It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Economic Panic of 1837
The severe downturn in the American economy that began in 1836 became Van Buren's primary concern during his presidency. Historians have identified three causes of the depression that wracked the American economy during the late 1830s. First, English banks -- responding to financial troubles at home -- stopped pumping money into the American economy, an important reversal since those funds had financed much of the nation's economic growth over the preceding two decades. Second, U.S. banks, which had overextended credit to their clients, began to call in loans after British banks cut their money supply. Third, President Andrew Jackson's "hard" money policies, especially the 1836 Specie Circular that aimed to stabilize what Jacksonians saw as an out-of-control economy by requiring that all purchases of federal land be made with precious metal (i.e. "hard" money) rather than paper ("soft") money, only exacerbated the credit crunch.
When Van Buren entered office, it was clear that the nation's economic health had taken a turn for the worse and that the prosperity of the early 1830s was over. Two months into his presidency, the roof fell in... Loans dried up, and so did new purchases; businesses and civic projects collapsed. Many Americans went unemployed and others began to go hungry. Creditors refused to accept paper currency that seemed to be losing its value by the hour. The American economy's downward spiral accelerated.
Van Buren blamed the current problems not on the Jackson administration's policies, but instead on what he viewed as greedy American and foreign business and financial institutions, as well as on the overextension of credit by U.S. banks. His political opponents, especially the Whigs, took little comfort in this analysis and were quick to blame the Democrats', and especially Jackson's, financial and monetary policies.
Immigration and Politics
The slumping economy did not discourage immigrants from coming to America. By the end of the Van Buren administration, 80,000 immigrants a year were entering the United States, the beginnings of a rush of newcomers that brought over four million people to U.S. shores between 1840 and 1860... Many of these immigrants were Irish Catholics (about 44 percent) and Germans (30 percent). They settled largely in the northeast and the midwest, often in major cities like New York or Boston, where the majority worked in low-paying, manual-labor jobs. A good number of the recent immigrants moved into skilled or semi-skilled jobs.