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Martin Van Buren : The Romantic Age of American Politics (1983)

av John Niven

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
995205,774 (3.33)6
"The Little Magician has at last found a biographer worthy of his stature and significance in American history. This is a masterful study of a much underestimated statesman. It is meticulously researched and beautifully crafted."--Robert V. Remini, University of Illinois "The rich tapestry woven by John Niven...adds fresh dimensions to the political history of the United States for the half-century ending with the Civil War."--Harold M. Hyman, Rice University… (mer)

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Overshadowed by his predecessor and defined by the stigma of being only a one-term president, Martin Van Buren has rarely received his due as a political figure. Yet over a career spanning more than four decades he played a pivotal role in nineteenth century American politics. More than any other single person, it was Van Buren who created the Democratic Party and spawned the "Second Party System" in America, which helped to set the course of national politics as we know it. In this book, John Niven attempts to resuscitate Van Buren's historical image by offering readers an examination of Van Buren's life and times, one that helps to restore him to his proper place in the American pantheon.

The son of a tavern keeper, Van Buren's ambitions were evident at an early age. Possessing a friendly and charming demeanor, he rose quickly in New York politics, managing to surmount a number of prominent foes. The key to this was a political organization he built throughout the state, an organization that soon came to be known as the Albany Regency. Though initially a supporter of William Crawford for the presidency, after the 1824 election Van Buren threw his support to General Jackson, helping to deliver New York to the general's column in the subsequent election. Van Buren's reward for his untiring efforts and steadfast loyalty was the Secretaryship of State, the vice-presidency, and ultimately the presidency itself. Taking office amidst the onset of an economic depression, Van Buren's efforts could do little to alleviate the situation and was defeated in his bid for reelection in 1840 as a result. After another effort to gain his party's nomination in 1844 ended in failure, Van Buren abandoned the Democrats and ran for president as the Liberty Party nominee four years later, helping to introduce slavery as a campaign issue in presidential politics in the process - and triggering a chain of events that would end only with the secession of the South in 1861.

Niven's biography is an insightful and balanced look at Van Buren's long and impressive political career. Yet his is a biography of Van Buren as political animal; his policies receive scant attention until Niven's narrative reaches Van Buren's period as Secretary of State, with even less time spent on his personal life and political career. Such an omission weakens the overall value of the book, confining its value to Niven's impressive work in recounting the politics of early nineteenth century America. Here his account is likely to be unsurpassed, and should be read by anyone with an interest in Van Buren's political career or the often complicated twists and turns of American politics in the antebellum era. ( )
  MacDad | Mar 27, 2020 |
very academic and a lot about the regency that controlled NY politics before Tammany Hall ( )
  jerry-book | Jan 26, 2016 |
Martin Van Buren, eighth President of the United States, "may have been a conservative, an advocate of States Rights, an agrarian, a party regular, but he was overall a New Yorker, a Northerner, and a pragmatic politician." The Little Magician as he was called, ruled New York politics for the majority of his lifetime, manipulating the selection process of who would have what office, who would be supported and who would be denounced. Behind the scenes of numerous vital issues, MVB would work the state legislature negotiating the passage of legislation that had far-reaching effects.

On the national scene, Van Buren worked tirelessly in support of Andrew Jackson and served as his Secretary of State as well as Vice President. In these capacities, he traipsed through the quagmire of issues of the day - bank dissolution, abolition, Indian removal - frequently calming a volatile Jackson and preventing numerous catastrophes. Van Buren's Presidential candidacy was complicated not by the issues of the day, but the selection of a running mate.

Upon his election, he was confronted with the banking issues, a depression and costs of the Indian removal - all issues inherited from Jackson. Trying to use the concept of a subtreasury to combat the depression, VB was handicapped by a hostile congress.

Defeated when he ran for re-election, Martin VanBuren felt that the importation of voters by the Whig Party constituted election fraud. The following years he spent trying to rebuild the Democratic party which he had built in New York state. He was drafted in a later Presidential election to run for the Free Soil Party which advocated the end of slavery.
This book was overwhelming in the amount of details that were dispensed regarding the politics of the State of New York elections and national politics during the Presidencies of Jackson, Van Buren, Tyler, and Polk. Since this was titled to be a biography of Van Buren, I was disappointed with the amount of information about unrelated people and events regarding the political machine that MVB was credited to have created. It was also difficult to read because the print was smaller than normal so that 1 page was probably equivalent to 2 pages of a normal book, so 700 pages was really many more.
A description of Martin Van Buren which seems appropriate - " An American Statesman who with his faults, his weaknesses, his little vanities had made no little consequence on his state and his nation." ( )
  cyderry | Nov 26, 2009 |
Matty Van Buren, alleged illegitimate son of Aaron Burr (according to the Bill O'Reillys of his day), perennial bottom dweller in the "best president of all time" polls, unknown guy in a little known time. Why bother reading about him when I could be keeping up with the latest pop star fistfight, or stew about the latest right wing outrage? The truth is that I'm trying to escape all that and that period of American history has some oddly familiar parallels to today.

For instance, the economy was in the tank. Andrew Jackson had just busted the chops of the Bank of the United States but that really wasn't the problem. The problem was that during a ridiculous real estate bubble the world economy went into the tank and took everything else with it. Poor old van Buren thought he had a handle on it by creating the first sub-treasury system (taking control of the flow of money from the private bankers) only to lose it all to a greater power.

Anyway, this book has allowed me to get a different perspective on the antics of Jackson, Clay, Calhoun, and their many subordinates. Van Buren was important. He built one of the first political machines (the Albany Regency) and was a "fixer" extraordinaire.

Van Buren went on to become president but, like the first George Bush, he was a prisoner of the previous president's policies and paid the price for the collapse of the economy. He was more of a "nuts and bolts" kind of guy than a visionary like Jackson and probably should have stayed behind the scenes, or at least in the Senate. As it is he's best remembered for being unmemorable. Nevertheless, he was a very astute guy who had the nation's good foremost in his mind.

What I found most intriguing was his later run for the presidency with the "Free Soil" Party (disaffected Democrats who opposed slavery—farmers who didn't want to compete against slavers). For a man whose first principle was loyalty to the party it seems inconsistent. But urged on by his son John he'd caught the wave carrying the nation into the Civil War. We can only hope it was on principle.

One of our greatest "Forgotten" presidents.
  wcpweaver | Oct 29, 2009 |
1796 Martin Van Buren: The Romantic Age of American Politics, by John Niven (read 15 Sep 1983) This biography was published this year (1983) and is by a history professor. I found parts of it heavy and plodding. The author does not hesitate to narrate the events of the complicated New York politics of Van Buren's time, but not in a compelling or arresting way. So outside of knowing Van Buren was a Barnburner rather than a Hunker, I cannot tell you a lot about those positions. Van Buren was born of pure Dutch ancestry in Kinderhook, N. Y, on Dec 5, 1782, and died at his estate near there on July 24, 1862. I found this book, before Van Buren became president, not too interesting, but the part after that was OK. It did not hold to chronological sequence totally, but its deviation therefrom was not annoying. ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 11, 2008 |
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"The Little Magician has at last found a biographer worthy of his stature and significance in American history. This is a masterful study of a much underestimated statesman. It is meticulously researched and beautifully crafted."--Robert V. Remini, University of Illinois "The rich tapestry woven by John Niven...adds fresh dimensions to the political history of the United States for the half-century ending with the Civil War."--Harold M. Hyman, Rice University

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