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Collection Number: 00924

Collection Title: John Perkins Papers, 1822-1885

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


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Size 1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 550 items)
Abstract John Perkins, cotton planter and lawyer of Somerset Plantation, Ashwood, La., was appointed judge of the Circuit Court for Madison Parish in 1851; served as Democratic representative from Louisiana in the U.S. Congress, 1853-1855; represented Madison Parish in the permanent Confederate Congress at Richmond, Va., 1862-1865; and emigrated to Mexico in 1865 where he worked as a colonization agent. In 1866, Perkins moved to Paris and thereafter travelled extensively in Europe and in Canada before returning to the United States in 1878. The collection includes correspondence, financial, legal, and other papers primarily documenting the political and financial interests of John Perkins. Some papers reveal Perkins's financial and personal relationship with his father, but there is little other material related to his personal or family life. Correspondence about politics is especially heavy for 1853 to 1855, the years of Perkins's service in the U.S. Congress. Civil War materials include correspondence about Confederate government business and letters from soldiers requesting assistance with transfers and discharges from the Confederate Army. Most of the postwar correspondence concerns Perkins's emigration to Mexico and work as a colonization agent there. Other correspondence concerns the management of Perkins's Somerset and other plantations in Louisiana in the 1850s and 1870s and Cottonwood Plantation, Ellis County, Tex., in the 1860s.
Creator Perkins, John, 1819-1885.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the John Perkins Papers #924, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
All or part of this collection is available on microfilm from University Publications of America as part of the Records of ante-bellum southern plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, Series J.
Acquisitions Information
Gift of Mrs. Edward MacGavock, Nashville, Tennessee, in 1944. Addition received in 1951 from Mr. and Mrs. Edward T. MacGavock, son and daughter- in-law of the original donor.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

John Perkins (1819-1885), a Louisiana planter and lawyer, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, 1 July 1819. His parents were Mary Bynum Perkins and John Perkins, Sr. (fl. 1819-1867). Perkins was educated by private tutors and graduated from Yale College in 1840 and Harvard Law School in 1842. Admitted to the bar in 1843, he practiced law in New Orleans for four years. He relinquished his law practice to become a cotton planter. He resided at Somerset Plantation, Ashwood, Louisiana. He apparently owned a cottage at White Sulphur Springs in Virginia.

Active in local politics, Perkins was appointed judge of the Circuit Court for Madison Parish in 1851. Perkins served as Democratic representative from Louisiana to the United States Congress in 1853-1855. As chairman of the state secession convention in 1861, Perkins wrote Louisiana's secession ordinance. In the provisional Confederate Congress, Perkins served on the Printing and Foreign Affairs Committees and assisted in drafting the Constitution. He also represented Madison Parish in the permanent Confederate Congress at Richmond in 1862-1865. He generally supported the administration, and served on the Foreign Affairs, Rules, Ways and Means, and Commerce Committees.

In 1865, Perkins migrated to Mexico, where he was made colonization agent. In 1866 he moved to Paris and thereafter travelled extensively in Europe and in Canada. He returned to the United States in 1878. Perkins died in Baltimore, Maryland, 28 November 1885.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

This collection contains correspondence, financial, and legal papers, and other papers which document primarily the political and financial interests of John Perkins. Some papers reveal Perkins's financial and personal relationship with his father but little other material related to his personal life or family may be found here. Correspondence about politics is found especially in 1853-1855, the years of Perkins's service in the U. S. Congress, and somewhat in later years. Correspondence about the Confederate army and other Confederate government business is found in 1861-April 1865. Most of the correspondence of the years immediately following the Civil War is about Perkins's emigration to Mexico and work as a colonization agent there. Other correspondence is about management of Perkins's plantations in Louisiana in the 1850s and 1870s and in Texas in the 1860s. Other papers include drafts of speeches, a petition to make Confederate notes legal tender, and clippings.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, Financial, and Legal Papers, 1822-1885 and undated.

About 500 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. 1822-1848.

About 20 items.

Correspondence and legal papers, mostly of Mrs. Mary B. Eskridge, relating to settlement of the estate of Mary Bynum Perkins. Mary B. Eskridge was the daughter of Mary Bynum Perkins and half sister of John Perkins.

Folder 1

1822-1848 #00924, Subseries: "1.1. 1822-1848." Folder 1

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. 1850-1860.

About 200 items.

Correspondence, financial, and legal papers of John Perkins. Most of the material in this subseries is correspondence. Political topics dominate in the earlier part of the subseries and personal business predominates in the later years.

