Kentucky's Last Cavalier: General William Preston, 1816-1887

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Kentucky's Last Cavalier: General William Preston, 1816-1887 by Sehlinger, Peter J.; Klotter, James C., 9780916968335
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  • ISBN: 9780916968335 | 0916968332
  • Cover: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 5/7/2004

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William Preston -- politician, diplomat, and Confederate general -- was the epitome of the antebellum southern landed aristocracy. Born to a well-to-do, well-connected Louisville family, the son of a Revolutionary War veteran, he was educated at Yale and Harvard and married the daughter of Kentucky's largest slaveholder. Preston established a successful law practice in Louisville and at age thirty went to war in Mexico, considerably enhancing his political prospects by rising to lieutenant colonel of the Fourth Kentucky Volunteers. Noblesse oblige drew him to public service, initially as a Whig, and he ascended quickly in political circles, from delegate to the 1849 state constitutional convention, through the state house and senate, and into the U.S. House by 1852. As the Whig Party disintegrated, Preston became a proslavery Democrat, nominating his cousin John C. Breckinridge for the vice presidency in 1856. James Buchanan appointed Preston as U.S. minister to Spain in 1858, and in that post he tried to negotiate the purchase of Cuba and protested Spanish intervention in Santo Domingo.

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