January 5, 2011

Martin Van Buren, avenged

Thanks to a tip from Mike Wolf, former pinch-hitting BQT DJ, I have discovered this: American Talleyrand. Yes, indeed, because you demanded it: a blog about the Little Magician himself, the eighth President of these United States…Martin Van Buren.

Despite my presidential polymathness, I don't know a tremendous amount about MVB, at least not compared with what I know of other chief executives (test me on Polk—go ahead, test me). He's hardly considered to be first-tier in terms of historical import, though I'm aware that he was an intensely political animal (the "Little Magician" nickname referred to his skills as a behind-the-scenes campaign force), and I'm sure an expert could plausibly argue that he established much of our nation's democratic machinery. As with many Presidents, he's one of those characters I've always intended to learn more about, to discover what lies beyond the sideburns.

So American Talleyrand to the rescue (the blog name—and the blog itself—is explained here). I've only spent a few minutes grazing in these Van Buren fields, but this blogger clearly knows his stuff, and has a real facility for bringing New York State's first President to life. For example, I enjoyed this post about Steven Spielberg's Amistad, perhaps the sole appearance of Van Buren in a film.
That's Brit Nigel Hawthorne, playing Van Buren as the dim and vain caricature that the anti-Jacksonians liked to characterize him as. I knew that the scenes of him shaking hands and kissing babies was a Hollywood anachronism, but I've now been convinced that the historical problems with the film run much deeper. Oh, Steven…

So I look forward to reading and learning more about him; a quick glance tells me that A-Tall has covered all the major MVB topics (though how about something on Van's Vice President, Richard Mentor Johnson, one of our nation's many fascinating forgotten seconds-in-command?). When I've exhausted this, I'll seek out that Chester Arthur blog I've been hankering for.

As for trivia, a quick search through my archives reveals that Martin Van Buren hasn't exactly been the most frequent quiz topic (most of the questions hinge on info I allude to above), but I do have this Presidential Limerick in the hopper…

Van Buren: There’s not much to say
Of his effect on the ’Merican way.
Though he wasn’t so cheery,
The best linguists’ theory
Is that he gave us the saying “_________.

(However, American Talleyrand argues that Van only popularized the saying. Ah, nuts!)

9 comments:

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custom essay paper said...

As far as I know, though he did vote against the admission of Missouri as a slave state, and though he would be the nominated presidential candidate of the Free Soil Party, an anti-slavery political party

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