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Francis Preston Blair


BLAIR, FRANCIS PRESTON American journalist and politician, was born at Abingdon, Va., on April 2, 1791. He graduated from Transylvania university in 1811, took to journalism, and was a contributor to Amos Kendall's paper, the Argus, at Frankfort. In 183o, having become an ardent fol lower of Andrew Jackson, he was made editor of the Washington Globe, the recognized organ of the Jackson party. In this capacity, and as a member of Jackson's "Kitchen Cabinet," he long exerted a powerful influence. The Globe was the administration organ un til 1841, and the chief Democratic organ until 1845. Blair ceased to be its editor in 1849. In 1848 he actively supported Martin Van Buren, the Free Soil candidate, for the Presidency, and in 1852 he supported Franklin Pierce, but soon afterwards helped to organize the new Republican Party and presided at its pre liminary convention at Pittsburgh, Pa., in Feb. 1856.

He was influential in securing the nomination of John C. Fre mont, 1856, and of Abraham Lincoln in 186o. After Lincoln's re election in 1864 Blair thought that his former close personal rela tions with the Confederate leaders might aid in bringing peace, and with Lincoln's consent he went unofficially to Richmond and induced President Jefferson Davis to appoint commissioners to confer with representatives of the United States. This resulted in the futile "Hampton Roads Conference" of Feb. 3, 1865 (see LINCOLN, ABRAHAM). After the Civil War, Blair became a sup porter of President Johnson's reconstruction policy, and eventually rejoined the Democratic Party. He died at Silver Spring, Md., on Oct. 18, 1876.

His son, MONTGOMERY BLAIR 0813-83), politician and lawyer, was born in Franklin county, Ky., on May io, 1813. He graduated at West Point in 1835, but after a year's service in the Seminole War, left the army, studied law, and began practice at St. Louis, Mo. After serving as U.S. district attorney (1839-43), as Mayor of St. Louis (1842-43), and as judge of the court of common pleas (1843-49), he removed to Maryland (1852), and devoted himself to law practice, principally in the Federal Supreme Court. He was U.S. solicitor in the court of claims from 1855 until 1858, and was associated with George T. Curtis as counsel for the plain tiff in the Dred Scott case in 1857. In 186o he took an active part in the presidential campaign on behalf of Lincoln, in whose cabi net he was postmaster-general from 1861 until Sept. 1864, when he resigned as a result of the hostility of the Radical Republican faction, who stipulated that Blair's retirement should follow the withdrawal of Fremont's name as a candidate for the presidential nomination in that year. Under his administration the establish ment of free city delivery, the adoption of a money order system and the use of railway mail cars were instituted. Differing from the Republican Party on the reconstruction policy, Blair gave his adherence to the Democratic Party after the Civil War. He died at Silver Spring, Md., on July 27,1883.

Another son, FRANCIS PRESTON BLAIR, Jr. (1821-75), soldier and political leader, was born at Lexington, Ky., on Feb. 19,182i. After graduating from Princeton in 1841 he practised law in St. Louis, and later served in the Mexican War. He served from 1852 to 1856 in the Missouri legislature as a Free Soil Democrat, in 1856 joined the Republican Party and in 1857-62 was a member of Congress. Immediately after South Carolina's secession, Blair, believing that the Southern leaders were planning to carry Mis souri into the movement, worked actively and successfully to pre vent it. Blair was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers in Aug. 1862, and a major-general in Nov. 1862. In Congress as chairman of the important military affairs committee his services were of the greatest value. He commanded a division in the Vicksburg campaign and in the fighting about Chattanooga, and was one of Sherman's corps commanders in the final cam paigns in Georgia and the Carolinas. In 1866, like his father and brother, he opposed the Congressional reconstruction policy, and on that issue left the Republican Party. In 1868, he was the Democratic candidate for vice-president on the ticket with Horatio Seymour. In 1871-73, he was a U.S. senator from Missouri. He died in St. Louis on July 8,1875.

See George Baber, The Blairs of Kentucky (Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, vol. xiv.) ; C. G. Bowers, The Party Battles of the Jacksonian Period (1922) ; J. S. Bassett, The Life of Andrew Jackson (vol. ii., 1916) ; C. W. Dahlinger, Abraham Lincoln in Pittsburg and the Birth of the Republican Party (in Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. iii., No. 4, 1920) ; American Nation Series, vol. 19 and 21 (19°6 and 1907) ; The Martin Van Buren Papers (ms. Library of Congress).

party, republican, lincoln, st and democratic