NAME: Martin Van Buren. He was named after his paternal grandfather, Marten Van Buren.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: A small, though sturdily built, figure, Van Buren stood a bit under 5 feet 6 inches tall. He had a fair complexion, deeply set blue eyes, and a classic Roman nose. His high forehead became increasingly prominent as his sandy curls receded with age. By the time he became president, he was distinguished by a crown of unruly white hair and great sidewhiskers. He spoke rapidly with crisp enunciation, but when he became excited, it is said, a touch of Dutch accent crept into his speech. He dressed impeccably. Indeed, his natty appearance often was the subject of scorn in the press.
PERSONALITY: Van Buren basically was optimistic, cheerful, quick to smile and laugh. His charm, courtesy, and fine manners made him a much-sought-after party guest. From an early age he was an engaging conversationalist. In politics, however, he preferred to let others talk about specific issues rather than to expound his own views. In drawing others out while keeping his own opinions closely guarded, he gained a reputation as a crafty partisan who, as one colleague asserted, “rowed to his object with muffled oars.” His rather unflattering nicknames, the Red Fox of Kinderhook and the Little Magician, reflected this image. He spoke cautiously, often in carefully worded phrases that left the listener in doubt about his true feelings. Van Buren was ambitious, but he was also a man of principle.
SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.
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