Van Buren was born on Dec. 5, 1782, in Kinderhook, N.Y., of a middle-class family. He was well educated by private tutors, becoming a lawyer at the age of 20. His law practice was unusually successful, and it enabled him to cultivate the elegant tastes in clothing and life-style that were to earn him a reputation as a dandy. "His political career also thrived. He served in the New York state senate from 1812 and 1820 and was the state attorney general from 1816 to 1819. In 1821 the state legislature that he had come to dominate elected him to the U.S. Senate."
Van Buren was a master politician. "During the New York phase of his career he made himself the leader of the Regency an upper-class group that ran the state's Democratic-Republican party with an iron hand." The principle they admired most was unquestioning party loyalty to the policies they had hammered out.
"After the election of 1824, Van Buren, who knew little about Andrew Jackson's beliefs, nevertheless became the guiding spirit in organizing a national Democratic party that in 1828 succeeded in electing Jackson president. He had perceived Jackson as a winner."
As a reward for Van Buren's loyalty and in recognition of his ability, Jackson named him secretary of state. He resigned from that office in 1831 to serve briefly as U.S. minister to Great Britain. Van Buren encouraged the feud between Jackson and Vice-President John C. Calhoun, which led to Van Buren's replacing Calhoun as the president's running mate in 1832. With Jackson's enthusiastic support the Democrats nominated Van Buren for president in 1836. In the face of indecision and splits in the opposing Whig party, Van Buren won easily, becoming the first New Yorker in the White House.
In the president's office,