabinet.

Martin Van Buren appoints his daughter-in-law Angelica Van Buren to act as First Lady, and preside as hostess in the White House

Dolley Madison on a visit to the White House, introduced her cousin Angelica to the President's eldest son, Abraham Van Buren. The introduction led to their marriage. Abraham Van Buren became private secretary to his father, and Angelica Van Buren presided as the Lady of the White House.

The financial panic of 1837, that caused the downfall of Martin Van Buren

Within three months of Van Buren's inauguration, the financial panic of 1837, the result of  wrong monetary policies adopted by his predecessor, starting with transfer of federal funds from the Bank of the United States to State banks in 1833, caused the collapse of hundreds of banks and business, and thousands of people losing their lands, and the country plunging into the worst depression in its history. Van Buren's remedy, continuing with Jackson's deflationary policies, only worsened and prolonged the depression. He attributed the panic to recklessness in business and overexpansion of credit. Van Buren was concerned only with maintaining the solvency of the National Government. He not only opposed the creation of a new Bank of the United States, but also the placing of Government funds in State Banks. He fought for the establishment of an independent treasury system to handle Government transactions, something which was adopted only towards the end of his term of office in 1840, that resulted in some conservative democrats deserting to the new Whig Party. The serious economic difficulties of his tenure of office caused a drastic loss in his popularity, which was further eroded by the long and costly war with the Seminole Indians in Florida, and by his failure to support the proposed annexation of the newly independent state of Texas.

Martin Van Buren- 8th President of the United States

Martin Van Buren- 8th President of the United States

Martin Van Buren was re-nominated for the 1840 elections, but lost to his rival William Henry Harrison

However in spite of his unpopularity in the country, Martin Van Buren was able to keep his party together, and was unanimously re-nominated by the Democratic Party, as their presidential candidate for the 1840 elections. As expected the revolt against Democratic rule precipitated by the hardships caused by the severe depression, led to the defeat of Martin Van Buren and the election of his rival candidate, William Henry Harrison, the Whig Party candidate, who has gone down in the history of the United States as the President who served the shortest period in office, only 31 days.

President Martin Van Buren had a number of firsts to his credit :-

1) He was the first president of non-British descent, originating from early Dutch settlers, who settled along the Hudson river in the 17th-century.

2) He was the first president to be born an American citizen. All his seven predecessors were born British subjects, prior to the American revolution.

3) He was the first president not to have spoken English as a first language, having grown up speaking Dutch, as both he and his wife were of Dutch descent.

4) He was the first president from New York State.

5) He was only one of two presidents who had held the three key posts of Secretary of State, Vice President and President, the other being Thomas Jefferson.

6) In May 1832, he was nominated for vice-president on the Jackson ticket, by the first ever Democratic National Convention, held by the Democratic party, a party that Van Buren helped to found by bringing together a diverse coalition of Jeffersonian Republicans, including followers of Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, and John C, Calhoun.

His attempts to return to the White House

Martin Van Buren attempted a return to the White House, by seeking nomination for the 1844 presidential elections. He secured a majority of votes in the Democratic convention, but did not have the two-thirds which the convention required. After eight ballots his name was withdrawn, and James K. Polk was instead given the nomination. In the 1848 elections he was nominated as a candidate of the Free Soil Party, and came out with a strong showing only in his home state New York, but failed in all other states.

His life in retirement and his death on July 24, 1862

He then gave up public life and spent some years in Europe. Finally he returned to Kinderhook living at his estate "Lindenwald." While in retirement he wrote his highly regarded memoirs, about slavery related issues, and also a study on the organization of American political parties, that was published posthumously. He long suffered from bronchial asthma. In the fall of 1861, he contracted pneumonia and became bedridden. On July 24, 1862 Martin Van Buren died of an attack of bronchial asthma and heart failure, at his Lindewald estate in Kinderhook. He was 79 years old. His funeral ceremony was held at the Dutch Reformed Church in Kinderhook, and he was buried in the church cemetry, where he joined his wife Hannah, his parents and one son.

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External Links :- 

About the White House, Presidents - www.whitehouse.gov

References :-

1) Famous Pearls and Collections - Van Buren Pearls, Chapter 16, page 464. The Book of the Pearl - by G. F. Kunz

2) Famous Pearls -American Museum of Natural History. www.amnh.org

3) First Ladies at the American History Museum - Kat Long. www,suite101.com

4) "First Ladies at the Smithsonian Exhibition Opens at National Museum of American History - Press Release. December 3, 2008. Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

5) Biographies of the Presidents - www.history.com

6) Tour the Smithsonian after its first fifty years - Department of Textile Fabrics.www.150.si.edu/siarch/handbook/textile

7) Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center - Past Events - 2007, Omani Presidential Gifts-www.sqcc.org/events/pastevents

8) Pearl Weight and Pearl Length - All About Pearl - Pearl price factors. www.allaboutpearl.com

9) Martin Van Buren - President of the United States. Encyclopaedia Britannica

10) Martin Van Buren - www.findagrave.com

11) Martin Van Buren - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

12) Martin Van Buren - www.whitehouse.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

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