As the tariff crisis grew in the late 1820s and headed towards a show-down between the Federal Government and the State of South Carolina, Robert Barnwell Rhett emerged from the South Carolina Lowcountry to lead the radical resistance to Federal intervention. Author and professor William C Davis quotes a speech Rhett gave in Columbia in 1829 in his book Rhett: The Turbulent Life and Times of a Fire-Eater on pages 54-55:
If the Union is to be perverted from the high and just ends for which it is created, and to absorb the rights of the States - if instead of a Union to protect us from abroad, it becomes a Union for the regulation and government of our internal affairs – if instead of guaranteeing to us the safe possession of our property, it becomes and instrument in the hands of a plundering majority, to wrest it from our possession – offering to us no resource for redress but the mercy or avarice of this interested majority…; I say with Mr Jefferson, give me disunion rather than a consolidated government. Aye – disunion, rather into a thousand fragments… Because under such a government I would be a slave – a fearful slave, ruled despotically by those who do not represent me… with every base and destructive passion of man bearing upon my shieldless destiny – love of domination – avarice – long rankling jealousy – and, worst of all, the fell spirit of bigotry, which would exult over my dwelling in flames, and my children given to slaughter.
…Will some blattant sycophant in office, or some base pander to power cry out ‘a disunionist! – a traitor!’ I will tell the slave, ‘take the words, if they will serve you.’ Washington, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Jefferson, and more were all disunionists and traitors in their time, and they broke the British Empire and redrew the map of the world with the sword. Shall we tremble at epithets, or shake when a tongue rails?
The Union must be dissolved under its present course of administration. It requires no conspiracy to destroy – no exertion on our part to drag it to its dissolution. It goes down with the inevitable weight of its own gravitation, into that dark abyss of anarchy and ruin, where all tyrannies have fallen.
…If to think, to speak, to feel such sentiments as these, constitute me a disunionist and a traitor, according to the English language as now understood in Carolina, then gentlemen, I am a Disunionist! – I am a Traitor!