Presidential Papers

1848 broadside
This political cartoon from the contentious presidential election of 1848 depicts Martin Van Buren's inability to bridge the distance between the "Conscience," or abolitionist, Whigs and conservative Democrats.  Numerous letters pertaining to the 1848 campaign are contained in Van Buren’s papers.

Access Granted: The Van Buren Papers Program Taking Place in Hudson

Join historians James Bradley and Dr. Mark Cheathem of the Papers of Martin Van Buren Project and Dr. Barbara Bair of the Library of Congress for a very special introduction to two projects that will increase public access to President Martin Van Buren’s letters. The presentation is a special offering by Martin Van Buren National Historic Site that will take place in Hudson on Tuesday evening July 19 at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce office on Front Street beginning at 7:00 pm. There will be a reception following the presentation.

As the nation goes through a turbulent and exciting presidential election season, this group of scholars will discuss the life and times of President Martin Van Buren, the man who helped to establish America's political party system. The framework crafted by Van Buren provided structure to politics during the stormy antebellum period of American history, and the comparisons between Van Buren’s political life and present day politics are sure to provide lively discussion.

James Bradley will discuss Van Buren's years in Hudson and how the politics of Columbia County shaped his ideas on reform and democracy. He is co-editor (with Mark Cheathem) of the Papers of Martin Van Buren Project, launched in 2014 with the purpose of making the eighth president’s papers accessible to scholars and the public alike. Bradley is a longtime journalist and senior project editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City. He's been blogging about Martin Van Buren since 2010 and is currently coediting an anthology of Van Buren's letters and speeches while working on a biography of Van Buren.

Dr. Cheathem will outline the origin, scope, and goals of The Papers of Martin Van Buren Project, which will fill an important gap in American scholarship regarding the origins of the party system and the rise of democratic politics during the age of Jackson by transcribing, editing and annotating thousands of Van Buren letters, speeches and notes. Dr. Cheathem is professor of history and project director of the project, which is based at Cumberland University. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Mississippi State University and is the author or editor of five books, including Andrew Jackson, Southerner, which won the 2013 Tennessee History Book Award. He is currently completing book projects on the 1840 and 1844 presidential elections, both of which involved Van Buren.

Dr. Barbara Bair will explain the Martin Van Buren Papers collection at the Library of Congress, newly launched online. The Martin Van Buren Papers are one of twenty-three presidential collections in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division. The Van Buren archive contains more than 6,000 items. Bair will demonstrate the new online site, set it very briefly in the context of the other related online presidential papers collections at the Library of Congress, and discuss the Library's supportive collaborations with other documentary editing projects. Dr. Bair is a long-time member of the Association for Documentary Editing, and the co-editor of university press documentary volumes on Marcus Garvey, Will Rogers, and Jane Addams. She is the recipient, along with the staff of the Marcus Garvey Papers at UCLA, of the ADE’s Lyman Butterfield Award in Documentary Editing, and volume one of The Selected Papers of Jane Addams was a CHOICE academic title of the year. Bair is also the author of several documentary digital frameworks of Library of Congress collections, including the papers of presidents Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler and Zachary Taylor.

At the reception following the talk, the audience will have the opportunity to engage the scholars and the staff of Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in discussions that may shed light on how the history of Columbia County’s most famous son helps deepen our perspective on current events.

Last updated: July 8, 2016

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