Daniel Webster’s Unlucky Decisions

February 24, 2023

Portrait of Daniel Webster

If you see pictures of Daniel Webster, he doesn’t look happy (like the one above), but he did have a good reason why he wasn’t.

In the mid-1800s, Daniel Webster ran for president and lost three times. He later declined the vice presidency twice, once with William Henry Harrison in 1840, and later with Zachary Taylor in 1848, thinking it was a worthless endeavor and beneath him. Both presidents who offered him the VP spot later died in office.

John Tyler got the nod to be president following Harrison, the first president to die in office, and Millard Fillmore became president after Taylor died in office. As a side note, Fillmore was the last Whig Party president and the only Whig president who didn’t die in office or get expelled by the Whig Party.

So Daniel Webster missed out on being president two different times since he didn’t want to be vice-president. Those are the breaks sometimes, but don’t feel too sorry for Webster. He was a prominent and successful lawyer who argued over 200 cases in front of the Supreme Court and was also Secretary of State under two administrations. He was also a member of Congress in the Senate and US House of Representatives and negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with the British, which formalized the northern border with what would become Canada.

Webster did have a brush with the presidency of the United States as Secretary of State in the Harrison administration. After President Harrison died in office, Webster became the “acting President” for two days while he awaited the arrival of Vice President John Tyler to Washington, DC, the man whose position he had turned down.

Sources: US State Department, Brandeis Special Collections

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites. I hope you learn many new things here that add to your knowledge.

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