Dutch culture meets US politics: have you met President Martin van Buren?

In the 19th century, Martin van Buren, a man of Dutch descent served as the eighth President of the United States.

Let’s dive into the notable, historical Dutch figure known as Martin van Buren, who had some influence on the United States.

Who is Martin van Buren?

Between the years 1837 and 1841, Martin van Buren served as the eighth President of the United States.

How? You may ask. Well, his great-great-grandfather emigrated to the US in 1631 to start a life in the New World.

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To be President of the United States, the Constitution states that you must be a ‘natural-born citizen’ in the country. Thanks to his great-great-grandfather, Martin didn’t have a problem with his election.

Once a Dutchie, always a Dutchie

Martin van Buren never lost touch with his Dutch roots. He grew up in a distinct Dutch community where he mostly spoke Dutch.

He even went on to marry a woman with Dutch ancestry, Hannah Hoes. You can take the man out of the Netherlands but not take the Netherlands out of the man.

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Perhaps, the only thing not very Dutch about him was his height. He stood at a short stance of only five foot six. Wat jammer!

President of nicknames

During his presidency, van Buren accumulated a list of nicknames. Namely: The Careful Dutchman, The Red Fox of Kinderhook, The Little Magician and The Great Manager.

Most interestingly was Old Kinderhook which was abbreviated to O.K. and is said to have led to the widespread popularity of this term that we still use today.

His presidency isn’t really one for the ‘top 10 greatest Presidents of all times’ lists since he was plagued by the panic of 1837, starting only after five weeks in office, for which he got the blame.

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That led to a new nickname: Martin van Ruin. Of course, his opponents used the financial crisis against him which meant he had little to no chance of being reelected. Doei Dutchman!

Despite his failures, Martin van Buren’s reign as America’s President is a fond accomplishment for the Dutch. For such a small country, it was definitely no small feat.

Do you know of any other Presidents around the world of Dutch origin? Tell us in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in July 2013, but was fully updated in February 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature image: No Author/Wikimedia/CC4.0

Ciska Schippers
Ciska Schippers
Ciska Schippers is an almost-historian from Amsterdam and loves everything that has to do with the wonders of American culture, politics and history. Biggest guilty pleasure is watching reality tv shows of which she is convinced are real. Suffering the hardships of being a Feyenoord fan in Amsterdam.

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  1. There is one inaccuracy in the article….Martin Van Buren was born before the adoption of the US Constitution. So he could have been born outside of the United States and still have become President. He was born in New York though.

    • You are right, I thought this applied to any president since the Constitution was adopted, but it is only for those born after the adoption of the Constitution, those born before were fine as long as they were naturalized citizens before the adoption. He was there 5 years before the Constitution. Thanks for the comment 🙂

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