Charles Pinckney (governor)

Charles Pinckney
Governor of South Carolina
In office
January 26, 1789 – December 5, 1792
Preceded by Thomas Pinckney
Succeeded by William Moultrie
Governor of South Carolina
In office
December 8, 1796 – December 18, 1798
Preceded by Arnoldus Vanderhorst
Succeeded by Edward Rutledge
Governor of South Carolina
In office
December 9, 1806 – December 10, 1808
Preceded by Paul Hamilton
Succeeded by John Drayton
Personal details
Born October 27, 1757(1757-10-27)
Charles Town, South Carolina (now Charleston)
Died October 29, 1824(1824-10-29) (aged 67)
Charleston, South Carolina
Political party Federalist

Charles Pinckney (October 26, 1757 – October 29, 1824) was an American politician who was a signer of the United States Constitution, the 37th Governor of South Carolina, a Senator and a member of the House of Representatives. He was first cousin (once removed) of fellow-signer Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.

Charles was an ancestor of seven future South Carolina governors, a few of which have very prominent South Carolinian names, including the Maybank and Rhett families.

Pinckney was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Colonel Charles Pinckney, was a rich lawyer and planter, who on his death in 1782 was to bequeath Snee Farm, a country estate outside the city, to his son Charles. The latter apparently received all his education in the city of his birth, and he started to practice law there in 1779.

About that time, well after the War for Independence had begun, young Pinckney enlisted in the militia (though his father demonstrated ambivalence about the Revolution). He became a lieutenant, and served at the siege of Savannah (September-October 1779). When Charleston fell to the British the next year, the youth was captured and remained a prisoner until June 1781.

Pinckney had also begun a political career, serving in the Continental Congress (1777–78 and 1784–87) and in the state legislature (1779–80, 1786–89, and 1792–96). As a nationalist, he worked hard in Congress to ensure that the United States would receive navigation rights to the Mississippi River and to strengthen congressional power.

Pinckney's role in the Constitutional Convention is controversial. Although one of the youngest delegates, he later claimed to have been the most influential one and contended he had submitted a draft, known as the Pinckney Plan, that was the basis of the final Constitution. He did submit a plan that was a more elaborate form of the Virginia Plan, submitted by Edmund Randolph, but it was disregarded by the other delegates. Historians recognize that he ranked as an important contributing delegate.[1] Pinckney's vanity led him to boast that he was only 24, allowing him to claim distinction as the youngest delegate. He was in fact 30 years old.[2] He attended full time, spoke often and effectively, and contributed immensely to the final draft and to the resolution of problems that arose during the debates. He also worked for ratification in South Carolina (1788).

That same year, he married Mary Eleanor Laurens, daughter of wealthy and politically powerful South Carolina merchant Henry Laurens. They had at least three children.

Among his in-laws were Colonel John Laurens and U.S. Representative David Ramsay; another brother-in-law married the daughter of South Carolina Governor John Rutledge.

At the Convention, Pierce Butler and Pinckney, both from South Carolina, introduced the Fugitive Slave Clause (Article IV, Section II, Clause III). James Wilson of Pennsylvania objected, stating it would require that state governments enforce it at taxpayers' expense. Butler withdrew the clause. However, on the next day the clause was quietly reinstated and adopted by the Convention without objection. This clause was added to the clause that provided extradition for fugitives from justice.[3]

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

When first adopted, this clause applied to fugitive slaves and required that they be extradited upon the claims of their enslavers. This practice was eliminated when the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. In 1864, during the Civil War, an effort to repeal this clause of the Constitution failed.[4]

Subsequently, Pinckney's career blossomed. From 1789 to 1792 he held the governorship of South Carolina, and in 1790 chaired the State constitutional convention. During this period, he became associated with the Federalist Party, in which he and his cousin Charles Cotesworth Pinckney were leaders. But, with the passage of time, the former's views began to change. In 1795 he attacked the Federalist backed Jay's Treaty and increasingly began to cast his lot with Carolina back-country Democratic-Republicans against his own eastern aristocracy. In 1796 he became governor once again, and in 1798 his Democratic-Republican supporters helped him win a seat in the U.S. Senate. There, he bitterly opposed his former party, and in the Presidential election of 1800 served as Thomas Jefferson's campaign manager in South Carolina.

The victorious Jefferson appointed Pinckney as Minister to Spain (1801-5), in which capacity he struggled valiantly but unsuccessfully to win cession of the Floridas to the United States and facilitated Spanish acquiescence in the transfer of Louisiana from France to the United States in 1803.

Pinckney's grave at St. Philip's in Charleston

Upon completion of his diplomatic mission, his ideas moving ever closer to democracy, Pinckney headed back to Charleston and to leadership of the state Democratic-Republican Party. He sat in the legislature in 1805-6 and then was again elected as Governor (1806-8). In this position, he favored legislative reapportionment, giving better representation to back-country districts, and advocated universal white manhood suffrage. He served again in the legislature from 1810 to 1814 and then temporarily withdrew from politics. In 1818 he won election to the United States House of Representatives, where he fought against the Missouri Compromise.

In 1821, Pinckney's health beginning to fail, he retired for the last time from politics. He died in 1824, just 3 days after his 67th birthday. He was laid to rest at St. Philip's Episcopal Churchyard ["in Charleston"]." ("Signers", 1976)

Pinckney's Snee Farm plantation is maintained as Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.

His son, Henry L. Pinckney (September 24, 1794 - February 3, 1863) was a U.S. Representative from South Carolina. and Mayor of Charleston. His daughter married Robert Young Hayne, U.S. Representative, Mayor of Charleston, and Governor of South Carolina.

See also

  • U.S. Constitution, slavery debate in Convention


United States. National Park Service. (1976), Signers of the Constitution: historic places commemorating the signing of the Constitution (The National survey of historic sites and buildings, v. 19),, retrieved 2007-11-03 

  • Marty D. Mathews, Forgotten Founder: The Life and Times of Charles Pinckney (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004).
  1. ^ MacDonald Forrest,E Pluribus Anum: The Formation of the American Republic 1776-1790(Houghton Mifflin Company:Library of Congress Catalog Card: 65-111322) 1965 page 166-167.
  2. ^ Yates Publishing. U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004.
  3. ^ Paul Finkelman, Slavery and the founders: race and liberty in the age of Jefferson, pg 82, 2nd Edition, 2001.
  4. ^ The vote in the House was 69 for repeal and 38 against, which was short of the two-to-one vote required to amend the Constitution. See the Congressional Globe, 38th Cong., 1st Sess., 1325 (1864)

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Pinckney
Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
William Moultrie
Preceded by
Arnoldus Vanderhorst
Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Edward Rutledge
Preceded by
Paul Hamilton
Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
John Drayton
United States Senate
Preceded by
John Hunter
United States Senator (Class 2) from South Carolina
Served alongside: Jacob Read, John Ewing Colhoun
Succeeded by
Thomas Sumter
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
David Humphreys
U.S. Minister to Spain
Succeeded by
George W. Erving
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Henry Middleton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Joel R. Poinsett

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