In 1840, Daniel Webster was offered the position of William Henry Harrison's running mate. He refused. Harrison died after only a month, and so John Tyler became president.

History repeated itself in 1848, when Webster turned down a chance to become Zachary Taylor's vice president, only for Taylor to die and make Millard Fillmore president.

What if Webster had accepted one of these offers?
 
If Webster became president, the Whig agenda would be mostly passed. Webster would sign the Whig bill pushing for the creation of a Third Bank of the United States. With the New England Webster at the helm, we could also see a higher tariff passed in the early 1840s., something which would ruffle feathers in the southern states, which could help Democrats in the next congressional elections.

Another knock on effect of President Webster in 1841-1845 is that he might be able to name two Associate Justices to the Supreme Court, as Justice Baldwin and Justice Thompson both die in 1843 and 1844 respectively.
 

Amadeus

Gone Fishin'
I think 1848 is more likely since Harrison was a Northerner and needed to balance the ticket with a Southerner. If Webster becomes President in 1850, he probably does the same things that Fillmore did: he'd support the Compromise of 1850 (but give an epic speech about it), split the Whig Party, and send Perry to Japan. Butterflies may mean he doesn't die in 1852 (he'd be in the White House instead of riding his horse in Massachusetts) but I don't think he'd win a full term as President in 1852. He'd be remembered as a great orator but not a good President.
 
I think 1848 is more likely since Harrison was a Northerner and needed to balance the ticket with a Southerner. If Webster becomes President in 1850, he probably does the same things that Fillmore did: he'd support the Compromise of 1850 (but give an epic speech about it), split the Whig Party, and send Perry to Japan. Butterflies may mean he doesn't die in 1852 (he'd be in the White House instead of riding his horse in Massachusetts) but I don't think he'd win a full term as President in 1852. He'd be remembered as a great orator but not a good President.
Regarding the first point, the Perry expedition seems to be a very Fillmore idea, though it might be possible for it to happen. Regarding Webster's death, I don't think his location would matter much, since without major lifestyle changes, he seems to be on track to die in 1852. To quote the "Death" section on Webster's Wikipedia article: By early 1852, Webster had begun to suffer from cirrhosis of the liver, and his poor health increasingly made it difficult for him to serve as secretary of state. In September 1852, Webster returned to his Marshfield estate, where his health continued to decline due to cirrhosis and a subdural hematoma. He died at Marshfield on October 24, 1852, and is buried in Winslow Cemetery near his estate. His last words were: "I still live." This means that assuming no major butterflies, Webster not only dies before the end of the term, he dies before the election, leaving the Whigs in the unenviable position of searching for a replacement candidate just 10 days before the 1852 election.

Taking this into account, unless Webster is like Ulysses S. Grant in the sense that he's the type of person to buckle down and drop the bottle whenever facing big challenges, it seems like he won't finish out the 1849-1853 term, and even without the subdural hematoma (did he get it horse-riding?), it seems like he'd barely make it to the end of his term, let alone live through the 1853-1837 term, which he'd most likely win. Again mentioning Webster's Wiki page, it mentions that Webster, even with failing health, wanted to become the Whig candidate in 1852, and Fillmore seemed to be okay with it, but didn't rule out running because he didn't want William Seward to gain control of the party. Even with this, both Fillmore and Webster expressed that they'd be willing to withdraw in favor of the other to deny Winfield Scott the nomination, but that their delegates couldn't agree on things. Since Fillmore wouldn't even appear other the national stage other than as a VP candidate, or as a minor presidential candidate in the balloting, it's perfectly plausible that Webster wins the nomination on the first ballot, or even if the first few ballots are split, and the situations are reversed, that Fillmore withdraws in favor of Webster.

The big question here is: does Webster give his 1850 Ides of March speech? As much good as it did him regarding his perception by southerners, it pretty much killed his reputation in New England, especially his home state of Massachusetts as he was then seen as a sellout to slavery. If he avoids the speech, there's not a chance that New England abandons him (at least until he supports the compromise of 1850 unless Henry Clay is willing to take the heat for it).

