Laurence M. Keitt

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Laurence Massillon Keitt
Laurence M. Keitt cph.3a02077.jpg
Deputy to the Provisional Confederate Congress from South Carolina
In office
February 4, 1861 – February 17, 1862
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Position abolished
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd district
In office
August 6, 1856 – December 1860
Preceded by Himself[note 1]
Succeeded by Manuel S. Corley (1868)[note 2]
In office
March 4, 1853 – July 15, 1856
Preceded by Joseph A. Woodward
Succeeded by Himself
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Orange Parish
In office
November 27, 1848 – March 4, 1853
Personal details
Born (1824-10-04)October 4, 1824
Orangeburg County, South Carolina, U.S.
Died June 2, 1864(1864-06-02) (aged 39)
Richmond, Virginia
Political party Democratic
Profession Planter, lawyer, politician
Military service
Allegiance  Confederate States
Service/branch  Confederate Army
Years of service 1862–1864
Rank Confederate States of America Colonel.png Colonel
Battles/wars American Civil War
Battle of Cold Harbor 

Laurence Massillon Keitt (October 4, 1824 – June 2, 1864) was a South Carolinian politician who served as a United States Congressman. He is included in several lists of Fire-Eaters—men who adamantly urged the secession of southern states from the United States, and who resisted measures of compromise and reconciliation, leading to the American Civil War.

Keitt is notable for being the only U.S. elected official to be involved in two separate acts of legislative violence on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, the first in 1856 when he assisted Preston Brooks (D-SC) in his cane attack on Charles Sumner (R-MA) by brandishing a pistol, and the second in 1858 when he attacked and attempted to choke Galusha Grow (R-PA).

Early life and education[edit]

Keitt was born at Puritan Farm in Orangeburg County, now Calhoun County, South Carolina.[1] A member of the Democratic Party, he was representative to the South Carolina state house, 1848, and then U.S. Representative from South Carolina's 3rd District, 1853–55, 1855–56 and 1856-60. Keitt was censured by the House in 1856 for aiding Rep. Preston S. Brooks in his caning attack on Sen. Charles Sumner. After Brooks began beating the defenseless Sumner with his gold-tipped cane, Keitt quickly drew a pistol from his belt, jumped into the aisle and leveled it at the horror-struck Congressmen who were approaching to try to assist Sumner, loudly announcing "Let them be!" He resigned in protest over his censure, but was overwhelmingly re-elected to his seat by his South Carolina constituency within a month.


On February 5, 1858, Keitt started a massive brawl on the House floor during a tense late-night debate. Keitt, offended by Pennsylvania Congressman (and later Speaker of the House) Galusha A. Grow having stepped over to his side of the House chamber, dismissively demanded that Grow sit down, calling him a "black Republican puppy". Grow responded by telling Keitt that "No negro-driver shall crack his whip over me." Keitt became enraged and went for Grow's throat, shouting that he would "choke [him] for that". A large brawl involving approximately 50 representatives erupted on the House floor, ending only when a missed punch from Rep. Cadwallader Washburn of Wisconsin upended the hairpiece of Rep. William Barksdale of Mississippi. The embarrassed Barksdale accidentally replaced the wig backwards, causing both sides to erupt in spontaneous laughter.[2][3]

American Civil War[edit]

Perhaps Keitt's most famous quotation best summarized his political views and dominant agenda. In 1860, Congressman Keitt said, "The anti-slavery party contends that slavery is wrong in itself, and the Government is a consolidated national democracy. We of the South contend that slavery is right..."[4]

Keitt served as a delegate from South Carolina to the Provisional Confederate Congress, 1861–62, and a colonel in the Confederate army during the Civil War, commanding the 20th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment and later Kershaw's Brigade (Kershaw having advanced to division command).


Mortally wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor on June 1, 1864, Keitt died the next day near Richmond, Virginia. He is buried at West End Cemetery in St. Matthews, South Carolina.


  1. ^ Keitt resigned his seat after aiding in the beating of Senator Charles Sumner, and won the special election to fill the vacancy. Like Brooks, Keitt resigned as a way to have his constituents ratify his conduct by voting in a special election. Brooks and Keitt were both reelected easily.
  2. ^ Due to South Carolina's secession, the House seat was empty for almost eight years before Corley succeeded Keitt.


  1. ^ John W. Califf, III, and Jeanne W. Ulmer (January 1973). "Puritan Farm" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places nomination. NRHP. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Allan L. Damon (December 1975). "Filibuster". American Heritage Magazine 27 (1). 
  3. ^ Congressional Globe. 35th Cong., 1st sess. 8 Feb. 1858. 603.
  4. ^ Keitt, Lawrence M. (January 25, 1860). Congressman from South Carolina, in a speech to the House. Taken from a photocopy of the Congressional Globe, supplied by Steve Miller. The anti-slavery party contends that slavery is wrong in itself, and the Government is a consolidated national democracy. We of the South contend that slavery is right, and that this is a confederate Republic of sovereign States. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joseph A. Woodward
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Manuel S. Corley
Confederate States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Position created
Deputy to the Provisional Confederate Congress from South Carolina
Succeeded by
Position abolished