One of the most passionate Southern nationalists in the Antebellum period was Laurence M Keitt of Orangeburg, South Carolina. Keitt was a strong supporter of Robert Barnwell Rhett and a Fire-Eater. He served in the South Carolina State Government before being elected to the United States Congress, where he was involved in at least two physical brawls on the House floor with Northern partisans. Keitt strongly promoted Southern independence on nationalist grounds that the Southern people and civilisation were unique from that of the North, were regularly abused in the Union and must become independent to survive. He was elected to the Provisional Confederate States Congress and served as a Colonel in the Confederate Army. He died in 1864 from wounds received in the Battle of Cold Harbour.
University of Houston historian and author Eric Walther describes Keitt’s reaction to John Brown’s massacre on page184 of his book The Fire-Eaters. At the time, Keitt had just married and was overseas on his honeymoon. Walther writes:
While on their honeymoon in Europe, the newlyweds learned of John Brown’s attempt to lead a slave insurrection at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Keitt decided he must return to Washington. “Disappointed, disappointed,” sighed Sue. “And the cause Politics. How I hate the word.” When she looked beyond her own frustration, however, she must have recalled his words to her early in their courtship. He had told her that he believed South Carolina had “more weight in the federal councils than any state in the Union.” And he believed that he possessed the power “to turn the tide in this state.” “Sue, shall I seek the strength of the eagle,” he asked her, “or cower like the linnet.” She knew the answer.
Excitement over John Brown’s raid lingered in Washington when Keitt returned in December, 1859. He immediately met with Congressman Miles and others to obtain information and discuss appropriate responses. In the House Keitt declared, “There is an indissoluble connection between the principles of the Republican party… and their ultimate consummation in blood and rapine on the soil of Virginia.”