Benjamin Franklin Perry

42nd Governor of the State of South Carolina 1865

Date Born: November 20, 1805

Date Died: December 3, 1886

Place Born: Pendleton District, SC

Place Buried: Greenville, SC

Residence: Greenville, SC

Occupation: Lawyer, Editor


Preparatory Schooling in Franklin County, GA, Asheville, NC, and Greenville District, SC

South Carolina House of Representatives: 1836-1841, 1849-1859, 1862-1864

South Carolina Senate: 1844-1847

Perry edited three pro-Union newspapers: The Greenville Mountaineer, The Patriot and Mountaineer, and The Southern Patriot

1865 – Perry was elected to the U.S. Senate but was denied his seat

On June 30, 1865, Perry was appointed Provisional Governor by President Andrew Johnson

1865 – The new State Constitution changed the gubernatorial election process from a secret vote by the General Assembly to a popular election


Benjamin Franklin Perry was born on November 20, 1805 in the Pendleton District, the son of Benjamin Perry and Anna (Foster) Perry. He was educated at preparatory schools in Franklin County, GA, in Asheville, NC, and in the Greenville District, SC, having to alternate his education with farming his father's land.

His lack of funds forced him to abandon his plans to enter the South Carolina College. Instead, he chose to read law, beginning in March of 1824, under the tutelage of Baylis John Earle in the Greenville District, and later under James Gregg and Thomas Harrison in Columbia. He was admitted to the South Carolina bar on January 10, 1827, and launched his own law practice in Greenville. He also pursued journalism and became the editor of The Greenville Mountaineer in 1832. The paper was adamantly against Nullification and Perry was able to parlay his influence by being elected as a delegate to both the Union Convention and the Nullification Convention.

Turner Bynum, who was editor of the pro-Calhoun Greenville Sentinel newspaper, met Perry in a duel. The duel was staged on an island in the Tugaloo River near Hatton's Ford on August 17, 1832. Perry fatally wounded Bynum who died that night.

On April 27, 1837, Benjamin Franklin Perry married Elizabeth Frances McCall, daughter of Hext McCall and Susan Branford Hayne McCall. They had nine children, four of which survived him.

In 1836, Benjamin Franklin Perry was first elected to represent the Greenville District in the House of Representatives of the:
- 32nd General Assembly that met from 1836-1838
- 33rd General Assembly that met from 1838-1839
- 34th General Assembly that met from 1840-1841

He had lost to Warren R. Davis in 1834.

In 1844, Benjamin Franklin Perry was first elected to represent the Greenville District in the SC Senate of the:
- 36th General Assembly that met from 1844-1845
- 37th General Assembly that met from 1846-1847

In 1849, he was again elected in a special election to represent the Greenville District in the House of Representatives, replacing Edward Hampton Earl who had died in office, of the:
- 38th General Assembly that met from 1848-1849
- 39th General Assembly that met from 1850-1851
- 40th General Assembly that met from 1852-1853
- 41st General Assembly that met from 1854-1855
- 42nd General Assembly that met from 1856-1857
- 43rd General Assembly that met from 1858-1859

As the secession movement was sweeping the state in the years prior to the American Civil War, Benjamin Franklin Perry founded The Southern Patriot in 1851 to counter and spread a unionist message. Even though Perry was adamantly against secession, he embraced the state when it did secede and rallied the residents in the upstate in favor of the Confederate cause.

In 1862, he was again elected to represent the Greenville District in the House of Representatives of the:
- 45th General Assembly that met from 1862-1863
- 46th General Assembly that met in 1864

In 1864, he was appointed as a Confederate States District Judge.

On June 30, 1865, President Andrew Johnson appointed Perry as the Provisional Governor of South Carolina, because of the strong Unionist views he had held prior to the war. Perry was directed by the president to enroll voters and to lead the state in the writing of a new state constitution. The delegates at the Constitutional Convention largely followed Gov. Perry's guidelines for the constitution, but they strayed by adopting the black codes to prevent black suffrage. President Johnson, as well as several leading statesmen of SC, urged the granting of suffrage to blacks while also including a property qualification clause. A property qualification would essentially disenfranchise all blacks without giving the appearance of impropriety towards blacks and prevent the imposition of harsh terms by the Radical Republicans.

Benjamin Franklin Perry said in 1865, "The African, has been in all ages, a savage or a slave. God created him inferior to the white man in form, color, and intellect, and no legislation or culture can make him his equal... His hair, his form and features will not compete with the caucasian race, and it is in vain to think of elevating him to the dignity of the white man. God created differences between the two races, and nothing can make him equal".

Upon the completion of the revised SC Constitution, elections were called and Benjamin Franklin Perry sought election to the U.S. Senate. He was elected along with John Lawrence Manning, but the Radical Republicans in charge of the U.S. Congress refused to seat them.

In 1872, he unsuccessfully ran for the 4th U.S. Congressional District House seat against Republican Alexander S. Wallace. His son, William Hayne Perry, did successfully gain election to the House and was a member from 1885 to 1891.

Benjamin Franklin Perry died at his home Sans Souci in Greenville on December 3, 1886 and was interred at Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery in his home town.


Benjamin Franklin Perry was born in the Pendleton District (what later became Pickens County), South Carolina. He was sent to North Carolina for preparatory schooling, went on to study law, and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1827. He became a journalist, editing The Greenville Mountaineer (beginning in 1832) and The Patriot and Mountaineer (1855-1858), and founding The Southern Patriot. His involvement in politics was extensive, beginning when he was a delegate to the Union Convention of 1832 and the Nullification Convention of 1832-33 (which addressed the issue of whether states had the power to nullify federal law). He was also a member of the SC House of Representatives for a number of non-consecutive terms during the 1830s, ‘50s, and ‘60s and a member of the SC Senate from 1844 to 1848, and has been credited with having selected the site for the state Capitol in Columbia during his tenure in the state legislature. He was a Presidential Elector in 1848, a delegate to the Democratic State Convention in 1852, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1860, and a Confederate States District Judge in 1864. Appointed Provisional Governor of South Carolina by President Andrew Johnson when the Civil War ended, he proceeded despite Radical Republican criticism to re-appoint all state officials who had held office at the end of the war, which enabled him to gain approval from delegates to the state Constitutional Convention for the popular election of governor and presidential electors, for equal representation throughout the state based on property and population, for the abolishment of the parish system, for the popular election of judges for terms of four years, and for ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After South Carolina’s 1865 Constitution was adopted, Perry declined to run for governor. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1866 but was denied his seat. However, he was a delegate to the National Union Convention in 1866 and the Democratic National Conventions of 1868 and 1876. In 1872 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.

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