ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
Early Chicago, 1833–1871
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
LETTER FROM MARTIN VAN BUREN
May 12, 1842
Martin Van Buren, a Democrat, served as President of the United States from 1837 through 1840. He had been Andrew Jackson's vice-president from 1833 through 1836. Prior to that he had held several prominent political positions in New York State. In 1840 he lost his bid for a second term to William H. Harrison. In Chicago in 1840, Van Buren received 807 votes to Harrison's 622. He was extremely popular with the Irish-dominated Democrats of the city. After his defeat, Van Buren retired to Kinderhook, New York, where he maintained an interest in politics. In 1848, he reentered the national scene when he headed the Free Soil ticket and took enough votes from Lewis Case, the Democrat, to give Zachary Taylor, the Whig, the victory. In Chicago Van Buren received 1,543 votes, Taylor had 1,283, and Cass 1,016.
This document was written from the Hermitage which was Andrew Jackson's home near Nashville, Tennessee.
Points to Consider
Where was the Hermitage and why was Van Buren there?
To where was Van Buren returning in the East? By what route was he likely to travel?
Why did Van Buren not know his exact arrival time in Chicago?
Why would Van Buren choose to visit Chicago in 1842?