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fire-eaters

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-eaters urged 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-eaters were in large measure responsible for the movement to organize a separate Southern government, they filled minor offices under the Confederacy.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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