Francis P. Blair, patriarch of the politically powerful Blair family of Missouri, had spent virtually all of his life politically well-connected. In the 1820’s he had been an ardent supporter of Andrew Jackson. He had taken over the failing paper The Washington Globe, and transformed it into a political powerhouse, the chief organ of the Democrat Party. From the wealth he amassed as a result, he built his Blair House in Washington, and made it a site for the powerful to dance attendance upon him, in search of advice and the use of Blair’s immense influence. In spite of owning slaves himself, in the 1840s he became convinced that the expansion of slavery into new territories had to cease. In the 1850’s he was instrumental in the foundation of the Republican Party and he became a supporter of Lincoln. With his son Montgomery Blair as Postmaster General, and his son Frank as Congressman and Union general, along with the immense influence he had not only in Missouri but also in Maryland, when Blair spoke Lincoln listened.
By the end of 1864 Blair had become convinced that enough blood had been shed and that it was time for negotiations to end the War. He thought both sides might rally around the enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine and a war to drive France from Mexico. Lincoln was skeptical that the Confederates would ever agree to peace and meet his two non-negotiable terms; the restoration of the Union and the abolition of slavery. However, in order to placate Blair and others in the North calling for negotiations, Lincoln gave Blair, who had been a friend of Jefferson Davis prior to the War, his reluctant permission to travel to Richmond. So Blair did on January 11, having laid the framework for his visit with elements within the Confederate government eager for negotiations.
Tomorrow we will look at what came of this visit.