RHETT, Robert Barnwell, (1800 - 1876)

Senate Years of Service: 1850-1852
Party: Democrat

Courtesy U.S. Senate Historical Office

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.


Dictionary of American Biography; Barnwell, John. “Hamlet to Hotspur: Letters of Robert Woodward Barnwell to Robert Barnwell Rhett.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 77 (October 1976): 236-56; Davis, William C. Rhett: The Turbulent Life and Times of a Fire-Eater. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.