Martin Van Buren's term in office was not marked by major events like the terms of many other presidents. One important event that did occur was an economic depression that began in 1837 and lasted until 1845 and was called the Panic of 1837. Because of restrictions placed on state banks during Jackson's time in office, they severely restricted credit and called for the repayment of loans. There was a run on the banks by many depositors wanting to withdraw their money. In the end, more than 900 banks closed and many people lost their jobs and their money. Van Buren blamed the banks for the panic and did not feel that the government should play a huge part in alleviating the problems. However, he did fight for an independent treasury to ensure that funds could be safely deposited.
In 1836, Texas applied for statehood. If admitted, however, then it would add another slave state to the Union. Van Buren did not want to increase sectional problems so he agreed with the North and helped block admission. His decision to maintain sectional balance delayed Texas's admission to the Union until 1845.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
Some presidents have relished their position, but Martin Van Buren was not one of them. According to him: “As to the Presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it.”
One problem that Van Buren had to deal with in 1839 was a boundary dispute with Canada termed the “Aroostook War.” Although it was called a war, no fighting actually occurred. There were more than 12,000 square miles between Maine and Canada along the Aroostook River that had no defined boundary. When a Maine official attempted to send Canadians out of the region and was met with resistance, both sides sent militias to the region. However, Van Buren was able to resolve the issue quickly by sending General Winfield Scott to make peace.
SCANDALS & GOSSIP
Van Buren was heavily criticized for his lifestyle while the nation was experiencing a depression. He enjoyed fine wines and held lavish private parties. False stories began to circulate about his excesses. In the end, this helped bring about his defeat by William Henry Harrison.