However, things get real interesting if (assuming no major changes in presidential tickets) Webster did run as VP in both 1840 and 1848. If for some reason Webster doesn't run in 1844, whoever the Whig candidate is (probably still Clay) would most likely win by a comfortable margin if not a landslide since unlike Tyler, Webster would've kept the party united, tariffs high, and would've approved of internal improvements. If the Whigs insist on the "only one presidential term" rule, then Webster doesn't run in 1852 since he just had two (partial) terms, and the idea of Webster ascending to the presidency through death would most likely lead to quite a few conspiracy theories of "Webster killed William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor to ascend to the Presidency." If the Whigs drop (or don't come up with) the one term rule, and assuming that Webster doesn't drink, then he's got a more than decent shot at the 1852 election. To quote Anakin Skywalker in Episode III: "This is where the fun begins." In this case, Webster would have to juggle the reality of making the 1850 Compromise work (if he gives the Ides of March speech) or of ramming through the Zachary Taylor proposal of granting immediate statehood to California and New Mexico as free states (Wilmot Proviso optional, but in a Webster that remains so openly anti-slavery, more likely than not). In the former, depending on how it goes, Webster could end up being seeing as Buchanan 0.5, a Northern sellout to slavers (at least in how he's viewed), if he manages it well, he could be what Lincoln wanted to be before the Civil War, a man willing to compromise to slowly solve the issue of slavery through compromise. If it's openly anti-slavery Webster, than he could inadvertently jumpstart the Civil War either by a few months, or even by so much that much like IOTL, states start seceding at the end of his administration, and whoever is elected in 1856 and takes office in 1857 might have to deal with this rebellion (could potentially be Fremont or some other Republican ITTL). Best case scenario for anti-slavery Webster is that the South grumbles, but understands that Mexican lands acquired were useless for slavery, and that even if they somehow got California and New Mexico to be slave states, they would effectively number in the low hundreds if that, as servants, and that as such, all congressional representation from those states would be effectively anti-slavery (best case scenario for the South, pro-popular sovereignty). Of course, this assumes that the South viewed things logically rather than even the tamest of anti-slavery actions as an attack on their very existence.

In an anti-slavery Webster administration, Kansas most likely becomes a state much earlier, most likely under the Topeka Constitution of 1855 (the first one drafted), though an early form of the Leavenworth Constitution might arise if anti-slavery forces feel emboldened enough (third proposed constitution, and the most racially equal of the four). The addition of three new free states in one administration means one of two things: either the South rebels (or at the very least screams bloody murder) or . . . Webster is forced to compromise, and acquire additional territory. Webster being a smart man, could see filibusters as a way to let the South let off some steam, and potentially pacify them, after all, he's not denying the admission of new slaves states entirely or saying that all new states will be free states, only that those acquired from Mexico will be. In something that would be comparable to "Only Nixon could go to China", ITTL "Only Webster could acquire Cuba". Most likely, he'd secretly fund William Walker, and agree to annex Sonora and Baja California to the US, which not being subject to the Wilmot Proviso, would most likely then becoming slave states, even without having slaves. Webster would also probably have more competent people deal with the Ostend Manifesto ITTL since it wouldn't be a passion project, but rather a very important acquisition in which the very Union itself was a stake since without Cuba, and Baja California and Sonora, the South would find itself outnumbered in the House and Senate, and would not take it lying down. Since Walker wanted the Republic of Sonora to be part of the US, after its annexation, he'd probably move on to Nicaragua, in which case, overt support by Webster would be hard to justify to his New England base, bit if he somehow manages to convince them, and Walker succeeds (either in simply keeping Nicaragua or even conquering Central America), it would serve as an escape valve to slaveholders who felt that the US could abolish slavery at any moment since Nicaragua (let alone the entirety of Central America) would be annexed to the US, and I'm not sure Walker even had plans for that.

Of course, this all doesn't take into account that an anti-slavery Webster could potentially insist on 54-40 (without going to war of course) to have additional free state land, which would make the acquisition of Cuba and the Republic of Sonora (Baja California and Sonora) even more crucial ITTL. Assuming that this went well, Webster would be seen as the man who avoided (or at least delayed) the Civil War, built up internal improvements, implemented pro-industry tariffs leading to an increase in American manufacturing, and oversaw some of the biggest increases in US territory in history, making him going down as one of the greatest presidents of all time.

P.D. It's possible that a more ambitious (or at the very least a more informed) Walker goes for a proper Republic of Sonora, including Sinaloa, which was a combined state during the centralization of Mexico, though with the exception of the interim "Interno de Occidente", but since they're right next to each other, it sort of made sense, especially since taking Sinaloa would mean driving deep into Mexican territory.

