The panic resulted from a combination of factors: over-speculation in land, unsound financing by state governments, the disturbing effects of the absence of the B.U.S. (Bank of the United States), and the Specie Circular. Other factors could be mentioned, and it would be difficult to detrmine how much weight shoul be given to any one of these causes. The Specie Circulation was issued in mid-summer of 1836 by President Jackson. This prevented payment for public lands in any other money than gold and silver and certain paper money that was as sound as the gold and silver specie. As almost all sales had been paid for in bank notes of questionable soundness, this order from Jackson brought a sharp decline in the number of sales. Fraud and speculation in public lands had become a grave public issue. The Specie Circular was Jackson's method of protecting the United States treasury from accumlating vast amounts of greatly depreciated paper money. The Specie did precipitate the Panic of 1837, but it did not cause it.

A depression set in that lasted throughout Van Buren's term in office. This alone would have made his administration unpopular, but there were other factors that further aggravated an early hopeless situation. Van Buren was a city man of considerable polish and wealth. He had aristocratic tastes and was without the "common touch" of Andrew Jackson. Any man in the President's office will be the victim of depression that lasts throughout his term, but Van Buren might have become unpopular without a depression.