Brief Biographies from the Jackson/Van Buren Era (V):


Vail, Alfred 1807 - 1859:

Financed Morse in the development of the telegraph from 1837-8, for a large portion of interest in the invention. Graduated New York University, at a late age, in 1836. Born in Morristown, NJ.


Vallandigham, Clement Laird 1820 - 1871:

Ohio politician; member of House from 1858-63, who was known as a leader of the "Copperheads" in the Civil War. Born in New Lisbon, OH.


Van Buren, Martin (1782-1862):

The man who would succeed Andrew Jackson in the presidency grew up among the Van Nesses, Van Schachters, and Van Etceteras of the upstate New York Dutch country

He came to age during the presidency of his idol, Thomas Jefferson, the son of a struggling farmer and tavern-keeper. His mother made sure he got enough schooling to start off as a law clerk. With this kind of experience, and the use of his employer's law books, he followed the typical path to becoming a lawyer.

To broaden his experience, he went to a law office in New York City, and there became licensed to practice in the state Supreme Court.

He also began his political activism there, opposing Aaron Burr for governor in 1804. In 1800, Burr earned Thomas Jefferson's enmity while pointing out a flaw in the Constitution. Originally, members of the electoral college each voted for two candidates, which seems to imply one being for President and the other for Vice President, but they were not clearly distinguished. If any candidate received a majority, he was elected President, and the candidate with the second most votes was made Vice President. There seems to have been an understanding that the "running mate" designated for vice president would, in case of a tie, give away one vote. This rule having never been formalized, Aaron Burr did not follow it, resulting in 35 tie votes before the tie was broken and Jefferson elected president.

In New York state, many Republicans (Jefferson's party; later called Democrats) remained loyal to Burr, but Van Buren opposed him. This lead to a group of his early patrons challenging his qualification to vote, putting him through some agravation and indignity. One might say humiliation except that Van Buren seemed to always maintained a perfect composure, frustrating anyone who tried to humiliate him. This seems a central fact of his character, of which he was proud, as his autobiography shows. It cites several such instances, followed by measured retaliation by him, and eventual reconciliation.

After New York, Van Buren went to practice law in Hudson NY, near where he was born. He received a county office from the Clinton organization, with which he acted in opposing Burr. George Clinton was a signer of the Constitution, and had been governor. His nephew DeWitt Clinton, a future political opponent of Van Buren. Both Clintons were at times considered for the presidency.


Van Cortlandt, Philip 1749 - 1831:

b.8/21,d.11/5
Grew up at the Cortlandt manor near Croton. made Brevet Brig. General at Yorktown, last major event ot the Revolution, and so known as "the old general" sometimes.

1828 finds him, in his last years, an ardent Jacksonian, looking for confirmation of spurious claims that John Quincy Adams was a Freemason (Jackson was a Mason, and Adams was benefiting from the Anti-Masonic movement).

Sources: DAB; Judd, Correspondence, p146ff.


Van Cortlandt, Pierre, Jr. 1762 - 1848:

b.8/29,d.7/13
Grad Rutgers 1783 and studied law in Alexander Hamilton's office, but retired law to manage his estate.

Pres. elector in 1800 for Jefferson; member NY State Assembly 1811-12; Congressman 1811-13.

President of Weschester County Bank at Peekskill from 1833 until his death.

Source: Biog.Dir. of Am. Congress; Judd: Corr. of V.C. Family.


Van Rensselaer, Solomon 1774 - 1852

b.8/6,d.4/23
Served as officer in the army in the 1790; injured at the Battle of Fallen Timbers under Gen. Anthony Wayne.

In congress 1819-22, where he opposed the slavery cause of the Missouri Compromise. Then resigned and was made postmaster at Albany (over the objections of most of the New York deletation, who wanted a loyal Jeffersonian, not the Federalist that V.R. was). He kept the postmastership under Jackson (who had sympathy for an elderly general with many battlescars), but lost it under Van Buren; regained the post again under Harrison, and lost it under Tyler.

Sources: DAB


Van Rensselaer, Stephen (Nov. 1, 1764 - Jan 26, 1839):

Sometimes called the "good patroon", being descended from the Dutch patroons, and having inherited the great Van Rensselaer estate in New York, spread across Rensselaer and Albany Counties.

Grad Harvard in 1782. The next year, he married a daughter of revolutionary Gen. Philip Schuyler, and took up residence at the Rensselaer manor near Albany.

He would not sell his land, but granted perpetual leases at moderate rates, which lead to greater land productivity than before.

As Major General of militia, he lead a disastrous attack across the Niagara fronteir during the War of 1812, after which he resigned his command.

Succeeded relative Solomon Van Rensselaer in Congress and served 1823-29. There, he is remembered most for casting the vote in the House of Representatives that put John Quincy Adams in the White House at the expense of Andrew Jackson, who had a better claim of popular support.

He was most useful to the state as a proponent of projects in aid of commerce like the Erie Canal.

Sources: DAB


Vanderbilt, Cornelius 1794 - 1877:

In 1810, began running a ferry business from Staten Island to New York; captain on a New Brunswick, NJ to New York ferry line from 1818-29. After 1829, he began building an immensely successful Hudson River shipping and service. Later, from about 1850, he heavily involved in national shipping and railroading. Know as "Commodore". Born at Port Richmond on Staten Island, NY.


Vanderlyn, John 1775 - 1852:

Painter, mostly of portraits, including one of Zachariah Taylor.


Varrick, Richard 1753 - 1831:

Mayor of New York 1789-1801, with a street named after him. Edited the 40 volumes of correspondence of the hadquarters of the Continental army. Served in responsible staff roles throughout the revolutionary war.


Vassar, Matthew 1792 - 1868:

English-born brewer in Poughkeepsie, NY. Endowed a women's college in 1861, which was later named after him.


Vaux, Roberts 1786 - 1836:

Proponent of prison reform, humane insane asylums, and other attempts to try to care for or pick up those who had failed or were disadvantaged. Born in Philadelphia


Verplanck, Gulian Crommelin 1786 - 1870


Very, Jones 1813 - 1880:


Vesey, Denmark ? - 1822:

A free black artisan of South Carolina who planned a slave revolt, which was stopped before it began.