AHC: The Blair Plan succeeds, 1865

From Mexican Projects of the Confederacy by J. Fred Rippy, The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Apr., 1919), pp. 291-317

On December 28, 1864, Francis P. Blair of Maryland received from President Lincoln a pass through the lines of the Union army to go South and return. On January 12, he arrived at Richmond where he had a conference with Jefferson Davis. Lincoln had permitted him to go in order to learn the attitude of the Confederacy towards proposals of peace, but his mission was said to be unofficial. His main proposition was the cessation of hostilities and the union of military forces for the purpose of maintaining the Monroe Doctrine. Blair urged that slavery, so productive of woe, was "admitted on all sides to be doomed" and that, since Napoleon clearly intended to conquer this continent, any further hostilities toward the Union became a war in support of monarchy for which the French ruler stood. The present suicidal war was most pleasing to the Emperor and, if continued, would enable him to realize his designs.​
Davis the only person whose "fiat could deliver his country from the bloody agony now covering it in mourning." What if an armistice could be entered into--an armistice the secret preliminaries of which might enable Davis to "transfer such portions of his army as he deemed proper to the banks of the Rio Grande ?" Here they could form a junction with the Liberalists under Juirez, who no doubt would devolve all the power he could on Davis, a dictatorship if necessary. If they were needed, Northern forces could join the enterprise and Davis, having driven out the Bonaparte-Hapsburg dynasty and allied his name with those of "Washington and Jackson as defender of the liberty of the country," could mould the Mexican States so that subsequently they could be admitted into the Union.
Thus the peace proposals of Blair amounted to a joint filibustering undertaking by which the United States' possessions were to be extended to the Isthmus of Darien. Davis, moved by feelings of regard resulting from former kindnesses on the part of the Blair family, by a knowledge that alliance with Napoleon was now hopeless, and by a feeling of patriotism, gave close attention to the proposal and displayed a certain amount of sympathy with it. "But," in the words of Nicolay and Hay, "the government councils at Washington were not ruled by the spirit of political ad- venture . . . Lincoln had a loftier conception of patriotic duty and a higher ideal of national ethics" and the affair was dropped."17​
No Peace without Victory, 1861-1865 by James M. McPherson, The American Historical Review , Vol. 109, No. 1 (February 2004), pp. 1-18

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Jefferson Davis and the Hampton Roads Peace Conference: "To secure Peace to the two countries" by Charles W. Sanders Jr., The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 63, No. 4 (Nov., 1997), pp. 803-826:
On January 12, Blair met with Davis and began the meeting by emphasizing that he was acting in an unofficial capacity and had no authority to commit the Lincoln government to any program or agreement. His sole purpose in seeking the interview, he told Davis, was the termination of the war. Then, remaining true to his journalistic heritage, the former editor asked permission to read aloud to Davis a document ("much like an editorial," he confessed) outlining his plan for ending the conflict.33​
Blair's document contained a proposal that the two warring sides conclude a cease-fire in order to undertake a common military mission-the enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine. This joint effort, the details of which would be concluded in a secret agreement, would be directed toward ousting the French-supported government of the Emperor Maximilian in Mexico.34 Blair was certain that such a venture, undertaken after the establishment of a temporary truce that would allow passions on both sides to cool, would restore fraternal relations between the two warring sections and provide the foundation for a lasting peace.35​
Davis listened in silence until Blair finished reading his proposal. He then questioned the old gentleman as to the specifics of how the negotiations might proceed, given the inability of the two sides to join in productive talks in the past. Blair replied that he was certain that Lincoln was now disposed to receive peace commissioners. He pro- posed that he return to Washington, report that the Confederate presi- dent was prepared to enter into negotiations based on the Mexican plan, and determine if Lincoln was willing to proceed. Davis agreed and provided Blair with a letter, dated January 12, "of remarks made by me to be repeated by you to President Lincoln ...." In the letter Davis wrote:​
"I have no disposition to find obstacles in forms, and am willing now, as hereto- fore, to enter into negotiations for the restoration of peace, am ready to send a commission whenever I have reason to suppose it will be received, or to receive a commission if the United States Government shall choose to send one. That, notwithstanding the rejection of our former offers, I would, if you could promise- that a commissioner, minister, or other agent would be received, appoint one immediately, and renew the effort to enter into conference with a view to secure peace to the two countries.36"​
Those who contend that Jefferson Davis authorized participation in the Hampton Roads conference only to discredit the southern peace movement maintain that the Confederate president, from the start, had no faith in the success of the Blair mission and that he pretended to go along only because he recognized in the proposal a singular opportunity to undercut Stephens and his supporters.37 This argument is flawed because it assumes that Davis knew at this very early stage that the very tentative talks with Blair would culminate, almost a month later, in direct negotiations between Confederate commissioners and the president of the United States and that those negotiations would fail to produce peace. Of course he knew no such thing.
What did he know? He knew that he was dealing with an important and powerful emissary who had come south with Lincoln's express permission. While Blair professed to hold no "official" credentials, Davis believed throughout the process that the old man truly repre- sented the views and aspirations of Lincoln.38 In this opinion, Davis was not alone. The New York Herald, always closely read in the South, proclaimed Blair "the representative of the conservative republicans," and Alexander H. Stephens himself characterized Blair as "unquestionably, the master spirit-the real Warwick-of the Party then in power at Washington ...."39​
How could Davis have been certain that the proposal brought by Blair did not have Lincoln's support? He could not. If Davis's motive, therefore, was to discredit the "croakers," he was running the enormous political risk that the negotiations might actually succeed. Had Davis sought only to discredit the peace movement, a much safer and wiser strategy would have been to make the Blair proposal public immediately, casting it as yet another example of the impractical schemes of those who advocated negotiations with the Lincoln government.​
It would thus seem that in January-February of 1865, leading up to the Hampton Road Conference, there was a genuine opening for a negotiated peace between the Union and Confederacy. Blair's plan was for the two to establish an armistice, and for them to then transfer forces to the Rio Grande in order to force the French out of Mexico. Following the completion of that, it was hoped [by Blair] that the passions on both sides would've been sufficiently mollified that the wayward Confederate States would peacefully rejoin the Union under fairly conservative terms, which Lincoln and Seward IOTL seemed to dangle at the Conference; the prospect that, if they rejoined the Union, they could defeat the 13th Amendment or at least get it to be delayed, and that they would immediately resume their previous privileges, with liberality in terms of having their goods (Sans Slaves) returned and pardons for essentially everyone.

