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fire-eaters,in U.S. history, term applied by Northerners to proslavery extremists in the South in the two decades before the Civil War. Edmund RuffinRuffin, Edmund
, 1794–1865, American agriculturist, one of the Southern fire-eaters, b. Prince George co., Va. His interest in improving impoverished land led him to become a pioneer in soil chemistry.
..... Click the link for more information. , Robert B. RhettRhett, Robert Barnwell,
1800–1876, American politician, b. Beaufort, S.C. His family changed its name from Smith to Rhett (after a colonial ancestor) in 1837. A lawyer, he was a state legislator, state attorney general (1832), U.S.
..... Click the link for more information. , and William L. YanceyYancey, William Lowndes,
1814–63, American leader of secession, b. Warren co., Ga. Admitted (1834) to the bar in Greenville, S.C., he soon moved to Alabama. There he became an outstanding lawyer, was elected to the state house of representatives (1841) and the state senate
..... Click the link for more information. were the most notable of the group. As early as 1850, at a convention held in Nashville, Tenn., the "fire-eaters" urged secession upon the South, but the Compromise of 1850 and more moderate counsel combined to postpone that event for another 10 years. Although the "fire-eaters" were in large measure responsible for the movement to organize a separate Southern government, they filled minor offices under the Confederacy.
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