Montgomery Blair

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Montgomery Blair
Montgomery Blair, photo three-quarters length seated.jpg
20th United States Postmaster General
In office
March 5, 1861 – September 24, 1864
Preceded by Horatio King
Succeeded by William Dennison, Jr.
Personal details
Born (1813-05-10)May 10, 1813
Franklin County, Kentucky
Died July 27, 1883(1883-07-27) (aged 70)
Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Republican, Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Elizabeth Woodbury Blair
Alma mater United States Military Academy
Profession Lawyer, Politician
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1835 - 1836
Rank Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars Seminole War

Montgomery Blair (May 10, 1813 – July 27, 1883), the son of Francis Preston Blair, elder brother of Francis Preston Blair, Jr. and cousin of B. Gratz Brown, was a politician and lawyer from Maryland. Despite belonging to a prominent slaveholding family, Blair was an abolitionist and a loyal member of the Cabinet of Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War.

Life and career[edit]

Blair was born in Franklin County, Kentucky.[1] His father, Francis P. Blair, Sr., was, as editor of the Washington Globe, a prominent figure in the Democratic Party during the Jacksonian era, and as a boy Montgomery "often listened to the talk of his father and Andrew Jackson."[2] Blair graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1835, but after a year's service in the Seminole War, he left the Army, studied law, and began practice at St Louis, Missouri, in 1939.[1] After serving as United States district attorney (1839–43) and as judge of the court of common pleas (1834–1849), he moved to Maryland in 1852 and devoted himself to law practice principally in the United States Supreme Court.[1] He was United States Solicitor in the Court of Claims (1855–58) and was associated with George T. Curtis as counsel for the plaintiff in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857.[1]

The Blairs, like many other nationalist Democrats, but unusually for politicians from the border states, had abandoned the Democratic Party in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act[1] and had been among the founding leaders of the new Republican Party. After switching political parties, President Buchanan removed Blair from his position of United States Solicitor in 1958.[1] In 1860, Montgomery Blair took an active part in the presidential campaign on behalf of Abraham Lincoln.[1] After his election, Lincoln invited Blair to be part of his cabinet as Postmaster-General in 1861.[1] Lincoln expected Blair, who advocated taking a firm stance with the southern states, to help balance more conciliatory members of his cabinet.[4] While Postmaster-General, Blair instituted a uniform rate of postage and free delivery in cities.[1] Blair also began the sale of money orders by post offices in order to reduce the mailing of currency, reducing post office robberies.[1] Blair served as Postmaster-General from 1861 until September 1864, when Lincoln accepted an earlier offer by Blair to resign. Lincoln's action may have been a response to the hostility of the Radical Republican faction, who stipulated that Blair's retirement should follow the withdrawal of John C. Frémont's name as a candidate for the presidential nomination in that year. Regarding Lincoln's action, Blair told his wife that the president had acted "from the best motives" and that "it is for the best all around." After he left the cabinet, Blair still campaigned for Lincoln's re-election and Lincoln and the Blair family retained close ties.[5]

Under Blair's administration, such reforms and improvements as the establishment of free city delivery, the adoption of a money order system, and the use of railway mail cars were instituted — the last having been suggested by George B. Armstrong (d. 1871), of Chicago, who from 1869 until his death was general superintendent of the United States railway mail service.

Differing from the Republican Party on the Reconstruction policy, Blair gave his adherence to the Democratic Party after the Civil War, along with his brother, who was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1868.

Blair unsuccessfully ran for Congress to represent Maryland's sixth district in 1882.[1]

His 600-acre (2.4 km2) manor in present-day Silver Spring, Maryland was named Falkland.[1] It was burned by Confederate troops during their thrust towards Washington, D.C. After several years afflicted with "inflammation of the spinal membranes," he died at Silver Spring and was buried at Rock Creek Cemetery.[1] In memory of Blair, the United States Post Office closed on July 30, 1883.[1]

Montgomery Blair's wife was Mary Woodbury, a daughter of Levi Woodbury.[1] Together, they were the great-grandparents of actor Montgomery Clift. Blair was portrayed by actor Lew Temple in the movie Saving Lincoln (2012). In the 2012 film, Lincoln, Blair is portrayed by the actor, Byron Jennings.

Works[edit]

  • Speech on the Causes of the Rebellion (1864)

Honors[edit]

Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Gallery[edit]

Publications[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Montgomery Blair: A Prominent Figure in Political History Passes Away". The Washington Post. July 28, 1883. p. 1. 
  2. ^ Allan Nevins, The War for the Union, vol. 1: The Improvised War, 1861-1862 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959), p. 43.
  3. ^ "Art & History: First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln". U.S. Senate. Retrieved August 2, 2013.  Lincoln met with his cabinet on July 22, 1862, for the first reading of a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. Sight measurement. Height: 108 inches (274.32 cm) Width: 180 inches (457.2 cm)
  4. ^ Goodwin, 2005, Chapter 11.
  5. ^ Goodwin, 2005, Chapter 24.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Horatio King
United States Postmaster General
Served under: Abraham Lincoln

1861 – 1864
Succeeded by
William Dennison, Jr.