Only a few items date from before Perkins's election to Congress in 1852. A copy of the election returns, dated 1 December 1853, listing the vote for Perkins and for his opponent in each of the 16 parishes of Louisiana's third Congressional district may be found here. Letters from the years of Perkins's service in Congress (1853-1855) include many letters about the situation of the slaveholding states. Prominent among the writers of these letters was A. Dudley Mann, who wrote frequently to Perkins about sectionalism and politics. Mann's letters disclose his support for George Dallas for President of the United States and his advocacy of American annexation of Cuba.

Other letters to Perkins discuss the diplomatic and consular bill in which he apparently had an interest. Sam. Ricker wrote two letters both dated 24 April 1854 to Perkins from Frankfort on the Main about the American consular establishment there and about Europeans' views of the United States.

Although several of Perkins's correspondents urged him to run for re-election to Congress, he did not do so. Some letters on political subjects, however, continue to appear after 1855. In 1856, for example, there are several letters about that year's presidential campaign. A letter of 2 July 1856 from Judah P. Benjamin comments on the presidential candidates. In a printed letter of 28 September 1856 to Dr. Delony and others, Perkins stated his views on the coming election and said that if Fremont were elected the Union could not and ought not to continue. Perkins continued to receive letters from A. Dudley Mann in 1856.

Also of note is a letter of 14 January 1856 from Jefferson Davis to Perkins in which Davis, then Secretary of War, reported that he had been unable to persuade the president to appoint Perkins's friend to a government job in Kansas and that he seemed often unable to get appointments for his friends. Letters from Jefferson Davis's brother, J. E. Davis, also appear in this subseries. These letters contain news of family and friends, of his attendance at a Clay barbecue, and of a measles epidemic in Louisville, as well as political news.

Material from the late 1850s centers on family and plantation news. Letters from John Perkins, Sr., and from R. I. Perkins document the personal and financial relationship between Perkins and his father. A letter of 23 April 1857 from John Perkins, Sr., to E. G. W. Butler includes an appraisal of his Somerset estate and his division of his estate.

Letters from Perkins's plantation manager, William Rhodes, at Somerset in July and August 1857 report on the crops, progress of work, and a proposed purchase of slaves there. Rhodes also enclosed letters from the overseers at Perkins's other plantations. These and letters of 1859 and 1860 from overseers J. M. Stanbrough and J. J. Smiley at Homestead, Lewis Carter at Viamede, and A. M. Taylor at Backland, report on conditions at those plantations. E. F. Furniss also wrote to "cousin John" about the plantations.

A few financial papers are interfiled with the correspondence. Most of these are bills from or accounts with Washington Jackson & Co. of New Orleans. In 1860, there are a few accounts for the sale of cotton with W & D Urquhart, New Orleans, and shipping documents from Davenport & Drake, Commission Merchants, of St. Louis.

Folder 2

1850-1854 #00924, Subseries: "1.2. 1850-1860." Folder 2

Folder 3

January-June 1855 #00924, Subseries: "1.2. 1850-1860." Folder 3

Folder 4

July-December 1855 #00924, Subseries: "1.2. 1850-1860." Folder 4

Folder 5

1856 #00924, Subseries: "1.2. 1850-1860." Folder 5

Folder 6

January-July 1857 #00924, Subseries: "1.2. 1850-1860." Folder 6

Folder 7

August-December 1857 #00924, Subseries: "1.2. 1850-1860." Folder 7

Folder 8

1858 #00924, Subseries: "1.2. 1850-1860." Folder 8

Folder 9

1859 #00924, Subseries: "1.2. 1850-1860." Folder 9

Folder 10

1860 #00924, Subseries: "1.2. 1850-1860." Folder 10

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.3 1861-April 1865.

About 120 items.

Correspondence and other material of John Perkins about business of the Confederate government and in 1863 about Perkins's Cottonwood Plantation in Ellis County, Texas. Many of the letters in this subseries are from Confederate soldiers requesting assistance in getting transferred from one regiment to another or in getting discharged from the army. Few letters describe camp life or military action. A notable letter of 23 December 1862 from Thomas D. Day, aide to Brigadier General D. M. Frost, written to Perkins from a camp near Van Buren, Arkansas, describes recent military engagements in Arkansas.

Other items concerning Confederate government business include some letters about legislation on passports in 1861 and 1862 and auditors' reports in 1863 and 1864 about settlement of claim for arrears of pay due from the Confederate States to deceased officers and soldiers.

Letters from Henry Pannill and G. W. Smith to John Perkins in 1863 and 1864 report on weather, work, overseers, slaves, and stock at Cottonwood Plantation in Ellis County, Texas.

