Name:  Francis Preston Blair, Sr.

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Born:  April 12, 1791
Died:  October 18, 1876
Complete HarpWeek Biography:
Francis Blair was an influential journalist and behind-the-scenes politico who was a leading force in Abraham Lincoln’s presidential nomination in 1860. Blair had earlier been a Democrat and a member of President Andrew Jackson’s unofficial group of advisors known as the "kitchen cabinet." He established the Washington Globe (1830-1849), which he edited, as an organ of the Democratic party. In 1834 he was one of the developers of the Congressional Globe, which continues today as the Congressional Record. Blair became involved in the free-soil movement in the 1840s and helped found the Republican party in the mid-1850s. During the Civil War he gained President Lincoln’s approval to conduct peace negotiations with Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The talks were unsuccessful. After the war the elder Francis Blair found himself in opposition to the Reconstruction policies of the Radical Republicans, so he rejoined the Democratic party.

One of Blair’s sons, Montgomery, served as Lincoln’s postmaster general. Montgomery Blair was a conservative and former Democrat from Missouri. In 1864 he was forced to resign as part of an informal deal that saw Radical Republican John C. Frémont, Blair’s bitter enemy from Missouri, withdraw from the presidential race. The younger son, Frank (Francis Jr.), served in the Union army in the Missouri theater (for a time), where he was at odds with General Frémont. Frank Blair rose to the rank of major general. In 1868 he was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for vice president.

Sources consulted:Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History;; “Francis Blair,” Richard Latner, “Crisis at Fort Sumter” Website,; Mark M. Boatner, The Civil War Dictionary; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln.











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