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Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

1746 - 1825

South Carolina Delegate

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney - Signer of the Constitution - A Stan Klos Website



Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

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PINCKNEY, Charles Cotesworth, statesman, born in Charleston, South Carolina, 25 February, 1746; died there, 16 August, 1825. His father, Charles, was chief justice of South Carolina in 1752. The son was sent to England to be educated at seven years of age, studied at Westminster school, and was graduated at Christ church, Oxford, read law in the Middle Temple, and passed nine months in the Royal military academy at Caen, France. He returned to this country in 1769, settled as a barrister in Charleston, and became attorney-general of the province. He was a Provincial congress of South Carolina in 1775, was appointed by that body a captain of infantry, and in December of that year was promoted major, lie assisted to successfully defend Fort Sullivan on 28 June, 1776, became colonel on 29 October, and left the Carolinas to join Washington, to whom he was appointed aide-de-camp, participating in the battles of the Brandywine and Germantown.

He returned to the south in the spring' of 1778, and took part in the unsuccessful expedition to Florida. In January, 1779, he pro-sided over the senate of South Carolina. He displayed resolution and intrepidity in the rapid march that saved Charleston from the attack of the British under General Augustine Prevost, and in the invasion of Georgia his regiment formed the second column in the assault on the lines at Savannah, and in the second attack on Charleston, in April, 1780, he commanded Fort Moultrie with a force of 300 men. The fleet entered the harbor without engaging the fort, and he then returned to the city, and aided in sustaining the siege. In the council of war that was held in the latter part of the month he voted "for the rejection of all terms of capitulation, and for continuing hostilities to the last extremity." He became a prisoner of war on the surrender of the city in May, 1780, and for two years suffered a rigorous confinement. But "nothing could shake the firmness of his soul." He was ordered into closer confinement from the death-bed of his son, but he wrote to the commanding British officer: "My heart is altogether American, and neither severity, nor favor, nor poverty, nor affluence can ever induce me to swerve from it."

He was exchanged in February, 1782, and was commissioned brigadier-general in 1783, but the war was virtually over, and he had no opportunity for further service. He then returned to the practice of his profession, in which he won great reputation and large profits.

He was a member of the convention that framed the constitution of the United States in 1787, took an active part in its debates, and was the author of the clause in the constitution that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the authority of the United States." He also moved to strike out the clause that allowed compensation to senators, on the ground that that body should be composed of persons of wealth, and consequently above the temptations of poverty. He became an ardent Federalist on the adoption of the constitution, and served in the convention that ratified it on the part of South Carolina, and in the State constitutional convention of 1790. He declined the office of associate justice of the United States supreme court in 1791, the portfolio of war in 1784, and that of state in 1795, and in 1796 accepted the office of United States minister to France, resigning his commission of major-general of militia, which he had held for several years.

The Directory refused to receive him, and he was reminded that the law forbade any foreigner to stay more than thirty days in France without permission. On his refusal to apply, he was requested to quit the republic. He retired to Amsterdam, and subsequently returned to America. While on this mission he made the famous reply to an intimation that peace might be secured with money: "Millions for defense, but not a cent for tribute." On his return, war being imminent with France, he was commissioned major-general by Washington, but second to Alexander Hamilton, who had been his junior during the Revolution. When his attention was directed to that fact, he said : "Let us first dispose of our enemies; we shall then have leisure to settle the question of rank."

He was a Federalist candidate for the vice-presidency in 1800, and for the presidency in 1804 and 1808. In 1801 he was elected first president of the board of trustees of the College of South Carolina, and for more than fifteen years before his death he was president of the Charleston Bible society. Charles Chauncey said of him that "his love of honor was greater than his love of power, and deeper than his love of self." He was third president-general of the Cincinnati. He married the sister of Arthur Middleton. Their daughter. MARIA, published a work in the defenee of nullification.

Charles's brother, Thomas Pinckney, diplomatist, born in Charleston. S. C., 23 October, 1750" died there, 2 November, 1828, accompanied his brother to England in 1753, and was educated at Westminster and Oxford. He then studied law in the Temple, was admitted to the bar in 1770, and, returning to Charleston in 1772, practiced in that city. He joined the Continental army as a lieutenant in 1775, was aide-de-camp to General Benjamin Lincoln, and served in a similar capacity under Count D'Estaing at the siege of Savannah. He participated in the battle of Stone Ferry, and as aide to General Horatio Gates was wounded and taken prisoner at Camden.

