In 1864, Duncan F. Kenner, perhaps the largest slave holder in the South at the time and representative from Louisiana, approached Davis with a unique proposal. In order to gain the recognition of the British and French governments, something that had eluded the Confederacy since the beginning of the War, Kenner suggested that Davis tell both governments that the Confederacy would abolish slavery.
The three men met with French Emperor Napoleon III, who agreed to recognize the Confederacy under these terms if the British would follow suit. The commissioners quickly sailed to London, where they met with the Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, who sternly rebuked their proposal, stating that Her Majesty’s government would never recognize the Confederacy under any condition.
Kenner’s tale was recorded in 1899 by the historian William Wirt Henry, grandson of Patrick Henry, and is legitimate. The Library of Congress admitted its validity in 1916, and referenced the Joseph Brent Papers, now housed at Louisiana State University, as evidence.