Skip to main content
Select Source:

Edmund Ruffin

Edmund Ruffin

Edmund Ruffin (1794-1865), American editor and publisher, was a prominent scientific agriculturist as well as his period's most renowned advocate of establishing an independent Southern nation.

Edmund Ruffin was born in Prince George County, Va. Educated at home until he was 16, he attended the College of William and Mary for a year before he was dismissed. He saw brief military service in the War of 1812 and then began a life as a Southern planter. Agriculture in Virginia was in a depressed state, largely because of the dominant farming practices of the time. Ruffin developed methods of restoring the fertility of soils and described them in "An Essay on Calcareous Manures." This discovery and others, which Ruffin announced in his publication, the Farmer's Register, were adopted by large numbers of Virginia planters and led to an agricultural revival. Thereafter he contributed systematically to agricultural science— popularizing, distributing, writing, speaking, and informing Southern farmers of theoretical as well as practical, progressive agricultural methods.

In 1841 Ruffin was appointed a member of the Board of Agriculture of Virginia and became its secretary, and a year later he became agriculture surveyor of South Carolina. His detailed and clearly written Report of the Commencement and Progress of the Agricultural Survey of South Carolina became a landmark in the agricultural history of the state. On his estate, Malbourne, in Hanover County, Va., he applied his scientific farming ideas so successfully that the plantation became a showplace where record harvests were almost commonplace.

Ruffin is most widely known as a radical spokesman for Southern nationalism. Early in his career he became convinced that blacks were inferior and that a slave system was necessary and generally superior. He was the first outspoken advocate of Southern secession, viewing the competition of the North and South for advantage in the Union as one which would inevitably end in Southern defeat. The South as an independent nation would enjoy great advantages: direct trade with Europe, the end of the hidden subsidy by the South of Northern industries in the form of tariffs on imports, and a general strengthening of the slave society.

Ruffin announced his views in assorted publications which he sometimes printed and distributed at his own expense. He advocated secession at the Democratic convention in Charleston in 1860; welcomed the election of Abraham Lincoln as a portent of the impending separation of the South from the Union; fired the first shot on Ft. Sumter to initiate the war; and fought in the Battle of Bull Run. He committed suicide when Confederate defeat became a fact.

Further Reading

The best biography of Ruffin is Avery O. Craven, Edmund Ruffin, Southerner: A Study in Secession (1932). His agricultural work is recounted in Albert Lowther Demaree, The American Agricultural Press, 1819-1860 (1941).

Additional Sources

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

Craven, Avery Odelle, Edmund Ruffin, southerner: a study in secession, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982.

Mathew, William M., Edmund Ruffin and the crisis of slavery in the Old South: the failure of agricultural reform, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988.

Mitchell, Betty L., Edmund Ruffin, a biography, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981.

Ruffin, Edmund, Incidents of my life: Edmund Ruffin's autobiographical essays, Charlottesville: Published for the Virginia Historical Society by the University Press of Virginia, 1990. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Edmund Ruffin." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Edmund Ruffin." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/edmund-ruffin

"Edmund Ruffin." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved February 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/edmund-ruffin

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ruffin, Edmund

Edmund Ruffin (rŭf´Ĭn), 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. Against much opposition he advocated the benefits of marl and proved its value. His arguments were propounded in An Essay on Calcareous Manures (1832, 5th rev. ed. 1852). He founded (1833) and edited until 1842 an excellent agricultural publication, the Farmers' Register. An ardent supporter of states' rights and secession, he left Virginia for the more congenial political milieu of South Carolina, where on Apr. 12, 1861, he was given the privilege of firing the first shot against Fort Sumter. With the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox he committed suicide.

See his Diary, ed. by W. K. Scarborough (Vol. I, 1972).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ruffin, Edmund." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ruffin, Edmund." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ruffin-edmund

"Ruffin, Edmund." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved February 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ruffin-edmund

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.