1. Martin Van Buren (President #8, 1837-1841)
Despite earning memorable monikers like “The Little Magician” and “The Red Fox of Kinderhook” on the political battlefield, Martin Van Buren’s name has hardly stood out in the annals of American history, let alone the history of the presidency.
Van Buren was the son of a Dutch tavern owner and gained his taste for politics listening to debates in the rowdy rooms of the family saloon. A fact that should have earned him a more prominent place in history as he was the first president not of British descent.
Clearly an intelligent and politically astute man. This self-taught lawyer would quickly rise through the ranks of government, gaining himself the prestigious position as secretary of state for President Andrew Jackson in 1828.
Although President Jackson’s first term was tarnished by his cabinets infighting, Van Buren political astuteness would ensure he would stay away from these damaging conflicts. A decision that would be rewarded in President Jackson’s second term as he would replace John Calhoun as the vice president.
In 1836, he would win the ultimate prize, the presidency of the United States. However, this would prove to be rather a false dawn as his time in office was diminished by a series of leadership defeats and policies that would have little to no effect. After such a promising start in the political arena, he would end up being eaten by the lions.