RHETT, Robert Barnwell

1800–1876

Biography

RHETT, Robert Barnwell, a Representative and a Senator from South Carolina; born Robert Barnwell Smith in Beaufort, S.C., December 21, 1800; completed preparatory studies; studied law; admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Beaufort in 1824; elected to the State house of representatives for St. Bartholomew's Parish in 1826, 1828, 1830, and 1832; elected attorney general of South Carolina in 1832; elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-fifth and to the five succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1837-March 3, 1849); changed his name to Robert Barnwell Rhett in 1838; member of the Nashville convention in 1850; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John C. Calhoun and served from December 18, 1850, until his resignation effective May 7, 1852; delegate to the South Carolina secession convention in 1860; delegate to the Confederate Provisional Congress in 1861; chairman of the committee which reported the constitution of the Confederate States; moved to St. James Parish, La., in 1867; died in St. James Parish, La., on September 14, 1876; interment in Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Alabama Department of Archives and History

Montgomery, AL
Papers: In Confederate officers photograph album, no date.

Boston Public Library

Boston, MA
Papers: 1 document.

Brooklyn Historical Society

Brooklyn, NY
Papers: November 29, 1841. 1 letter.

Charleston Library Society

Charleston, SC
Papers: Correspondence in Armistead Burt letters, 1847-1848.

Clemson University
Special Collections

Clemson, SC
Papers: Ca. 10 items in John Caldwell Calhoun papers, 1784-1888. Finding aid. Restricted.

Duke University
Special Collections Library

Durham, NC
Papers: 1838-1874. 6 items and 1 volume. Business and political correspondence, plantation account book, and portrait.

Library of Congress
Manuscript Division

Washington, DC
Papers: Correspondence in Franklin Harper Elmore papers, 1795-1858. Finding aid.

South Carolina Historical Society

Charleston, SC
Papers: 1825-1968. Ca. 4,000 items and 2 volumes. Family, business, and political correspondence, including letters from President James Buchanan and others relating to reopening of the African slave trade; copy of proposed Confederate constitution and account of the defense of Fort Sumter; partial autobiography; political address and articles; poetry and a manuscript novel; account by Catherine Rhett of the family's flight from Charleston after its fall in 1865; and commentary on the Confederacy; household accounts and bills of Henrietta Aiken Rhett; and writings; speeches; and photographs. Finding aid.
Additional Papers: Correspondence in D. Huger Bacot papers, 1848-1972; and Logan family papers, 1833-1954.

University of North Carolina
Southern Historical Collection

Chapel Hill, NC
Papers: 1835-1880. 377 items. Personal and political correspondence and business papers. Finding aid.

University of South Carolina
South Caroliniana Library

Columbia, SC
Papers: 1832-1889. 65 items. Correspondence with his family and concerning Civil War.
Additional Papers: Correspondence in Stuart family papers, 1823-ca. 1900; Barnwell family papers, 1824-1898; Lewis Malone Ayer papers, 1768-1870; and John D. Warren papers, 1856-1885.

Virginia Historical Society

Richmond, VA
Papers: Miscellaneous items. Finding aid.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Barnwell, John, ed. "Hamlet to Hotspur: Letters of Robert Woodward Barnwell to Robert Barnwell Rhett." South Carolina Historical Magazine 77 (October 1976): 236-56.

Coussons, John S. "Thirty Years with Calhoun, Rhett, and the Charleston Mercury: A Chapter in South Carolina Politics." Ph.D. dissertation, Louisiana State University, 1971.

Davis, William. A Fire-Eater Remembers: The Confederate Memoir of Robert Barnwell Rhett. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.

___. Rhett: The Turbulent Life and Times of a Fire-Eater. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

Hunt, Gaillard, ed. "Robert Barnwell Rhett on the Biography of Calhoun, 1854." American Historical Review 13 (January 1908): 310-12.

Perritt, H. Hardy. "Robert Barnwell Rhett: Prophet of Resistance, 1828-1834." Southern Speech Journal 21 (Winter 1955): 103-19.

Walther, Eric H. " 'How Best to Controul and Use Man': Robert Barnwell Rhett." In The Fire-Eaters, pp. 121-59. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.

White, Laura Amanda. Robert Barnwell Rhett, Father of Secession. 1931. Reprint. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1965.

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