Presidential term: March 4, 1837 – March 4, 1841
The country had been growing so rapidly, and so many improvements had been made, that when Jackson left the White House he said: “I leave this great people prosperous and happy.” But the prosperity of our twenty-six states was to suffer a severe check, for no sooner had Martin Van Buren become President than the panic of 1837 began. You see, people had tried to become rich too fast, too much paper money had been issued, and when suddenly called on to pay their debts, so many business houses failed that many men were out of work. In New York, where the merchants had already lost heavily by the great fire of 1835, there was such distress that “bread riots” took place among the hungry people.
Then, too, the Canadians revolted against Great Britain, and, as many Americans remembered the War of 1812 and still hated the British, they wished to help the rebels. Neither Jackson nor Van Buren would allow this, however, and General Scott was sent to guard the frontier and prevent our citizens from taking any part in the war.
In spite of this, a few Americans managed to disobey. They even put arms on board a vessel in the Niagara River, to ship them to Canada. But the British, warned in time, seized the vessel, set it on fire, and, cutting it adrift, saw it poise a moment at the head of the Niagara Falls, and then plunge down into the abyss!
The money troubles during Van Buren’s rule were thought by many people to be his fault; so when the time came for a new election, General William Henry Harrison was chosen President in his stead. He had governed the Northwest Territory, had fought in the War of 1812, and on account of his victory over the Indians was known as “Old Tippecanoe.”