|Date(s):||December 28, 1864 to February 3, 1865|
|Tag(s):||Hampton Roads Conference, Francis Blair, Jefferson Davis, Abraham Lincoln|
|Course:||“Civil War and Reconstruction,” Juniata College|
In December of 1864 Francis Preston Blair, Sr., a native of Kentucky residing in Maryland, approached Abraham Lincoln about a peace conference between Blair and political leaders in the South. Blaire was a seventy-three-year-old journalist and influential politician. In 1856 Blaire helped organize the Republican Party. His influence also derived from his editing and founding the Washington Globe . Blair met with Lincoln on December 28 requesting a pass to Richmond to visit Jefferson Davis. Lincoln, aware that Blair’s trip to Richmond had a political agenda, later wrote that he did not endorse the politics of the trip. The president wrote, “…He was given no authority to speak or act for the government, nor was I informed of anything he would say or do on his own account, or otherwise.” Abraham Lincoln saw Jefferson Davis as his largest obstacle in readmitting the South into the country, as the Confederate President saw secession as the only satisfactory outcome.
Francis Blair received an invitation from Jefferson Davis on January 3,1864 to come to Richmond and arrived on January 12. In Richmond, Blair met with Davis and his wife, Varina. Blair laid out a plan for peace that called for the end of fighting between the North and the South and the uniting of their forces against the French in Mexico. In respect to slavery, though, Blair insisted that it was a doomed institution. Davis rejected the proposal of uniting troops and ending slavery, but indicated his willingness to engage in dialogue with Lincoln.
In a letter he wrote to Blair on January 12, Davis stated he would meet with representatives with the goal to “renew the effort to enter into conference, with a view to secure peace to the two countries.” Upon reading the letter from Davis, Lincoln responded with a letter to Blair in which he asked him to tell Davis that he was willing to meet with a representative with “the view of securing peace to the people of our common country.” The Hampton Roads Conference, an attempted peace conference between Lincoln and representatives of the South, took place on February 3, 1865.