The Francis Preston Blair Family in Politics - Vol. 1

By William Ernest Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII
DRED SCOTT: THE BATTLE OF THE LEGALISTS

The decision of Chief Justice Taney was one of error of judgment rather than one of breach of trust.--HODDER.

TRANSYLVANIA UNIVERSITY trained many young men for the law, young men who later gained prominence as lawyers, judges, and statesmen. Among them was Montgomery Blair. He had the privilege of studying with the best teachers west of the Appalachians. And, like Clay, Jackson, and Benton, he migrated westward to find a suitable location in which to begin his practice and build a reputation. St. Louis offered the best opportunities of any of the Western cities except Chicago. The former was not only growing in population, but she was a progressive and aspiring young city that hoped to utilize her advantages of being the gateway to the Far West. Blair developed rapidly under the wing of Benton, remaining always militantly independent and firm in his faith in Jacksonian Democracy.

Having scholarly inclinations, he was different from many Western lawyers of his day. He continued to read and study throughout his life. His familiarity with history made him less bold in his statements than was characteristic of many Westerners. Like his father, he knew well his Greek and Roman history, and he knew as thoroughly as any layman of his day the details of Napoleonic history. Few laymen knew the history of his own country better than he did. His sympathetic nature found enjoyment in the perusal of poetry. Brooks in his Washington in Lincoln's Time says he was "rated as the best-read man in Lincoln's cabinet," and I have no doubt of the truth of that assertion.1 His honesty and integrity were not questioned except by bitter enemies in times of great stress when good judgment suffered. His habits

____________________
1
Noah Brooks, Washington in Lincoln's Time ( New York, 1895), 35.

-380-

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