Martin van Buren photo

Martin Van Buren Event Timeline

March 04, 1837

Martin Van Buren (8) Event Timeline

03/04/1837 – 03/04/1841


Democratic National Convention in Baltimore Selects Vice President Martin Van Buren as Presidential Nominee.


Van Buren formally accepts the nomination.


Election Day. Martin Van Buren wins 57.8% of the Electoral College and 50.8% of the popular vote.


Electors cast their ballots.




Electoral votes tabulated by Congress.


Inaugural Address. Much of Van Buren’s address is spent paying tribute to the Presidents before him.


US Secretary of State John Forsyth advises that treaties with Mexico preclude US annexation of Texas.


Proclamation 43C—Extinguishing Title for Indian Lands Between the State of Missouri and the Missouri River. The federal government extinguishes all Native American land titles between Missouri and the Missouri River. Native American communities are removed after the United States claimed ownership of the land.


The Panic of 1837, a financial crisis caused by reckless credit policies for Western land, drives the United States into a recession. The lack of a centralized national bank leaves many local banks to fail.


Proclamation 43D--Convening an Extra Session of the Congress in a session to begin 09/04/1837 (see below).


Receives a set of Resolves from officials in the State of Maine seeking assistance and support in resisting British "usurpations and encroachments," and urging the governor to call on the President to survey and explore the northeastern boundary of the state according to the treaty of 1783.


The Minister of the Texas Republic proposes annexation of Texas to the United States. 


Rejects the Republic of Texas’ proposal to annex Texas. Van Buren fears that annexing Texas would compel Mexico to retaliate; cause controversy by adding to slave territory.


In Special Message opening a special session of Congress, calls for Congress to deal with the financial crisis. Suggested actions include a suspension of specie payments.


By Special Message, provides the House of Representative with papers relating to the proposed Annexation of Texas. (View pdf document including the papers referenced in this Special Message.)


Newspapers report expectation of immigration to Vermont from Canada due to "serious apprehensions of disturbances in Canada (Daily Pittsburgh Gazette, 11/13/1837, p. 2)


Further newspaper reports of armed conflict in Canada by groups opposed to British rule. (Daily Pittsburgh Gazette, 11/27/1837, p. 2


First Annual Message. Expresses concern about relations with Britain concerning the Maine borderlands. Discusses unsettled US claims against Mexico but makes no mention of the Republic of Texas. Advocates for an independent Treasury system.


Canadian politician and firebrand William Lyon Mackenzie attempts, near Toronto, to launch a popular rebellion against British colonial rule. Many in the US sympathized with the rebellion and hoped that eventually Canada would become part of the United States. Mackenzie later established a rebel force on Navy Island, not far from Niagara Falls.


Announces construction of an independent Treasury in order to hold federal funds.


The Caroline, an American steamship that was providing supplies to Canadian rebels on Navy Island (12/05/1837), is seized by the British-backed Canadian militia, set afire, and set adrift to float over the Niagara Falls. At least one American was killed during the raid. News of this event reaches Van Buren on 01/04/1838. In subsequent years, the incident will become important in international law as an instance of "anticipatory self-defense" on the part of the British.




In a Special Message to the Congress, expresses concern that existing laws are insufficient to guarantee protection of American borders.


Proclamation 45A—Neutrality With Respect to Canadian Affairs. Emphasizes a peaceful response to the conflict arising from the Caroline incident.


Convention between the United States and the Republic of Texas establishes a commission to survey and mark the international boundary.


In a Special Message to the House, addresses dispute over attacks on civilian steamboats between Mexico and America.


In a Special Message to the House, suggests that financial difficulties threaten to make the government insolvent.


In a Special Message to the Congress, addresses issues of communication to the Cherokee nation, asking them to move peacefully to the West.


Signs Act dividing Territory of Wisconsin to establish Territorial Government of Iowa (5 Stat 235).


Proclamation—Neutrality With Respect to Canadian Affairs. Van Buren furthers neutrality with Canada, issuing another Proclamation stating that the American government will not assist any Americans engaged in criminal activities with Canada.


