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Fire-Eaters

FIRE-EATERS

FIRE-EATERS. An outspoken group of Southern, proslavery extremists, the Fire-Eaters advocated secession from the Union and the formation of an independent confederacy as early as the 1840s. The group included a number of well-known champions of Southern sovereignty, including South Carolina newspaper editor Robert Barnwell Rhett, Virginia planter Edmund Ruffin, and William Lowndes Yancey, a radical Democrat from Alabama. Although Rhett, Ruffin, Yancey, and other Fire-Eaters were the chief spokesmen for confederacy, many moderate southerners who supported secession continued to distrust them and they seldom acquired responsible positions within the Confederate government.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allmendinger, David F. Ruffin: Family and Reform in the Old South. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Dew, Charles B. Apostles of Disunion. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001.

Ford, Lacy K. Origins of Southern Radicalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Wendell H.Stephenson/e. m.

See alsoSecession ; Southern Rights Movement .

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fire-eaters

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 Ruffin, Robert B. Rhett, and William L. Yancey 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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