Confederate History Month 2012: Robert Barnwell Rhett on Nationalism

Rhett: The Life and Times of a Fire Eater

South Carolina

I’m pleased to announce that my copy of William C. Davis’s Rhett: The Turbulent Life and Times of a Fire Eater arrived in the snail mail this afternoon.

Many years ago, I spent countless nights in the Auburn University library trying to figure out what the hell had gone wrong in this country.

This biography of Rhett was one of my favorite books. It was a major springboard in the development of my political views. It was like discovering a journal of your great-great intellectual grandfather.

Here’s another excerpt about Robert Barnwell Rhett for Confederate History Month 2012:

“Even if the North were to repudiate all its transgressions, however, and halt all oppression, still he would reject it now. “To be a free government to us,” he declared, “we must be able to control it.” It must be their government, not that of others no matter how charitable they might be. There, and there only, lay security from oppression, especially considering the unique feature of the South, its slave population. Without naming a single example, he asserted that there were many nations and peoples who maintained the perfect equality of all races, who thought that all men were equally fit to govern themselves whether individually or politically, and it was the duty of the South to demonstrate the error of such propositions. White and black could only be happy together in a society with the latter enslaved to the former, and the South could only demonstrate this conclusively if independent. …

He did not stop there. He elaborated considerably on a theme he had first addressed several years before in declaring that the Southern people required expansion and that their special combination of white ownership and black labor was the only way to cultivate the rich territory in their latitudes. Boldly he declared that “expansion shall be the law of the South, as of the North,” and proclaimed, “we are of the dominant Caucasian race, and we will perform our part in civilizing the world.” . . .

Independence, slavery, and empire – those were his promises to them and the stakes they had to lose by remaining in the Union. “We must act,” he demanded. “We must resist.” Even if all the other wrongs they faced in unjust taxation and tariff were not enough to move them to action, the denial of this their destiny surely would be. “Delay is the canker of great enterprises,” he admonished them, as he had so many times before. They had been patient for thirty years bought only by degradation and shame … “The mutterings of the political tempest, which the next presidential election must produce, already break upon the ear,” he told them. “To submit to the encroachments of vulgar crew of plunderers and fanatics, is a degradation no other free people than the people of the South ever endured,” he charged, “but to submit to their rule will be the desperation of a weak and conquered race – conquered without a fight.”

… If they failed, however – “let this election be the last contest between the North and the South; and the long, weary night of our dishonor and humiliation be dispersed at last, by the glorious day-spring of a Southern Confederacy.” He declared that the only epitaph he wanted on his grave when he died that after twenty years of trying to save the Constitution and the South, he “did all I could to dissolve her connection with the North, and to establish for her a Southern Confederacy.”

You won’t discover the real Robert Barnwell Rhett or William Lowndes Yancey at “180 Degrees True South” or the Southern Heritage Non-Preservation Group” in Facebook.

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  1. Glad you got a copy of the book, HW. I just got my copy last week. Despite the author’s obvious hostility to Rhett it’s still a good read with lots of info on Rhett, his life and ideas.

  2. It points you in the right direction – in spite of the hostility of Davis, the reader is left impressed by Rhett whose memory has been buried because he was such an effective figure.

  3. The intro is great – the scene at the SC secession convention in 1860, the culmination of a thirty year struggle to influence public opinion and free SC from the Union. You cant read this book and not come away from it completely identified with Rhett and his struggle.

    One man’s jihad against the system on the political fringe finally succeeds in toppling the whole rotten structure.

  4. Suppose they had seceeded in the 1840s.

    No way could the North have brought in the rail networks or heavy industry. The potato blight would have also not Swollen the emigre population of the North.

    War is all about timing.

  5. Race is the point where all these so-called Southern Nationalists of Today utterly FAIL. It has ALWAYS been ’bout Race down here, and the onliest thang that ended White Rule: Racial Slavery & Segregation, was Federal Bayonets …

  6. People with no sense of dignity or honor will submit. They will demand that you submit to their moral cowardice. People like that are useless. They have already lost and can be written off.

  7. I will go say far as to say that is the single most important thing. It is the missing element in our entire struggle. A sense of honor is what motivates the people who get up day in and day out to resist.

    That sense of honor has been lost among the neutered couch potatoes who are perfectly content to be degraded so long as they are considered “respectable” by the likes of the New York Times.

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