Blair had been the admitted leader of the Missouri Abolitionists. He was as radical as any man among them. One day he stopped me on the street for the purpose of thanking me for a paper I had contributed to the Missouri Democrat, in which I had favored what was practically immediate emancipation in Missouri. He said that was the right kind of talk, and what we had to come to. I felt greatly flattered, because there was nothing in the article that disclosed its authorship, and Mr. Blair had taken the trouble to inquire about it.
Blair turned against the Missouri Abolitionists when a decided majority of them turned against him in his quarrel with Fremont. They indorsed Fremont’s emancipation proclamation, which the President, at Blair’s instigation, it was charged at the time, revoked.
Blair was a man not only of strong ambition but of arbitrary temperament. He could not tolerate the idea of a newcomer pre-empting what he had considered his premises. If he could not rule he was ready to ruin. That disposition accorded with both his mental and physical make-up. Bodily he was a bundle of bones and nerves without a particle of surplus flesh. His hair was red, his complexion was sandy, and his eyes, when he was excited and angry, had a baleful expression that led some one in my presence on a certain occasion to speak of them as “brush-heaps afire.”
He was not an eloquent man, although a ready and frequent public speaker. His voice was not musical. His strong forte was invective. He was nearly always denouncing somebody. Apparently, he was never so happy as when making another miserable. Sometimes his personal allusions were very broad. He was accustomed in his speeches to refer to one of Missouri’s United States Senators as “that lop-eared vulgarian.” That he was not almost all the time in personal difficulties was due to the fact that he was known to be a man of exceptional courage. He was a born fighter. Physically I think he was the bravest man I ever knew. I witnessed several manifestations of his fearlessness, but one particularly impressed me.