William Ballard Preston

William Ballard Preston ( born November 25, 1805 in Smithfield, Isle of Wight County, Virginia; † November 16, 1862 ibid ) was an American politician ( Whig Party ). He held office from 1849 to 1850 when U.S. Secretary of the Navy, was once a Senator for Virginia at the Konföderiertenkongress.

Early years of life

Preston visited in 1821, the Hampden - Sydney College, where he was especially interested in literature and forensics. Once he had his degree there in 1824, he studied law at the University of Virginia and was admitted to the bar in 1826. In 1831 he was prosecuting attorney in Floyd County.

MP and Minister

Politically, Preston operated at the Whigs, for which he was in 1830 elected to the House of Representatives from Virginia. During his time in parliament, which ended in 1832, he also engaged in part in the debates on the Abolitionism. After leaving the chamber, he worked again as a lawyer before he entered the Senate of Virginia in 1840. This he was a member for four years, before he returned to the House of Representatives of the State. In 1846 he was finally representatives of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives.

After the victory of the Whig Party in the 1848 presidential election, Preston was appointed by the new President Zachary Taylor as Secretary of the Navy in the Cabinet. He took office on 8 March 1849. Under his leadership came to new tasks in the expansion of the U.S. in the West and the inclusion of California into the Union on the U.S. Navy. It was also the time of blossoming trade opportunities in the Pacific area. While the ports of China had already opened for the West, was such a contact with Japan imminent. Moreover, the Navy experienced an era of modernization, mainly due to the transition from sail to steam ships.

Commitment to the Southern

However, Preston's term ended already on July 22, 1850 Just two weeks previously was President Taylor died.; his successor, Millard Fillmore built his cabinet and appointed William Alexander Graham as the new Secretary of the Navy. Preston resigned from the government and initially withdrew from politics. He again worked as a lawyer and made ​​his name as a trial lawyer before he was sent in 1858 on a diplomatic mission to France to conduct negotiations on the establishment of a trade route between Le Havre and Norfolk. The talks were promising, but were stopped by the impending civil war.

William Preston returned to America and participated in the February 13, 1861 participate in the Secession Convention of Virginia. However, he belonged to the moderate politicians who tried to stop the development. Together with Alexander Stuart and George W. Randolph, he made ​​his way to Washington, where the delegation on April 12, met President Abraham Lincoln. However, its intransigent position regarding the Union forts in the South made ​​sure that the politicians returned no result to Richmond.

After the attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, the advocates of secession in Virginia gained the upper hand. On April 16, William Preston convened a secret meeting of the Secession Convention, voted in on secession from the Union. The Preston resolution was adopted by 88:55 votes, whereupon Virginia left the United States. Former Federal Minister then was active politically in the Confederate States. He was a delegate to the Provisional Konföderiertenkongress and was elected Senator for Virginia. His term began on February 18, 1862; However, Preston died already on 16 November of the same year in his hometown of Smithfield.


In commemoration of the former Secretary of the Navy destroyer USS William B. Preston of the (DD -344 ) was named after him.