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Collection Martin Van Buren Papers, 1787 to 1910

Part I: 1782-1821

A chronology of key events in the life of Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) from birth to his election to the U.S. Senate, 1782-1821.

  • 1782, Dec. 5

    Born in Kinderhook, Columbia County, N.Y., on the Hudson River near Albany, to a family of Dutch descent. His parents were Abraham Van Buren (1737-1817) and Maria (“Marytje”) Goes Hoes Van Alen Van Buren (1747-1818). Abraham Van Buren, a Jeffersonian Republican, was a slave-owning farmer, tavern keeper, and town clerk. Dutch was the primary language spoken in the Van Buren household.

    Topographical map of Hudsons River, 1776. North American Atlas, London: William Faden, 1777. Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress.
  • 1796

    After attending village schools, clerked as a teenager in the law office of Francis Silvester, a Federalist Party attorney.

  • 1800

    Supported the successful presidential bid of Vice President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) of Virginia and served as a delegate to the Republican Congressional Caucus in Troy, N.Y.

    Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States. Cornelius Tiebout, engraving after a painting by Rembrandt Peale. Philadelphia: A. Day, c. 1781. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
  • 1801-1802

    Clerked in the New York City law office of William P. Van Ness (1778-1826), a strong supporter of President Thomas Jefferson and Vice President Aaron Burr (1756-1836) in the 1800 election and a member of an influential political family.

  • 1803

    Admitted to the bar and entered a law practice with his half-brother, James I. Van Alen (1772-1822), Maria Van Buren’s son from her first marriage.

  • 1804, July 11

    William P. Van Ness served as second to his friend Aaron Burr at the duel in which Burr mortally wounded former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton (c. 1755-1804), who died in Greenwich Village the following day.

    The Burr and Hamilton duel, 11 July 1804, in Weehawken, N.J. Alexander Hamilton Biographical File, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
  • 1806, Feb.

    Allied himself with a new political coalition that united supporters of former U.S. Senator and mayor of New York City DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828) (the Clintonians) and former Vice President Aaron Burr (the Burrites).

    DeWitt Clinton, 1813. Lithograph by J. C. Sharpe after engraving by Delaplaine. Biographical file, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-65631.
  • 1807, Feb. 21

    Married childhood friend Hannah (“Jannetje”) Hoes (1784-1819) in Catskill, N.Y.

  • 1807, Nov. 27

    Son Abraham Van Buren was born.

  • 1807, Dec.

    Moved to Hudson, N.Y.

  • 1808

    Appointed Surrogate of Columbia County, his first experience in a political position.

  • 1810, Feb. 17

    Son John Van Buren was born.

  • 1811, Feb.

    Praised Vice President George Clinton’s opposition to the effort of the U.S. Senate to recharter the Bank of the United States.

    George Clinton, [c. 1812]. Engraving by P. Maverick after painting by Ezra Ames. Biographical file, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
  • 1811, Nov. 25

    Challenged to a duel by John Sudam. The challenge was later withdrawn, when Sudam was no longer under the influence of alcohol.

  • 1812, Apr.

    In a close race, elected to the New York State Senate on a pro-war, anti-bank platform with the political backing of DeWitt Clinton.

  • 1812, June 18

    U.S. Congress declared war against England. The War of 1812 officially commenced.

  • 1812, Nov.

    Supported DeWitt Clinton of New York over James Madison (1751-1836) of Virginia as the party’s candidate for U.S. President in the New York Republican caucus. Madison elected to a second term as president.

    Statue of James Madison by Walker K. Hancock. James Madison Building, Library of Congress. Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-highsm-03189
  • 1812, Dec. 20

    Son Martin Van Buren was born.

  • 1813

    Son Winfield Scott Van Buren was born and died.

  • 1813

    Fell out politically with DeWitt Clinton.

  • 1814, Dec.

    U.S. signed the Treaty of Ghent officially ending the War of 1812.

  • 1815, Feb.

    Became New York Attorney General; he remained a state senator.

  • 1815

    DeWitt Clinton promoted the idea of building the Erie Canal.

    Erie Canal, Lock No. 18, Albany County, N.Y. Historic American Engineering Record, n.d. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. HAER NY,1-COHO,5A—9.
  • 1816, Mar.

    Appointed a regent of the University of the State of New York.

  • 1816, Apr.

    Re-elected to the New York Senate.

  • 1816

    Moved to Albany, N.Y. Entered law partnership with Benjamin Franklin Butler (1795-1858) of Kinderhook Landing, who was educated in Hudson, N.Y., and read law with Van Buren. They became leaders of the Albany Regency political machine, who supported the “Bucktails” of the Tammany Society and controlled the Albany Argus newspaper.

  • 1816, Nov.

    Assumed leadership of New York Republicans; Governor Daniel D. Tompkins (1774-1825) is elected vice president as running mate to James Monroe (1758-1831).

    Daniel D. Thompkins, c. 1816. Engraving by T. Woolnoth after painting by J. W. Jarvis. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-44071.
  • 1817, Jan. 16

    Smith Thompson Van Buren was born, the Van Burens’ youngest son and last living child.

  • 1817, Feb. 16

    Mother Maria Van Buren died.

  • 1817, Apr. 8

    Father Abraham Van Buren died.

  • 1817, Apr.

    Rival DeWitt Clinton won the governorship of New York in a landslide vote. Van Buren favored the building of the Erie Canal, despite the fact that it was a key feature of the Clintonian campaign.

  • 1817, July

    Construction began on the Erie Canal.

  • 1817-1819

    Wife Hannah “Jannetje” Hoes Van Buren suffered from lung congestion and consumption (tuberculosis) in the harsh Albany winters. For the last six months of her life she was an invalid confined to bed and domestic rest.

  • 1819, Feb. 5

    Hannah Hoes Van Buren died at the age of 35 and was buried in Kinderhook, N.Y. Martin Van Buren was reportedly devastated. Though he formed close friendships with other women later in his life, he never remarried.

    Mrs. Martin Van Buren [Hannah Hoes Van Buren], c. 1819. John Chester Buttre engraving, c. 1890.
  • 1819, Mar.

    Removed as attorney general of New York by the Clintonians, but still wielded power in the New York Assembly and the Canal Commission.

  • 1820, Mar.

    Defended former Governor of New York and Vice President of the U.S. Tompkins on misuse of public funds charges. Tompkins faced financial difficulties and struggled with alcoholism while serving from 1817 to 1825 as the nation’s vice president.

  • 1821, Nov.-Dec.

    Elected to the U.S. Senate from New York and moved to the city of Washington, where he began his term in office as a Democratic-Republican. Serves as a U.S. senator until 1828.

    U.S. Capitol, North (Senate wing) elevation, c. 1800. William Thornton, architect. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZC4-274.
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