Francis Preston Blair Jr. is Born: February 19, 1821

Francis Preston Blair, Jr.
Library of Congress

Francis Preston Blair Jr., Missouri senator and soldier, was born on this date in 1821. Born into the influential Blair family in Lexington, Kentucky, his father, Francis Preston Blair Sr. was a key advisor to several U.S. presidents. Blair Jr. grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Princeton University in 1841. He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1842.

Blair’s political career began as a member of the Democratic Party. Blair styled himself a Free Soil Democrat, an opponent of expanding slavery to the territories. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri in 1856 and served until 1864. During his time in Congress, he became a vocal opponent of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed for the expansion of slavery into new territories. This stance led him to join the newly formed Republican Party in 1860.

When the Civil War broke out, Blair showed his support for the Union by raising a volunteer regiment in Missouri, eventually rising to the rank of major general. He played a significant role in keeping Missouri from seceding and participated in several important battles, including Vicksburg and Atlanta.

After the war, Francis Preston Blair returned to politics and was briefly appointed to the US Senate by the Missouri Legislature, but his declining health prevented him from receiving another term. He was a key figure in the impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson. In 1868, Blair was the Democratic nominee for Vice President, running with Horatio Seymour, but they were defeated by Ulysses S. Grant and Schuyler Colfax.

Blair’s later years were marked by his involvement in the railroad industry and his continued engagement in politics. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions until his death. Francis Preston Blair Jr. passed away on July 8, 1875, in St. Louis, Missouri. He was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery, leaving behind a legacy as a dedicated public servant and a staunch advocate for the Union during one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.