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|Size||0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 377 items)|
|Abstract||Robert Barnwell Rhett (1800-1876) was a congressman and senator from South Carolina, 1837-1852, and a member of the Nashville Convention, 1850; the secession convention, 1861; and the Confederate Congress at Montgomery, 1861. The collection consists of papers relating to Robert Barnwell Rhett and his sons Alfred M. Rhett, Edmund Rhett Jr., and Herbert Rhett. Papers, 1835-1853, are of Robert Barnwell Rhett and chiefly concern national and sectional politics, including controversies over the federal tariff; nullification; bank organization; the annexation of Texas; Democratic Party organization, factions, candidates, campaigns, and elections; the political fortunes of Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun, and James K. Polk; slavery; secession; and political appointments and favors. Other topics include property matters and Rhett's personal financial arrangements; family activities; the education of some of his children; negotiations and mission to England to recover duties wrongly imposed on rough rice; and a physician's account, 1836-1840, for family and servants at Rhett's Blue House in Colleton County, S.C. Papers, 1853-1863, are of Alfred M. Rhett and Edmund Rhett Jr., and include several items pertaining to duels, others related to the running of the Charleston (S.C.) Mercury, and to Edmund's Confederate service commanding Brook's Guard. Papers of Herbert Rhett, 1868-1870 and 1879-1880, are chiefly family letters. Undated items include many family and personal letters, a manuscript article on the Civil War, invitations to public rallies, bills, and letter fragments.|
|Creator||Rhett, Robert Barnwell, 1800-1876.|
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Robert Barnwell Rhett (1800-1876) was born at Beaufort, S.C., to James and Marianna Smith. He started practicing law there in 1824, was in the legislature in 1826, and was attorney general of South Carolina in 1832. The family name was changed from Smith to Rhett, a colonial ancestor, by an act of the legislature in 1838.
Rhett served as a Democrat in the United States Congress from March 1837 to March 1849, representing Beaufort and Colleton, S.C.; and served in the United States Senate (replacing John C. Calhoun) from 18 December 1850, through 1852. A leading advocate of states rights and an early proponent of secession, Rhett was a member of the Nashville Convention, 1850; delegate to the secession convention, 1861; member of the Confederate Congress at Montgomery in 1861 and also at Richmond; and was chair of the committee on the Confederate constitution.
In 1836, Rhett had made an advantageous purchase of a plantation, and in the 1850s another. He had residences in Walterboro and later in Charleston, and while he was at the capital had a house in Georgetown, D.C. He owned the Charleston Mercury, which regularly published his extreme pro-southern views and those of other "fire-eaters.". His son Robert Barnwell Rhett Jr. became editor of the newspaper in 1857. After the Civil War, Rhett moved to Saint James Parish, La., and out of politics, except for brief service as a delegate to the 1868 Democratic National Convention in New York.
Rhett married Elizabeth Washington Burnet in 1827. She died in 1852, and about a year later he married Katherine Herbert Dent. Rhett had at least four children, including sons Robert Barnwell Rhett Jr., Albert M. Rhett, Edmund Rhett Jr., and Herbert Rhett. Robert Barnwell Rhett died in 1876 in Saint James Parish, La., at the home of his son-in-law Alfred Roman.Back to Top
The collection consists of papers relating to Robert Barnwell Rhett (1800-1876) and his sons Alfred M. Rhett, Edmund Rhett Jr., and Herbert Rhett. Papers, 1835-1852, relate chiefly to Robert Barnwell Rhett. Included are letters concerned with national and sectional politics. Rhett's correspondents included national and sectional statesmen as well as South Carolinians involved in public affairs (index of correspondents filed in folder 1a). Topics discussed include controversies over a federal tariff; nullification; bank organization; annexation of Texas; Democratic party organization, factions, candidates, campaigns, and elections; the political fortunes of Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun, and James K. Polk; slavery; secession; and political appointments and favors. Also included are papers relating to property matters and Rhett's personal financial arrangements; family activities; the education of some of his children; negotiations and mission to England to recover duties wrongly imposed on rough rice; and a physician's account, 1836-1840, for family and servants at Rhett's Blue House in Colleton County, S.C.
Papers, 1853-1863, relate chiefly to Alfred M. Rhett and Edmund Rhett Jr. Included are personal and family letters; papers relating to various "affairs of honor" of the brothers with Isaac M. Dwight, Winborn Lawton, John Cunningham, W. R. Taber Jr., John McPherson Creighton, Lewis F. Robertson, and W. R. Calhoun; miscellaneous bills and receipts, some concerning expenses for clubs, horses, servants, uniform, tobacco, and transportation; letters to the editor of the Charleston Mercury, some regarding newspaper policies, including the publication of battle news; and military communications pertaining to Edmund's Confederate service commanding Brook's Guard and a possible court martial related to Alfred's dueling.
Papers, 1868-1880, relate chiefly to Herbert Rhett. Included are family letters from Robert Barnwell Rhett, his mother Katharine Herbert Dent Rhett, cousins, and friends. There are also undated papers, including many family and personal letters, a manuscript article on the Civil War, invitations to public rallies, bills, and letter fragments.Back to Top
Includes an index of correspondents
Includes a physician’s account for Rhett "family and servants."
Processed by: Anna Brooke Allan, June 1961
Encoded by: Nancy Kaiser, October 2005
Updated by: Kathryn Michaelis, November 2009
Funding from the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., supported the encoding of this finding aid.Back to Top