P.P.D. I forgot to mention the Republic of Yucatan, which ITTL may or may not be annexed, especially during the Mexican-American War, and fact, it's possible that ITTL the diplomat negotiating it goes for the original terms rather than letting Mexico keep more land (though I haven't seen a map of the original proposal so I don't know what the territorial difference would be.
 
Webster, depending on when he's President is also going to iron out the Oregon and Maine border, and may further push Mexico to sell San Francisco or lease the habor as all of these were huge pushes for him in OTL.
 
Webster, depending on when he's President is also going to iron out the Oregon and Maine border, and may further push Mexico to sell San Francisco or lease the habor as all of these were huge pushes for him in OTL.
Precisely. During the 1841-1845 term, he'd have even more sway over the Webster-Ashburton Treaty which fixed the current boundary between Maine and New Brunswick, while during the 1849-1853 term he could deal with the Oregon issue, which if he managed to get the entirety of the Oregon territory, it would butterfly away the 1859 Pig War since there wouldn't be a dispute between Washington and British Columbia since the latter would not be British.

It also increases the possibility of the US gaining its full claims in Alaska rather than the pro-US settlement IOTL in the future due to the precedent set and the lack of protestation by British Columbia IOTL.
 
An interesting change that would occur if Webster becomes president after Taylor's death has to do with Austria-America relations. IOTL, relations between the two countries were very tense at this time due to some American politicians, including Daniel Webster, supporting the independence of Hungary.
To quote Stephen Tuffnel (taken from the wikipedia page for Austria-US relations, bold added):
"In its frequent and blundering breaches of etiquette with the Habsburgs, American domestic politics were, as ever, catalytic. Thus, as national-separatist revolutions broke open across the European continent in 1848, ebullient support of Lajos Kossuth and the Hungarian 48ers in the United States drove Washington and Vienna into conflict. Pro-Hungarian fervour in the Senate and Democratic press, stoked by Lewis Cass; State Department flirtation with the recognition of Hungarian independence in the Taylor and Fillmore Presidencies; and, finally, the latter's 1851 'rescue' of Kossuth from the Ottoman Empire on board the USS Mississippi precipitated a breach in relations. Only the death of Daniel Webster, a major opponent of reconciliation, averted the crisis."
 
Last edited:
"In its frequent and blundering breaches of etiquette with the Habsburgs, American domestic politics were, as ever, catalytic. Thus, as national-separatist revolutions broke open across the European continent in 1848, ebullient support of Lajos Kossuth and the Hungarian 48ers in the United States drove Washington and Vienna into conflict. Pro-Hungarian fervour in the Senate and Democratic press, stoked by Lewis Cass; State Department flirtation with the recognition of Hungarian independence in the Taylor and Fillmore Presidencies; and, finally, the latter's 1851 'rescue' of Kossuth from the Ottoman Empire on board the USS Mississippi precipitated a breach in relations. Only the death of Daniel Webster, a major opponent of reconciliation, averted the crisis."
I don't think it would be a big fuss. Neither of them could do anything to the other.
 
I don't think it would be a big fuss. Neither of them could do anything to the other.
I mean . . . Webster could push for the recognition of Hungarian independence in 1848, giving weapons and money to the Italians and Hungarians to help them, which would be be two anti-Austrian forces. Nothing super direct, but it would be something.

If things go well (or US involvement is big enough) then an independent Hungary (whether it be due to the revolution or after WWI assuming it happens as IOTL) would be very pro US like Albania is today, and might even have some sort of US-Hungary friendship type of agreement due to the US' support for independence.
 
Webster could push for the recognition of Hungarian independence in 1848, giving weapons and money to the Italians and Hungarians to help them, which would be be two anti-Aus
By the time he died in 1852, the Revolutions were already done and dust.
 
By the time he died in 1852, the Revolutions were already done and dust.
Yeah, but the question is what if he was VP I’m either 1840 or 1848, which assuming WHH or ZT died on track, would mean Webster would be President from 1841-1845 and/or 1850-1853 (and of course, that doesn’t count the influence he could have due to his lack of association with John Tyler as well as being vice President alongside two men who won the presidency as generals meant to unite the country rather than as policymakers, meaning Webster would probably have at least a bit, if not quite a bit, of leeway when it comes to policy.

Also, the post mentions that both the Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore administrations were “flirting” with recognizing Hungarian independence, so it’s possible that Webster either pushes Taylor into it or does it himself.)

