Tomorrow marks the 171st anniversary of the beginning of the Bluffton Movement, that took place underneath the infamous Secession Oak.
Photographed by Alyssa Krob
Robert Barnwell Rhett was a hot-headed politician from Beaufort. He served South Carolina as a State representative, attorney general, and a congress man. Rhett was one of the many Southerners that opposed the 1828 and 1842 Tariff that was passed down from the North.
The South often traded with Europe because goods were cheaper than they would be coming from the North. With the tariff in affect, the South’s trade with Europe was greatly restricted. Having no manufacturing abilities like the North had, the South was forced to trade with the North and pay a higher price for their goods. This enraged many in the Southern states, causing the talk of Secession.
“Although several days of consistent rain prior to the event hampered attendance, several hundred of Rhett’s constituents still appeared at the gathering. Rhett gave his fiery and now legendary speech atop of platform that had been erected under the shade of a sprawling live oak, which would later be referred to as the Secession Oak.”1
Rhett inspired many of his fellow states-men with his speech, but South Carolina was not prepared to handle a secession movement. “The popular and politically powerful John C. Calhoun, ‘South Carolina’s giant elder statesmen,’ was for a more moderate approach to the states’ rights movement.”2
The movement would still live on with the “Bluffton Boys” and sixteen years later, South Carolina would be the first state to secede from the Union.
To learn more about the Bluffton Boys,the Secession Movement, and the Civil War in Bluffton please refer to The Bluffton Expedition. The Bluffton Expedition was written by Jeff Fulgham, Director of the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society. The books are for sale in the gift shop of the Heyward House Historic Center.
1 Fulgham, J. (2012). Chapter One. In The Bluffton Expedition: The Burning of Bluffton, South Carolina, During the Civil War (Second revision. p. 8).
2 Fulgham, J. (2012). Chapter One. In The Bluffton Expedition: The Burning of Bluffton, South Carolina, During the Civil War (Second revision. p. 9).