As noted in these passages, it appears the desire for this was real on the part of the Confederates and did have some support in general in the North; beyond the cited passages, news of the OTL Conference added a jolt to the 13th Amendment ratification process, as Congress did not wish to prejudice any negotiations. The obstacle, therefore, would seem to be on the part of Lincoln, who dismissed the Mexico Plan as unfeasible. Is there anyway he could be made amendable to such and, if so, what would the ramifications of such be? It's worth noting Seward, his Secretary of State, was an ardent expansionist and both Nicolay and Hay, whom Rippy cites in the last paragraph of that citation, were his [Lincoln's] Secretaries; they both appeared in favor of the plan, so there was some influencers around Lincoln.
 
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I wonder if a heavy defeat of the French, in 1865-1866, could make the Prussians more adventurous in Europe? Perhaps a Hohenzollern installed in Spain and Austrian Silesia annexed?
 
Not likely to succeed as Lincoln wouldn't change his refusal to not reorganize the confederate goverment in any formal sense and Jefferson Davis would settle for nothing less. Add in the fact that radical and even moderate republicans would not support it as it was fairly obvious to most the south was nearly defeated not mention Blair were considered conservatives so would be unlikely to gain support for it in a congress that approved was passed outlawing slavery at the end of January 1865.
 
Have Benito Juarez die before the French intervention in Mexico. After he rose to the presidency in otl, Jose Ignacio Pavon became the president of the supreme court which was considered second in line to the presidency of Mexico. Pavon was a noted conservative and even served on the council of regency of the empire as a substitute from 1863-1864, so it would be feasible had he became the president of the country for him to hand it over to the French once they came knocking. With a stronger and more united (of course there will still be independent movements and rebellions) French backed Mexico both the union and the south will be concerned about a European power once again trying to set up territory in their back yard. This might be a stretch but who knows?
 
But didn't except anything to come of it. His objective was to discredit the peace movement in the south as he knew his conditions were not acceptable to Lincoln or congress.
 
But didn't except anything to come of it. His objective was to discredit the peace movement in the south as he knew his conditions were not acceptable to Lincoln or congress.
"Those who contend that Jefferson Davis authorized participation in the Hampton Roads conference only to discredit the southern peace movement maintain that the Confederate president, from the start, had no faith in the success of the Blair mission and that he pretended to go along only because he recognized in the proposal a singular opportunity to undercut Stephens and his supporters.37 This argument is flawed because it assumes that Davis knew at this very early stage that the very tentative talks with Blair would culminate, almost a month later, in direct negotiations between Confederate commissioners and the president of the United States and that those negotiations would fail to produce peace. Of course he knew no such thing. "
 
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