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Laurence Massillon Keitt
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 United States House of Representatives
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

In office
Personal details
Born (1824-10-04)October 4, 1824
Orangeburg County, South Carolina
Died June 2, 1864(1864-06-02) (aged 39)
Richmond, Virginia
Political party Democratic
Profession planter, lawyer, politician
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States of America Confederate States of America
Service/branch  Confederate States Army
Years of service 1862–1864
Rank CSAColonel.png Colonel
Battles/wars American Civil War
Battle of Cold Harbor

Laurence Massillon Keitt (October 4, 1824 – June 2, 1864) was a South Carolina 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 US elected official to be involved in two separate acts of legislative violence on the floor of the US 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).


Keitt was born in Orangeburg County, South Carolina. 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.[1][2]

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, and that this is a confederate Republic of sovereign States."[3]

Keitt served as a delegate from South Carolina to the Provisional Confederate Congress, 1861–62, and a colonel in the Confederate States 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.


  1. Keitt lost his seat due to aiding in the beating of Senator Charles Sumner, but was later elected back.
  2. Due to South Carolina's secession, the House seat was empty for almost eight years before Corley succeeded Keitt.


  1. Allan L. Damon (December 1975). "Filibuster". 
  2. Congressional Globe. 35th Cong., 1st sess. 8 Feb. 1858. 603.
  3. Lawrence Keitt, Congressman from South Carolina, in a speech to the House on January 25, 1860: Taken from a photocopy of the Congressional Globe supplied by Steve Miller.

External links

  • Laurence M. Keitt at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2008-10-18
Unrecognised parameter
Preceded by
Position created
1861 – 1862
Succeeded by
Position abolished
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

1853 – 1856
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd congressional district

1856 – 1860
Succeeded by
Manuel S. Corley

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