Letter of reflection on Southern secession from Benjamin F. Perry (unionist and SC Governor), September 1866

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Document Description:

In this letter, written by Benjamin F. Perry following the Civil War, he reminisces about his views on secession. Perry was against secession and his opinion damaged his political career during the conflict. Perry remained an influential participant in South Carolina government.


B.F. Perry Papers, personal letter, September 1866, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.


Although this is a three page letter, only the portion relevent to the lesson Secession: A Southern Perspective is translated below. This passage comes from the bottom of page two and the top of page three:

“that for thirty years I had tried to save the Union and that now the state was going to the devil and I was going with her I wept like a child at her madness and folly and predicted that secession would prove the death knell of slavery.

My union sentiments excluded me from office and position in SC til the Rebellion was over.  Then I was appointed provisionary governor of the state and afterwards [elected senator] by those who had previously opposed me my whole life.”

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.
Indicator 3-4.3 Explain the reasons for South Carolina’s secession from the Union, including the abolitionist movement, states’ rights, and the desire to defend South Carolina’s way of life.
Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.
Indicator 4-6.3 Explain how specific events and issues led to the Civil War, including the sectionalism fueled by issues of slavery in the territories, states’ rights, the election of 1860, and secession.
Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.
Indicator 8-3.4 Compare the attitudes of the unionists, cooperationists, and secessionists in South Carolina and summarize the reasons that the members of the South Carolina secession convention in 1860 voted unanimously to secede from the Union, including concerns about states’ rights and fears about abolition.
Standard USHC-4 The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction in America.

Indicator USHC-4.2 Explain how the political events and issues that divided the nation led to civil war, including the compromises reached to maintain the balance of free and slave states, the successes and failures of the abolitionist movement, the conflicting views on states’ rights and federal authority, the emergence of the Republican Party and its win in 1860, and the formation of the Confederate States of America.

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Lessons Using This Document:

Secession: A Southern Perspective - 8th grade

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