|Robert Barnwell Rhett|
|Deputy to the Provisional Confederate Congress from South Carolina|
February 4, 1861 – February 17, 1862
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
|United States Senator
from South Carolina
December 18, 1850 – May 7, 1852
|Preceded by||Robert W. Barnwell|
|Succeeded by||William F. De Saussure|
|Member of the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina's 7th Congressional District|
March 4, 1843 – March 3, 1849
|Preceded by||James Rogers|
|Succeeded by||William F. Colcock|
|Member of the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District|
March 4, 1837 – March 3, 1843
|Preceded by||William J. Grayson|
|Succeeded by||Richard F. Simpson|
|Attorney General of South Carolina|
November 29, 1832 – March 4, 1837
|Governor||Robert Young Hayne
Pierce Mason Butler
|Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from St. Bartholomew's Parish|
November 27, 1826 – November 29, 1832
December 21, 1800|
Beaufort, South Carolina
|Died||September 14, 1876
St. James Parish, Louisiana
|Resting place||Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina|
Born Robert Barnwell Smith in Beaufort. He was of English ancestry. His name was originally Smith, but after entering public life he changed it for that of a prominent colonial ancestor Colonel William Rhett. He studied law and became a member of the South Carolina legislature in 1826.
After his state legislative service, Rhett was the South Carolina attorney general (1832), U.S. representative (1837–1849), and U.S. senator (1850–1852). Extremely pro-Southern in his views, he split (1844) with John C. Calhoun to lead the Bluffton Movement for separate state action on the Tariff of 1842. Rhett was one of the leading fire-eaters at the Nashville Convention of 1850, which failed to endorse his aim of secession for the whole South.
When South Carolina passed (1852) an ordinance that merely declared a state's right to secede, Rhett resigned his U.S. Senate seat. He continued to express his fiery secessionist sentiments through the Charleston Mercury, edited by his son, Robert Barnwell Rhett, Jr.
During the 1860 presidential campaign, a widely credited report in the Nashville Patriot said that Rhett, along with William Lowndes Yancey and William Porcher Miles, was a leader of a Southern conspiracy to end the Union that began in May 1858 with a plan, hatched at the Southern Convention in Montgomery, Alabama, in May 1858, to split the Democratic Party along Northern and Southern lines.
Rhett was a member of the South Carolina Secession Convention in 1860. In the Montgomery Convention which met to organize a provisional government for the seceding states, he was one of the most active delegates and was chairman of the committee which reported the Confederate Constitution.
Subsequently he was elected a member of the lower house of the Confederate Congress. He received no higher office in the Confederate government and returned to South Carolina, where he sharply criticized the policies of Confederate President Jefferson Davis of Mississippi.
After the end of the War, he settled in Louisiana. While it was rumored that he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1868, that was in fact his son, Robert Rhett, Jr., who had shared his father's editorship responsibilities.
- The Secession The News and Courier - December 18, 1960 The News and Courier
- Rhett: The Turbulent Life and Times of a Fire-Eater By William C. Davis page 1
- Allan Nevins, The War for the Union, vol. 1: The Improvised War, 1861-1862 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959), p. 28.
- "Robert Barnwell Rhett House". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-03-16.
- Benjamin Levy (January 29, 1973). PDF (32 KB). National Park Service. and PDF (32 KB)
- Davis, William C. Rhett: The Turbulent Life and Times of a Fire-Eater. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2002.
- Scarborough, William K., “Propagandists for Secession: Edmund Ruffin of Virginia and Robert Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 112 (July–Oct. 2011), 126–38.
- White, Laura A. Robert Barnwell Rhett: Father of Secession (1931)
- A Fire-Eater Remembers: The Confederate Memoir of Robert Barnwell Rhett edited by William C. Davis (2002)
- Robert Rhett at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2009-04-19
- "Robert Rhett". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
|Confederate States House of Representatives|
|Representative to the Provisional Confederate Congress from South Carolina
|United States Senate|
Robert W. Barnwell
|U.S. Senator (Class 2) from South Carolina
Served alongside: Andrew P. Butler
William F. De Saussure
|United States House of Representatives|
William J. Grayson
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 2nd congressional district
1837 – 1843
Richard F. Simpson
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 7th congressional district
1843 – 1849
William F. Colcock