AUSTIN BLAIR
War Governor of Michigan


Governor Blair
Governor Austin Blair clearly comprehended this perilous situation from the inception of the Rebellion. In January of 1861 his message to the Legislature dwelt very forcibly with the sad prospects of civil war and just as forcibly pledged the State to support the principles of the Republic, saying:
While we are citizens of the State of Michigan, and as such deeply devoted to her interests and honor, we have a still prouder title. We are also citizens of the United States of America. By this title we are known among the nations of the earth. In remote quarters of the globe, where the names of the States are unknown, the flag of the great Republic, the banner of the stars and stripes, honor and protect her citizens. In whatever concerns the honor, the prosperity and the perpetuity of this great Government, we are deeply interested. The people of Michigan are loyal to that Government - faithful to its constitution and its llaaws. Under it they have had peace and prosperity; and under it they mean to abide to the end. Feeling a just pride in the glorious history of the past, they will not renounce the equally glorious hopes of the future. But they will rally around the standards of the Nation and defend its integrity and its constitution, with fidelity.

I recommend you at an early day to make manifest to the gentlemen who represent this State in the two Houses of Congress, and to the country, that Michigan is loyal to the Union, the Constitution, and the laws and will defend them to the uttermost; and to proffer to the President of the United States, the whole military power of the State for that purpose. Oh, for the firm, steady hand of a Washington, or a Jackson, to guide the ship of State in this perilous storm! Let us hope we will find him on the 4th of March. Meantime, let us abide in the faith of our fathers - "Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever."

The people of Michigan responded to his stirring appeal by furnishing 88,111 men during the war. Money, men, clothing and food were freely and abundantly supplied during the entire conflict. No State won a brighter record for her devotion to our country than the Peninsula State, and to Governor Blair, more than to any other individual is due the credit for its untiring zeal and labors in the Nation's behalf, and for heroism manifested in its defense.


Biography of Austin Blair

Austin Blair was born in 1818 in the log cabin that his father George built at Caroline, Tompkins County, New York. It was the first cabin in the County and he lived there until the age of 17 working the farm with his father. He attended Cazenovia Seminary and Hamilton College but in the middle of his junior year he was so attracted by the fame of Dr. Nott at Union College he transferred there, graduating in 1839.

Upon graduation he studied law with the firm of Sweet & Davis, Owego, N.Y., and was admitted to practice in 1841. The same year he moved to Jackson, Michigan, set up a temporary residence in Eaton Rapids and was elected clerk of Eaton County in 1842. At the end of his term he returned to Jackson and, as a Whig, he zealously espoused the cause of Henry Clay in the campaign of 1844. He was chosen Representative of the Legislature in 1845 and became a member of the Judiciary Committee and was responsible in making several revisions to the general statutes. He was also in favor of abolishing the color distinction in relation to the elective franchise, and was primarily responsible for bringing about the abolition of capital punishment. In 1848 he refused to continue to affiliate himself with the Whig party because they would not endorse any anti-slavery sentiment so he joined the Free-soil movement and became a delegate to their convention which nominated Van Buren for President that year.

In 1849 he married Sarah L. Ford of Seneca County, New York.

Upon the birth of the Republican party at Jackson, Michigan in 1854, by a coalition of the Whig and Free-soil elements he was in full sympathy with the movement and acted as a member of the Committee on Platform. In 1852 he was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Jackson County and two years later he was chosen State Senator, taking his seat with the incoming administration of 1855, holding the position of Parliamentary Leader in the Senate.

That year many new measures were discussed and adopted in the interest of establishing the principles of their new party. Among them was the personal liberty law which originated in the Senate by Austin Blair and his colleague Erastus Pussey. Their bill encountered heavy opposition because many Republicans were not quite ready to go this length, but it passed and was a statute of record when slavery was abolished.

In 1860 he was a delegate to the National Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln. After the war he led a distinguished career until his death in 1894.


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