He saw no further service in the Revolution, and returned to his profession, tie declined the appointment of United States district judge in 1789, became governor in that year, was a member of the legislature in 1791, and drew up the act to establish tile South Carolina court of equity. He was appointed by Washington United States minister to Great Britain in 1792, and on the expiration of his term in 1794 was sent on a mission to Spain, where he arranged the treaty of St. Ildefonso that secured to the United States the free navigation of Mississippi river. He returned to Charleston in 1796, was the Federalist candidate in that year for the vice-presidency, and served in congress in 1799-1801. At the beginning of the war of 1812 he was appointed by President Madison major-general, with the charge of the 6th military district, and participated in the battle of Horseshoe Bend, in which the Creek Indians were finally defeated. He then retired to private life, and did much to encourage the development of the agricultural and mineral resources of the state. He succeeded his brother as 4th president-general of the Cincinnati.

Charles Pinckney, statesman, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1758; died there, 29 October, 1824, was the grandson of William, Charles Cotesworth's uncle. His father, Charles, was president of the South Carolina convention in 1775, of the senate in 1779, and of the council in 1782. The son was educated for the bar, and before he was of age was chosen to the provincial legislature. He was taken prisoner at the capture of Charleston, and remained such until the close of the war, when he resumed his profession. He was elected to the Provincial congress in 1785, and subsequently took an active part in preparing a plan of government for the United States.

In 1787 he was a delegate to the convention that framed the constitution of the United States, and offered a draft of a constitution, which was referred to the committee of detail, submitted, and some of its revisions were finally adopted. In 1788 he advocated the ratification of the constitution in the South Carolina convention. He was elected governor the next year, presided over the state convention by which the constitution of South Carolina was adopted in 1790, was re-elected governor in 1791, and again in 1796, and in 1798 was chosen to the United States senate as a Republican. He was a frequent and able speaker in that body, and one of the most active promoters of Thomas Jefferson's election to the presidency.

In 1802-'3 he was United States minister to Spain, and during his residence in that country he negotiated a release from the Spanish government of all right. or title to the territory that was purchased by the United States from France. He became governor for the fourth time in 1806, and in 1812 strongly advocated the war with England. He was a member of congress in 1819-'21, and opposed the Missouri compromise bill, earnestly warning the south of the effects of the measure. This was his last public service. Mr. Pinckney was the founder of the old Republican party of South Carolina. He possessed liberal views on all subjects, advocated the abolition of the primogeniture laws, was the principal agent in the removal of the civil and political disabilities that had been imposed on Jews in South Carolina, and was the first governor of the state that advocated the establishment of free schools. He was an able political writer, and issued a series of addresses to the people under the signature of " Republican " (Charleston, 1800) that were instrumental in the election of Jefferson. He also published in the same year several papers in denunciation of the alien and sedition laws that were enacted during the administration of the elder Adams. Princeton gave him the degree of LL. D. in 1787.

Charles's son, Henry Laurens Pinckney, congressman, born in Charleston, South Carolina, 24 September, 1794 ; died there, 3 February, 1863, was graduated at the College of South Carolina in 1812, studied law in the Office of his brother-in-law, Robert Y. Hayne, and was admitted to the bar, but never practised. He served in the legislature in 1816-';12, and was chairman of its committee of ways and means for eight years. He was three times intendant, and three times mayor of Charleston, and in 1831-'7 was a member of congress, having been elected as a Democrat. During the administration of President Van Buren he was collector of the port of Charleston. In 1845-'63 he was tax-collector of the parishes of St. Philip and St. Michael. Mr. Pinckney was a constant and laborious writer and worker during his public life. He founded the Charleston " Mercury," the organ of the State-rights party, in 1819, was its sole editor for fifteen years, and published many orations and addresses. He also wrote memoirs of Jonathan Maxcy, Robert Y. Hayne, and Andrew Jackson.--Thomas's grandson, Charles Cotesworth, clergyman, born in Charleston, South Carolina, 31 July, 1812, was graduated at the College of South Carolina in 1831, studied at Alexandria theological seminary, Virginia, and was ordained to the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal church. He has since held charges in South Carolina, is a popular divine, active in benevolent and educational enterprises, and president of the board of trustees of the College of South Carolina. He received the degree of D. D. from the College of Charleston, in 1870.

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