Martin Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, New York on 5 December 1782 to a family of Dutch descent, and he learned English as a second language. He was a delegate to a political convention at the age of eighteen, and he moved from local to state politics as a political organizer and lawyer. In 1821, he was elected to the US Senate by the New York State Legislature, and he was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party until 1828, when he supported Democratic Party presidential nominee Andrew Jackson. That same year, he was elected Governor of New York while riding on Jackson's popularity, but he resigned in order to become Jackson's Secretary of State. From 1831 to 1832, he served as Minister to the United Kingdom, and he was chosen as Jackson's running mate in the successful 1832 election. In 1835, he was almost unanimously named the Democratic presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention, and he defeated several US Whig Party opponents to win the 1836 presidential election.
Van Buren was the first president to be born with American citizenship; conversely, he was the first president to speak English as a second language. Van Buren was also the first to not have a university degree or military commission. In 1837, the United States was hit by a depression, and Van Buren was nicknamed "Van Ruin" for failing to convince the US Congress to keep federal funds in an independent treasury instead of state banks. Van Buren also refused to admit Texas as a state due to concerns about the Missouri Compromise and war with Mexico, but the Caroline Affair and the Aroostook War drew the USA close to war with the United Kingdom over parts of Maine and Canada. He was voted out of office in 1840, with William Henry Harrison winning the election. In 1844, he failed to run for office again, and he ran as the Free Soil Party's 1848 presidential candidate before returning to the Democratic fold. He would become an abolitionist over the years, supporting Stephen A. Douglas in 1860 but coming to support Abraham Lincoln's policies after he became president. He died in 1862 at the age of 79.