Kentucky's Last Cavalier
William Preston was a leading representative of Kentucky's slaveholding, landed gentry, the group who dominated economic, political, and social life in the commonwealth before the Civil War. Preston was heir to valuable lands adjacent to Louisville and married to the daughter of the state's largest slave owner, and his Ivy League education and leadership abilities made him a natural spokesman for the interests of the South's antebellum elite. As a legislator, diplomat, and soldier, Preston defended the interests of his region for three decades, and his successes and failures were linked to the fortunes of the South. Among his many accomplishments, Preston served as President James Buchanan's minister to Madrid and, during the Civil War, as Jefferson Davis's minister to the Emperor Maximilian in Mexico. His story reveals much about the early history of Kentucky and the region.