James Watson Webb
|James Watson Webb|
|James Watson Webb, between 1855 and 1865.|
|United States Ambassador to Brazil|
October 21, 1861 – May 26, 1869
|Preceded by||Richard K. Meade|
|Succeeded by||Henry T. Blow|
February 8, 1802|
Claverack, New York
|Died||June 7, 1884(aged 82)|
|Occupation||Diplomat, newspaper publisher|
Webb was born in Claverack, New York to Catherine (Hogeboom) and Gen. Samuel Blachley Webb, a Revolutionary officer of distinction. At age 12 he moved to Cooperstown, New York to live with his brother-in-law and guardian, Judge George Morrill. He entered the United States Army in August 1819, advanced to the grade of first lieutenant in 1823, and in the following year became assistant commissary of subsistence.
In the fall of 1827 he resigned from the army to become a newspaper publisher, purchasing the Morning Courier which he published in the interest of General Jackson. In 1829 he purchased the New York Enquirer, which he consolidated with the Courier under the title of the New York Courier and Enquirer. He remained connected with this paper for more than 30 years. Historian Don C. Seitz wrote of those days:
- James Watson Webb, of the horrendous Courier and Enquirer, who was a good deal of what was known in that day as a 'lady-killer' and Beau Brummel, sneered editorially, for example, at Greeley's ill-worn clothes. Just before indulging in this persiflage, Webb had been indicted, convicted and sentenced for acting as a second to Henry Clay in a duel with Tom Marshall. The term of duress was two years in Sing Sing, but Governor William H. Seward pardoned him before he went behind bars, in return for which Webb named one of his sons "William Seward Webb".
In 1834, Webb used the Courier and Enquirer to coin the name of a new political party: the Whigs. Webb had formerly been a supporter of Jackson, but no longer. That same year he recycled or invented extravagant rumors of miscegenation, that the abolitionists had counselled their daughters to marry blacks, and Lewis Tappan had divorced his wife to marry a black woman, and that the Presbyterian minister Henry Ludlow was conducting interracial marriages, which fueled the organized mob violence of New York's anti-abolitionist riots that June.
In 1849, he was appointed minister to Austria, but the appointment was not confirmed. That same year he married Laura Virginia Cram (on November 9, 1849). In 1851 he was appointed engineer-in-chief for the State of New York with the rank of Brigadier General, but refused to accept the appointment. In 1861, he was appointed minister to Turkey, but even though it had been confirmed by the United States Senate, he declined. As Glyndon Van Deusen wrote: "Webb, an inveterate beggar for office, wanted a diplomatic appointment that would be lucrative."
Shortly afterwards he was appointed minister to Brazil and served in that position for eight years. At Paris in 1864, he negotiated a secret treaty with the Emperor Napoleon III for the removal of French troops from Mexico.
"In Paris and Rio de Janeiro, on land or sea", wrote Abraham Lincoln's biographer, Carl Sandburg, Webb "believed that Lincoln should have appointed him major general, rating himself a grand strategist, having fought white men in duels and red men in frontier war."
Webb published the following:
- Altowan, or Incidents of Life and Adventure in the Rocky Mountains (1846)
- Slavery and its Tendencies (1856)
- National Currency, a pamphlet (1875)
- Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: a history of New York City to 1898, 1999:556.
The author of James Watson Webb's biography left out the information that Webb proposed to Secretary of State Sumner to take all free slaves to Brazil, for $50 per head, plus the cost of transportation. He also went to Brazil, and proposed to the Brazilian government to bring all liberated slaves in the USA for $50 a head, to settle in the Amazon. Had both nations agreed to it, he would have earned $100 per former slave brought to the Amazon. Brazil at the moment was engaged in a campaign to bring educated European immigrants, with knowledge of industry, and also to raise the level of educated persons in the country (at the time only 25% Brazilians knew how to read and write). They also were to "whiten up" the Brazilian population, which at the time was less than 30% white. Mr. Webb was also involved in the question of French Guyana, which on his own he had negotiated with Napoleon for the USA to buy, for $8 million, but Sumner would not hear of it as the USA was in the middle of the Civil War. In Brazilian history, Mr. Webb is seen as a money grabber, which indeed he seemed to have been. He was more of a businessman than a diplomat.
- Mr. Lincoln and New York: James Watson Webb
- "Webb, Samuel Blatchley". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1889.
Richard K. Meade
|United States Minister to Brazil
21 October 1861 – 26 May 1869
Henry T. Blow