Martin Van Buren: A Few Words
(From the White House Historical Association)
As Jackson's Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren was the Super Ego to Jackson's Id. While Jackson was known for challenging his opponents with the (actual) threat of bodily harm, Van Buren was much more likely to invite them to dinner.
His style was not of a gentleman of rank and status like Jefferson and Washington but also was not the hard charging, take no prisoners strategy of Jackson. He was much more of a political animal, understanding that he could not always make a stand on his own pure principals and that sometimes you have to make an alliance with your opponent to get what you want.
This dedication to preserving the peace helped him serve as a moderating influence in the Jackson administration, curbing some of Jackson's wilder instincts. It also helped him serve as a fixer in the constant infighting in the cabinet. He befriended the scandalized Peggy Eaton who had embroiled the administration in sex scandals and who the cabinet members' wives had shunned.
He helped to found the Democratic Party (he and Jackson called it The Democracy) which was not quite like Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi's party, but still was a political party in the true sense. He united slave owning interests in the South with populist interests in the North, creating the first truly National party.
He has the ironic distinction of being the first President born an American citizen and the only president ever whose native language is something other than English (Dutch). Lou Dobbs and his Birthers would be very confused!