Martin Van Buren (December 5, 1782 - July 24, 1862) was the eighth U.S. President
, from 1837
While many of us have very little knowledge of Van Buren and what he did in his lifetime, his legacy is more important than what he did as president or as governor of New York. He was brought up in upstate New York, one of the many Dutch folks living in the New York at the time (remember, New York City was being called an old Dutch Town until the mid/later ninteenth century, when immigration helped the city become far larger and far less Dutch than it was previously).
Anyways, Van Buren's lasting legacy, for better or for worse, was to help establish the patronage system and political machinery of New York State as well as the country. As he moved up in the ranks, he created a small group of trusted men who helped run his campaigns, get out votes for him on election day (through legal and not-so-legal means) as well as help him run things once he got into his prospective political position and, if they stayed on his good side, moved up the political ladder.
The significance of this is two-fold. First, the patronage system comes from this (he's not the first or only person to use patronage, but he was a master at it). If a person helped him in his quest for office, they would be rewared with a government job. That way, the government bureaucracy was controlled by whoever was in office. The second piece of this involves Tammany Hall, the main political machine in New York City from the early ninteenth century until around World War II.
Both the patronage system and the political machine remained entrenched in the world of politics until the idea of civil service (and the civil service exam) finally took hold in most government jobs (although there is always some amount of patronage involved in many government jobs) and the final toppling of political machines such as Tammany Hall from the 1920s until shortly after World War II when political parties ceased to be run by the bosses and were controlled more tightly on the national level.
Van Buren accomplished all this by simply being a skilled politician at the time. He surrounded himself with ambitious, smart men and used them to secure himself jobs. Most politicians saw this and shortly followed suit.