Also, as mentioned, if Webster was President during the 1841-1845 term, it’s quite likely that if he didn’t run for re-election, Henry Clay would win (and potentially hire him as Secretary of State) so it’s possible a near outgoing (1848-1849) Clay administration recognizes Hungarian Independence at Webster’s insistence.

1852 was mentioned as the potential for Webster to be elected to his own administration (1853-1857), though I did mention the caveat that it would mean he’d have to give up the bottle since he died from cirrhosis in 1852, at the age of 70.

Meanwhile, Clay and Calhoun died from tuberculosis at 75 (1852) and 68 (1850), respectively.
 
Last edited:
I think 1848 is more likely since Harrison was a Northerner and needed to balance the ticket with a Southerner. If Webster becomes President in 1850, he probably does the same things that Fillmore did: he'd support the Compromise of 1850 (but give an epic speech about it), split the Whig Party, and send Perry to Japan. Butterflies may mean he doesn't die in 1852 (he'd be in the White House instead of riding his horse in Massachusetts) but I don't think he'd win a full term as President in 1852. He'd be remembered as a great orator but not a good President.

To clarify, William Henry Harrison was originally from Virginia, though he ran for President from Ohio which he called home.
 
To clarify, William Henry Harrison was originally from Virginia, though he ran for President from Ohio which he called home.
Yep, which made him a “Northerner” for all effects and purposes, needing a Southerner to “balance” the ticket, though I think he could easily get away with putting Webster on the ticket because 1) Van Buren would lose to anyone except the Liberty Party (fringe abolitionist party), and 2) Webster was basically one of the original, main Whigs, so it would turn from a sectional thing to a “I’m the Whiggest of Whigs, so I’m nominating the #2 man in the party.”.
 

Amadeus

Gone Fishin'
Yep, which made him a “Northerner” for all effects and purposes, needing a Southerner to “balance” the ticket, though I think he could easily get away with putting Webster on the ticket because 1) Van Buren would lose to anyone except the Liberty Party (fringe abolitionist party), and 2) Webster was basically one of the original, main Whigs, so it would turn from a sectional thing to a “I’m the Whiggest of Whigs, so I’m nominating the #2 man in the party.”.

Well, Harrison lived in Ohio but he owned slaves and there were abolitionists who opposed him for this reason. Perhaps, as suggested by @David T Webster encourages Weed to put his name in nomination and Weed makes the argument that Harrison is truly a Southerner due to his Virginia background and ownership of slaves - regardless of his current state of residence - so the Whigs need a New Englander to balance the ticket?
 
Well, Harrison lived in Ohio but he owned slaves and there were abolitionists who opposed him for this reason. Perhaps, as suggested by @David T Webster encourages Weed to put his name in nomination and Weed makes the argument that Harrison is truly a Southerner due to his Virginia background and ownership of slaves - regardless of his current state of residence - so the Whigs need a New Englander to balance the ticket?

Harrison had a habit of buying slaves--who in the indiana Territory became "indentured servants." This was pretty much indistinguishable from slavery except that it "only" covered the "servant's" (and his or her offspring's) most productive years rather than a lifetime. For one contract signed by Harrison, see https://catalogue.swanngalleries.co...lliam-Henry?saleno=2239&lotNo=13&refNo=634157 "In this unusual document, Harrison purchases a Negro girl named Molley for the specific period of sixteen years, thereafter she is to be "Free and released from servitude." However, it was stipulated in this contract that any children that Molley might have during her sixteen years of servitude would be "subject to the laws of the aforesaid Territory;" i.e., they would be concerned indentured servants. The Indiana Territory had a rather unusual history as far as slavery is concerned--as did Harrison himself. In 1800, Harrison inherited about a dozen slaves and took seven of them with him when he moved to Indiana, which was "free soil"--which meant no new slaves. Harrison's slaves then became indentured servants under conditions that were virtually indistinguishable from slavery. In 1805, the First Assembly in Indiana passed an act, which Governor Harrison then signed, allowing slave owners to convert (illegal) slaves into indentured servants. This is what Molley was. Negro males under fifteen could be kept in service until 35, women until 32. Offspring of such stayed in service until 30 (male) or 28 (female)."

