Andrew Jackson & Martin Van Buren: Relationship & Comparison

Instructor: Anthony Galouzis

Anthony has taught middle and high school History/Social Studies and holds two master's degrees in History and Education, focusing on U.S. History and online studies.

An historical 'Odd Couple,' Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren appear to have little in common. Despite this, they were great political allies. With Jackson's charm and Van Buren's skill, both men became President of the United States.

An Unlikely Match

Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren are considered to be two of the most unlikely of allies in American political history. Despite coming from vastly different backgrounds, with polarized approaches to politics, the two greatly respected each other and would become each other's strongest supporter. Their relationship would begin with development of the Democratic Party and would ultimately lead both men to the Presidency.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson by Ralph E.W. Earl 1837
Andrew Jackson

Jackson was born in South Carolina and settled in Nashville, Tennessee, where he practiced law and became active in State politics. His military career was most notable, having been a prisoner of war in the American Revolution, where he was cut across the face by a British officer for refusing to clean his boots. Most notably, he defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans following the end of the War of 1812. Jackson earned the nickname Old Hickory, given to him by his troops to describe his toughness.

He was known to duel, as he was sensitive to insults directed at himself or his wife. In one such duel, Jackson was nearly shot in the heart, giving him his second permanently lodged bullet, but remained on his feet to shoot and kill his opponent. He was thought of as a hero who represented the common man, specifically the frontiersmen of the West, the farmers of the South, and the workers of the North. While Jackson's reputation would put him in good standing with most Americans, it was his charismatic engagement of the crowd that would ultimately win him the Presidency in 1828.

Martin Van Buren

Gubernatorial Portrait of Martin Van Buren by Daniel Huntington 1828
Martin Van Buren

Van Buren was born in 1782 in Kinderhook, New York. He is described as a short, dignified man who was a skilled talker and a master politician. He would become heavily involved in local politics, serving in his first political convention at the age of eighteen. Van Buren went to law school and by 1820 was elected to the Senate. Van Buren worked to create ties between northern farmers and laborers, and southern planters. This would become the foundations for the Democratic Party.

In personality, he was nothing like Jackson. He was reserved when in public and preferred to remain behind the scenes, where he would work alliances and deals with other politicians. He was so skilled in political negotiations that he was nicknamed the Little Magician and the Red Fox of Kinderhook. After seven years in the Senate, Van Buren would be elected Governor of New York in 1828, but resigned two months later to serve as Secretary of State for President Jackson.

National Unification

Jackson and Van Buren's relationship began in 1824 when Jackson lost the presidency to Adams but won the popular vote. The Democratic-Republican Party managed to completely come apart following the 1824 election. Van Buren was impressed with Jackson's ability to win over the people and agreed with many of Jackson's core principles regarding the nation. He began traveling around the country, organizing many former Democratic-Republicans into the new Democratic Party.

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