A Postal Revolution and a Political Upheaval

Early Years

Montgomery Blair was the oldest son of Francis Preston Blair, a Jacksonian Democrat who was best known as editor of the Globe, a newspaper founded at the request of President Andrew Jackson to allow the public insight into the work of his administration.(1) Montgomery Blair was born in Franklin County, Kentucky in 1813 and graduated from West Point in 1836. After serving in the Seminole-Indian War, Blair returned to school to study law at Transylvania University in Kentucky; once finished with his law degree, he relocated to Missouri in the late 1830’s to begin a law practice. In Missouri, he served in a multitude of different roles, including that of the United States District Attorney for the State of Missouri from 1839-1841 and the mayor of St. Louis from 1842-1843. After relocating again in 1853 to Washington D.C., Blair served as counsel to Dred Scott in the 1856 Supreme Court case Dred Scott vs. Sanford.

Though Francis Blair and his sons, Montgomery and Frank, were Democrats, they left the party in the late 1850’s because of its pro-slavery leanings and joined the new, anti-slavery Republican Party. In 1860, Montgomery Blair was appointed and served as the president of the 1860 Republican state convention in Maryland.(2) Once Lincoln won the Republican presidential ticket for the 1860 election, the Blairs put all their support into his campaign. Because of the Blair family’s prominence in politics and the immense support that they gave to Lincoln during his campaign, there were expectations of a cabinet appointment for either Montgomery or Frank.

In the end, Montgomery Blair was appointed by Lincoln as postmaster general (a position raised to the cabinet level by President Andrew Jackson in 1829). Blair was ultimately chosen as a voice from the Border States who, as a former Democrat, would hopefully appease southerners.(3) Furthermore, Blair’s strong abolitionist tendencies were in line with Lincoln’s. Blair began his duties on March 5, 1861(4) with a cumbersome road ahead of him. The state of the Post Office Department was in near shambles financially and the public was not wholly satisfied with the services.(5) However, Blair was willing to take on the challenge; despite setbacks and the fact that he had already made enemies in the political sphere. Blair’s many accomplishments in that post are still relevant to the postal system today.

1) Mary Agnes Kelly, “Montgomery Blair: Postmaster General in the Cabinet of Abraham Lincoln,” master’s thesis, Catholic University of America, 1956, 3.
2) Paul Ledvina and Margaret McAleer, “Biographical Notes,” in The Blair Family: A Register of
His Papers in the Library of Congress. Washington D.C.: Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, accessed June 4, 2014.
3) Doris Kearns Goodwin. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), 288.
4) Kelly, 10.
5) Ibid, 10.