In January 1865, United States President Abraham Lincoln expects the Civil War to end soon, with the defeat of the Confederate States. He is concerned that his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation may be discarded by the courts after the war and that the proposed Thirteenth Amendment will be defeated by the returning slave states. He feels it imperative to pass the amendment beforehand, to remove any possibility that freed slaves might be re-enslaved.
The Radical Republicans fear the amendment will be defeated by some who wish to delay its passage; support from Republicans in the border states is not yet assured. The amendment also requires the support of several Democratic congressmen to pass. With dozens of Democrats being lame ducks after losing their re-election campaigns in the fall of 1864, some of Lincoln’s advisors believe he should wait for a new Republican-heavy Congress. Lincoln remains adamant about having the amendment in place before the war is concluded and the southern states are re-admitted.
Lincoln’s hopes rely upon the support of Francis Preston Blair, a founder of the Republican Party whose influence could win over members of the border state conservative faction. With Union victory in the Civil War highly likely but not yet secured, and with two sons serving in the Union Army, Blair is keen to end hostilities quickly before the spring thaw arrives and the armies are able to march again.
Therefore, in return for his support, Blair insists that Lincoln allow him immediately to engage the Confederate government in peace negotiations. However, Lincoln knows that significant support for the amendment comes from Radical Republicans, for whom negotiated peace is unacceptable. Unable to proceed without Blair’s support, Lincoln reluctantly authorizes Blair’s mission.
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