fire-eaters, in U.S. history, term applied by Northerners to proslavery extremists in the South in the two decades before the Civil War. Edmund Ruffin , Robert B. Rhett , and William L. Yancey were the most notable of the group. As early as 1850, at a convention held in Nashville, Tenn., the
fire-eatersurged secession upon the South, but the Compromise of 1850 and more moderate counsel combined to postpone that event for another 10 years. Although the
fire-eaterswere in large measure responsible for the movement to organize a separate Southern government, they filled minor offices under the Confederacy.
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