Biography[edit | edit source]
Born in New Orleans, Kenner became a wealthy sugar planter. He used scientific techniques and was said to be the first man in Louisiana to use a railroad to bring sugar cane from the fields to the mill. Kenner served for several terms in the Louisiana House of Representatives and was a member of the state constitutional conventions of 1845 and 1852, having presided over the latter conclave.
Kenner was a member of the Confederate Congress and chairman of its Ways and Means Committee. In 1862, he proposed a national income tax of 20%, including a schedule of exemptions. His tax bill went nowhere, but in April 1863, Congress passed another act calling for a tax "in kind", payable with goods and agricultural produce rather than money, and based not on property but on agricultural produce and income it generated.
In July 1863, while visiting his family at his Ashland Plantation during a recess in the legislature, Kenner narrowly avoided capture by the Union army, making his escape after being warned by one of his slaves of the advance of Federal troops. By this time he had become convinced that the emancipation of slaves was the only way to gain independence for the Confederacy. In 1864, he was sent by Jefferson Davis as special commissioner to England and France to secure the recognition of the Confederate States of America. Davis, through Kenner, offered the emancipation of the Confederate slaves in exchange for recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and France.
Following the capture of New Orleans in 1862, much of Kenner's property was confiscated and his slaves were freed, but at his death he was again a millionaire. He was fond of horses, and owned one of the largest stock farms in the United States. He built Ashland Plantation for his wife, the former Anne Guillelmine Nanine Bringier (Aug. 24, 1822 - Nov. 6, 1911). The Louisiana city of Kenner is named for his family.