Although the Panic of 1837 happened the year Van Buren took office, its causes go back to the policies of his predecessor, Andrew Jackson, whom Van Buren had served as secretary of state, vice president, and close adviser. Jackson brought an end to the Second Bank of the United States, which he thought exercised too much control over credit and economic opportunity, by moving federal funds to smaller state banks. The reckless credit policies of these banks led to massive speculation in Western lands. By the time Van Buren took office, the banks were in trouble. They started restricting credit and calling in loans; bank depositors tried to withdraw their funds. During the five-year depression that followed the Panic of 1837, many banks closed, businesses failed, thousands lost their land, and there was unprecedented unemployment.
|Library of Congress
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