General James Watson Webb (February 8, 1802 - June 7, 1884) was a United States diplomat, newspaper publisher and a New York politician in the Whig and Republican parties. His sons H. Walter Webb and William Seward Webb were noteworthy railway executives.
Webb was born in Claverack, New York to Catherine (Hogeboom) and Gen. Samuel Blatchley 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 Courier and Enquirer. He remained connected with this paper for more than 30 years. Historian Don C. Seitz wrote of those days:
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.
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:
Richard K. Meade
|United States Minister
21 October 1861–26 May 1869
Henry T. Blow