Charles Pinckney (governor)

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Charles Pinckney
Charles Pinckney.jpg
37th Governor of South Carolina
In office
December 9, 1806 – December 10, 1808
Lieutenant John Hopkins
Preceded by Paul Hamilton
Succeeded by John Drayton
In office
December 8, 1796 – December 18, 1798
Lieutenant Robert Anderson
Preceded by Arnoldus Vanderhorst
Succeeded by Edward Rutledge
In office
January 26, 1789 – December 5, 1792
Lieutenant Alexander Gillon
Isaac Holmes
Preceded by Thomas Pinckney
Succeeded by William Moultrie
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1819 – March 4, 1821
Preceded by Henry Middleton
Succeeded by Joel Roberts Poinsett
United States Minister to Spain
In office
March 1802 – October 25, 1804
President John Adams
Preceded by David Humphreys
Succeeded by James Bowdoin III
United States Senator
from South Carolina
In office
December 6, 1798 – June 6, 1801
Preceded by John Hunter
Succeeded by Thomas Sumter
Delegate from South Carolina to the Congress of the Confederation
In office
November 1, 1784 – October 30, 1787
1st President of the South Carolina Senate
In office
August 31, 1779 – January 8, 1782
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by John Lloyd
Member of the South Carolina Senate from St. Phillip's and St. Michael's Parish
In office
August 31, 1779 – January 8, 1782
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from St. Phillip's and St. Michael's Parish
In office
November 26, 1810 – November 28, 1814
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Christ Church Parish
In office
November 24, 1806 – December 9, 1806
In office
November 26, 1792 – December 8, 1796
In office
January 1, 1787 – January 21, 1789
Personal details
Born (1757-10-26)October 26, 1757
Charles Town, South Carolina (now Charleston)
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Charleston, South Carolina
Resting place Saint Philip's Episcopal Church Cemetery, Charleston
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Political party Federalist
Other political
Spouse(s) Mary Eleanor Laurens
Relations Colonel Charles Pinckney (father)
Frances Brewton (mother)
Children Frances Henrietta Pinckney
Mary Eleanor Pinckney
Henry Laurens Pinckney
Residence "Snee Farm", Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Profession Lawyer, Statesman
Religion Episcopalian

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.

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

Early life and education

Pinckney was born and educated in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Colonel Charles Pinckney, was a rich lawyer and planter. On his death in 1782, he bequeathed Snee Farm, a plantation outside the city, and his numerous slaves to his eldest son Charles.

Marriage and family

Busy with the war and his political career, Pinckney did not marry until 1787. He married Mary Eleanor Laurens, daughter of Henry Laurens, the wealthy and politically powerful South Carolina merchant and slave trader. 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.


Pinckney was elected to the Continental Congress (1777–78). He started to practice law in Charleston in 1779 at the age of 21. 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 young Pinckney was captured and held as a prisoner until June 1781.

He was elected again to the Continental Congress following the war, serving 1784–87. He was elected to the state legislature for several terms (1779–80, 1786–89, and 1792–96). As a nationalist, he worked hard in Congress trying to ensure that the United States would receive navigation rights from Spain 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. This was strongly disputed by James Madison and some of the other Framers.[1] He submitted an elaborate form of the Virginia Plan, submitted by Edmund Randolph, but it was disregarded by the other delegates. Historians assess him as an important contributing delegate.[2] Pinckney boasted that he was 24, allowing him to claim distinction as the youngest delegate, but he was 30 years old that year.[3] 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).

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, saying that it was special protection for slaveholders, requiring all state governments to enforce it at taxpayers' expense, in places where no one or most residents did not own slaves. Butler withdrew the clause. But, the next day, a southerner reinstated the clause and the Convention adopted it without further objection. This clause was added to the clause that provided extradition for fugitives from justice.[4]

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.

This clause was first applied to fugitive slaves and required that they be extradited upon the claims of their masters. This practice was not eliminated until the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. In 1864, during the Civil War, an effort to repeal this clause of the Constitution failed.[5]

He was also responsible for another important clause to the Constitution that later was used, along with the 1st and 14th amendments, to vacate several state constitutions' clauses requiring oaths of office holders to affirm a deity. South Carolina had established Protestantism as the state religion, so it was interesting that he introduced a clause into the Constitution article VI in opposition to an established state religion. His "no religious test" clause read as follows:

no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States

Once the inclusion of the phrase was brought to a vote it passed with little opposition and so for the first time in history an official of a national government was not required to have a religion.[6][7] Interesting also was that the final blow to states requiring office holders to swear to God was fought in his home state of South Carolina, that had originally had an established state religion, in the 1997 South Carolina Supreme Court case of Silverman v. Campbell.

Subsequent to his importance and influence as a delegate, Pinckney's political career blossomed. From 1789 to 1792, the state legislature elected him as governor of South Carolina, and in 1790 he 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. He increasingly began to cast his lot with Carolina back-country Democratic-Republicans against his own eastern aristocracy. The population in the western part of the state was increasing, but apportionment favored the Low Country planters. In 1796 Pinckney was elected governor again by the state legislature. In 1798 his Democratic-Republican supporters in the legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate.

He strongly opposed actions by 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 (1801–05). He tried but did not succeed in gaining cession by Spain of the Floridas to the United States. He facilitated Spanish acquiescence in the transfer of Louisiana from France to the United States in 1803 by the Louisiana Purchase.

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

Pinckney returned from Spain to Charleston and to leadership of the state Democratic-Republican Party. He sat in the legislature in 1805–06 and was again elected as governor (1806–08). 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 as he was interested in having slavery be expanded to new territories and states.

In 1821, with his health beginning to fail, Pinckney retired for the last time from politics. He died in 1824, three days after his 67th birthday. He was laid to rest at St. Philip's Episcopal Churchyard in Charleston.[8]

Legacy and honors

See also


  1. James Madison on the Pinckney Plan, Farrand's Records of the Federal Convention,
  2. MacDonald Forrest,E Pluribus Anum: The Formation of the American Republic 1776–1790(Houghton Mifflin Company:Library of Congress Catalog Card: 65-111322) 1965 pp. 166–167.
  3. Yates Publishing. U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560–1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, US: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004.
  4. Paul Finkelman, Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, p. 82, 2nd Edition, 2001.
  5. 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)
  6. Drawn from original source: Charles C. Haynes (1991). "overview: history of religious liberty in America". A Framework for Civic Education. Council for the Advancement of Citizenship and the Center for Civic Education.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Drawn from original source: "The Individual Liberties within the Body of the Constitution: A Symposium: The No Religious Test Clause and the Constitution of Religious Liberty: A Machine That Has Gone of Itself." Case Western Reserve Law Review 37: 674–747. Dreisbach, Daniel L. 1999. "The Bill of Rights: Almost an Afterthought?". ABC-CLIO. 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Charles Pinckney at Find a Grave

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
U.S. 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