Harrison tried to have it both ways on his slave/servant ownership politically. The indentured servants could, if they lived long enough, become free --and sometimes that actually happened: "He bought a runaway slave named Jack Butler from his master in Kentucky for four hundred dollars and indentured him for twelve years. After completing his service, Butler lived as a free man on a small farm that Harrison owned along the Wabash River." Harrison therefore argued to antislavery audiences that "I have been the means of liberating many slaves but never placed one in bondage.' https://books.google.com/books?id=czgURJpsUpAC&pg=PA32

"It is unquestionable that Harrison believed in the theory of a constitutional right of the Southern people to carry slavery into the territories, not only from his action in Indiana and from repeated public declarations, but also from his votes, in February, 1819, against the prohibition, restriction, and gradual abolition of slavery in Missouri and Arkansas. His Ohio constituents did not approve of these votes, and defeated him at the congressional election of 1822, "on account of his adherence to that principle of the Constitution which secures to the people of the South their preëxisting rights." In that campaign, to the charge of being a pro-slavery man he replied : “I am accused of being friendly to slavery. From my earliest youth to the present moment I have been the ardent friend of human liberty. At the age of eighteen I became a member of an Abolition Society established at Richmond, Virginia ; the object of which was to ameliorate the condition of slaves and procure their freedom by every legal means. My venerable friend Judge Gatch, of Clermont County, was also a member of this society, and has lately given me a certificate that I was one. The obligations which I then came under I have faithfully performed. I have been the means of liberating many slaves, but never placed one in bondage.”

"In the campaign of 1840 a very different state of affairs existed, there being far more danger politically from the charge of abolitionism, then preferred against him, than from any pro-slavery taint; and his campaign biographers succeeded in breaking completely the force of his broad statement of eighteen years earlier. One of them followed a quotation of it, as above given, with these words : “It is proper to remark that this society, established by the Quakers, but not confined to them, was,
according to the statement of Judge Gatch, a * Humane Society ;' and it seems to have been of a character to which no exceptions were taken in Virginia. A number of the citizens of Richmond were members, and its principles were not understood to be at all in conflict with the rights guarantied to the owners of slaves by the Constitution and the laws of the land. Within a few months after his first connection with this society, General Harrison, then but eighteen years of age, removed from Virginia, since which time he has never attended one of its meetings, nor been either directly or indirectly connected with any society touching the question of slavery.” 1 Thus was punctured the bubble of his performance of the “obligations” imposed upon him as a member of this abolition society; and the remainder of his statement is chiefly oratorical froth. For example, from the condition of negroes in the United States, it is not evident how he could have “placed one in bondage” if he had desired to, unless he had engaged in kidnaping free negroes..." https://books.google.com/books?id=ayXRQv3Aj3MC&pg=PA311
 
The interesting thing about Webster succeeding Taylor and then dying in office is that it would at that point elevate to the presidency the President Pro Tempore who was a plausible f not super likely contender for the 1852 Democratic presidential nomination anyway.
 
The interesting thing about Webster succeeding Taylor and then dying in office is that it would at that point elevate to the presidency the President Pro Tempore who was a plausible f not super likely contender for the 1852 Democratic presidential nomination anyway.
Did you have Lewis Cass in mind? He didn’t become President Pro Tempore until 1854, and even then it was only for a day after the death of David R. Atchinson (December 20, 1852-December 4, 1854), and preceding him was William R. King who was only nominated for VP (and died from TB) in 1852. In King’s case, he served as President Pro Tempore from May 6-19, 1850, and then July 11, 1850-December 20, 1853. So assuming Webster dies the same day as IOTL, King would become Acting President (or just President), then get elected to VP, and die, but it doesn’t seem like he was a presidential candidate.
 
Last edited:
Did you have Lewis Cass in mind? He didn’t become President Pro Tempore until 1854, and even then it was only for a day after the death of David R. Atchinson (December 20, 1852-December 4, 1854), and preceding him was William R. King who was only nominated for VP (and died from TB) in 1852. I’m King’s case, be served as President Pro Tempore from May 6 to May 19 in 1850, and then from July 11, 1850 to December 20, 1853. So assuming Webster dies the same die as IOTL, Kinf would become Acting President (or just President) then get elected to VP and die, but it doesn’t seem like he was a presidential candidate.
I know William King was only VP in OTL, but with a POD of 1848, I see nothing in his background that would keep him from potentially being the Democrats' presidential nominee in 1852. Yes, who his vice president is will be significant as he'll end up president too.
 
Top