• Matthew Cobb

Review of Martin Van Buren


PHOTO CREDIT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Van_Buren


Martin Van Buren – the eighth president of the United States and legendary fashion icon. Van Buren, also known as Little Van, Old Kinderhook, The Little Magician, and the Red Fox, has long been held up as a style icon for men’s grooming. Hailing from the Jeff Winger school of purposeful bedhead, Van Buren took the concept and applied it to his whole face.


PHOTO CREDIT: https://historical.ha.com/itm/political/small-paper-pre-1896-/martin-van-buren-mechanical-metamorphosis-card/a/6191-43444.s


THE SIDEBURNS

Van Buren’s sideburns are wonders to behold. Floating across his cheeks, the tufts of hair resemble clouds in what can only be a visual metaphor. Clouds are fluffy and inviting, signaling relaxation to all who witness them. But they can quickly grow temperamental and dangerous, an indication to avoid what’s coming. Van Buren clearly knew this, deftly portraying his facial hair in a genius bout of political maneuvering, even further supported by the lack of hair on his head, meaning that his opponents would have no choice but to stay enraptured by his mighty sideburns.


PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.thoughtco.com/martin-van-buren-significant-facts-1773435


THE POLITICIAN

Make no mistake, the man did have opponents. A man of many talents, the man was not only a hair styling legend, he was also an influential politician in his time. Van Buren is credited with founding the Albany Regency and helping organize the Democratic Party. Through this he helped to cement the two-party system, one that, while contentious, still holds sway in the US today.


With all of that in his favor, it is a shame how badly he tanked it.


PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/martin-van-buren


THE PRESIDENT Martin Van Buren was elected president in 1837, notable for being the first president born in the US and the only one whose first language was not English (it was Dutch). He had a promising career, one that was immediately marred by the Panic of 1837, a major financial panic he was not able to effectively handle.


That alone would have been a strike on the man and his presidency, but the man was unable to take fully positive stances on several topics. He supported expanding voting rights, ensuring they spread to all white men, but stood against universal suffrage. Post-presidency, he worked with the Free Soil Party of abolitionists and he opposed the annexation of Texas due to fears of it granting powers to slaveholding states. Yet, in the Amistad case (when a group of slaves rebelled against their ship drivers and tried to escape) he sided against the slaves.


Perhaps the biggest mark against him is his continuation of Andrew Jackson’s Native American removal policies, a major atrocity that will forever mar American history. Historians list Van Buren’s presidency as being average, but that feels too nice. Sure, he was influential, did some truly good thing, stood by his (dated) principles, and had killer hair care. But the greatest sideburns in the world can’t make up the Trail of Tears.

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