In a Special Message to Congress, delivers his Second Annual State of the Union Message.




Special Message to Congress regarding conflict with British in the state of Maine. The "Aroostook conflict" occurred after a government formed a militia in Maine that forcefully removed trespassers from above the border in New Brunswick. Van Buren explains that a peaceful resolution must be drawn between the nations or seasonal conflict is inevitable.


Signs Act giving the President additional Powers for the defense of the United States against invasion (5 Stat 355). Specifically refers to any attempt by Great Britain to enforce its claim on parts of the state of Maine. Authorizes the President to call for up to 50,000 volunteers in the event of conflict.


Vetoes joint resolution as it was not properly certified by the clerk of the House in which it originated. Explicitly does not address the substance. This is the only veto of Van Buren’s Presidency.


The so-called Aroostook War concerning the boundary between Maine and Canada end in a truce negotiated by General Winfield Scott under instructions from the President. The final disposition of the border is not settled until 1842 and the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.


A Convention for the Adjustment of Claims between US citizens and the Government of Mexico is signed in Washington. Creates a commission to adjudicate claims. This convention is ratified by the President 04/07/1840 and proclaimed 04/08/1840. (Link to pdf text of the Convention)


In a Special Message to the Senate, reports compensation by Great Britain for the brigs, Enterprise, Encomium, and Comet in which slaves were captured by the British territory of the Bermuda and Bahamas islands.


U.S.S. Washington seizes a ship, the Amistad, carrying slaves, off of Long Island. These events become a highly visible controversy about slavery.


Third Annual State of the Union Message. Congratulates the Treasury on its successful handling of the Panic of 1837 and urges against the evils of the federal government accruing debt. Van Buren also urges Congress to pass a law to make public officials using public funds for private purposes a crime.


The Whig Party meeting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania nominates William Henry Harrison for President (chosen over Henry Clay and Winfield Scott). John Tyler is unanimously nominated for Vice President.


Announces peace treaty with Republic of Ecuador.




Resubmits treaty to Congress concerning the removal of New York Indians. Although there appear to be conflicting interests influencing the tribes, recommends removing the Native Americans as a move that will be beneficial to all.


Issues Executive Order requiring that all Federal workers work only ten hours per day.


Special Message to Congress relating to a report made by the Secretary of State to resolve the jurisdictional dispute about the schooner Amistad. On August 24, 1839, a U.S. ship captured the Amistad off the coast of Long Island, NY with enslaved Africans onboard. Van Buren sought to extradite the Africans to their Cuban enslavers in an effort to gain pro-slavery votes for his upcoming presidential term.


Democratic National Convention meeting in Baltimore, MD, nominates Martin Van Buren for a second presidential term. However, due to "much diversity of opinion" delegates did not agree on a nominee for Vice President. Instead there was hope that before the election, opinion would coalesce behind a single candidate.


Recommends creation of exploratory committee to determine northeastern border region. This comes after Great Britain and the United States disagree on the northeastern border outlined in Treaty of Paris.


Sends Special Message to Congress recommending military preparations in case of attack from Great Britain.


Signs Independent Treasury Act. The Act established an Independent Treasury which was responsible for the collection, transferal, and management of the government’s money supply (5 Stat 385-393).


The Federal District Court in Hartford, CT rules in the Amistad case that the Africans should be returned to Africa. The US government appeals this decision, and the Supreme Court decides the case on 03/09/1841, holding that the Africans were not slaves but the victims of kidnap.


Election Day. William Henry Harrison (Whigs) wins 79.6% of the Electoral College and 52.9% of the popular vote, defeating incumbent Van Buren. 80% of the eligible electorate voted in the election, the highest percentage of American turnout at that point.


Fourth Annual State of the Union Message. Expresses his belief in a peaceful resolution to the British border dispute. Also urges action against the slave trade and forbids citizens from trading with slave factories.




Electoral votes tabulated by Congress.


Inaugural Address by William Henry Harrison.


Martin van Buren, Martin Van Buren Event Timeline Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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