Folder 11

1861 #00924, Subseries: "1.3 1861-April 1865." Folder 11

Folder 12

1862 #00924, Subseries: "1.3 1861-April 1865." Folder 12

Folder 13

January-November 1863 #00924, Subseries: "1.3 1861-April 1865." Folder 13

Folder 14

December 1863 #00924, Subseries: "1.3 1861-April 1865." Folder 14

Folder 15a

1864-April 1865 #00924, Subseries: "1.3 1861-April 1865." Folder 15a

Folder 15b

Undated 1861-1865 #00924, Subseries: "1.3 1861-April 1865." Folder 15b

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.4 September 1865-1866.

About 100 items.

Chiefly letters, reports, financial papers, maps, and other material of John Perkins related to his emigration to Mexico and his work as a colonization agent for the Mexican government. Notable among these are a copy of the "Decreto Imperial de 5 de Septiembre de 1865, para Fomenta La Immigracion," and a copy of a report dated 24 November 1865 from Sterling Price, Isham Harris, and John Perkins to M. F. Maury, Imperial Commissioner of Colonization, on land owned by the Government in the district of Cordova in the state of Vera Cruz. Several letters concern American immigrants' efforts to get title to Mexican lands. Also included is an agreement between John Perkins, Nicholas Read, and William Dechent to establish a coffee plantation near Cordoba.

A few items in this subseries relate to John Perkins's personal and financial interests in the United States. There are, for example, John Perkins, Sr.'s, petition, dated 18 December 1865, to revoke the gift of Somerset Plantation because his son had not lived up to the terms of the gift and letters dated 18 September 1866 from E. D. Farrar and F. H. Farrar urging Perkins to return to Louisiana.

Folder 16

September-December 1865 #00924, Subseries: "1.4 September 1865-1866." Folder 16

Folder 17

January-April 1866 #00924, Subseries: "1.4 September 1865-1866." Folder 17

Folder 18

May 1866 #00924, Subseries: "1.4 September 1865-1866." Folder 18

Folder 19

June-October 1866 #00924, Subseries: "1.4 September 1865-1866." Folder 19

Folder 20

Undated 1865-1866 #00924, Subseries: "1.4 September 1865-1866." Folder 20

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.5 1867-1885.

About 20 items.

Letters, legal papers, and other materials of John Perkins. Papers, 1868-1872, about the estate of John Perkins, Sr., are filed here. Although a few letters are addressed to John Perkins in Paris, there is little documentation here of Perkins's life in Europe between 1866 and 1878. Four letters of 1878 from J. Stanbrough to John Perkins report on crops and conditions at Hapaca Plantation and advise Perkins not to come there because of a yellow fever epidemic. Of special interest in this subseries is a printed advertisement of John Swallow, New York, offering to sell counterfeit money and an accompanying letter recruiting dealers to sell counterfeit money.

Folder 21

Correspondence, financial, and legal papers, 1867-1885 #00924, Subseries: "1.5 1867-1885." Folder 21

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.6 Undated Material.

About 10 items.

Undated letters, notes, and fragments.

Folder 22

Undated material #00924, Subseries: "1.6 Undated Material." Folder 22

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Other Papers, 1855-1884.

About 100 items.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1 Writings, [1855?].

3 items.

Apparently drafts of speeches made in the 1850s. Subjects are Perkins's service in Congress, Know-Nothingism, and the political crisis in the United States.

Folder 23

Writings #00924, Subseries: "2.1 Writings, [1855?]." Folder 23

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.2 Petition, 1863.

About 30 items.

Several copies with many signatures attached of a petition to the Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate States of America asking them to adopt Confederate notes as legal tender.

Folder 24-26

Folder 24

Folder 25

Folder 26

Petition #00924, Subseries: "2.2 Petition, 1863." Folder 24-26

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.3. Clippings, 1847-1884 and undated.

About 70 items.

Arrangement: roughly chronological.

Newspapers clippings, apparently collected from a variety of newspapers by John Perkins about subjects of interest to him. Some of the clippings contain social news but most are about sectionalism and politics. Clippings from 1847 1861 especially give political news--news of abolitionist meetings in northern states, election returns, speeches. There is a group of clippings of 1872 headed "European Correspondence of the Savannah Republican." Three articles from the New Orleans Democrat of 17 July, 24 July and 7 August 1880 are headed "Two Decades of Louisiana, 1860-1880."

Folder 27

1847-1865 #00924, Subseries: "2.3. Clippings, 1847-1884 and undated." Folder 27

Folder 28

1866-1878 #00924, Subseries: "2.3. Clippings, 1847-1884 and undated." Folder 28

Folder 29

1880-1884 and undated #00924, Subseries: "2.3. Clippings, 1847-1884 and undated." Folder 29

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Processing Information

Processed by: Linda Sellars, October 1990

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

Updated by: Kathryn Michaelis, December 2009

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