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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of History

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825)

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the eldest child of Charles Pinckney (1699–1758) and Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722–1793), was born in South Carolina, educated at Christ Church College, Oxford and read law at the Middle Temple, where he was regarded as a radical on American issues. After his return to South Carolina in 1769 to practice law he took a leading role in resistance to British rule, serving in the Provincial Congress in 1775, raising and training rebel forces, and drafting a frame of government for an independent South Carolina. Appointed the commander of the First Regiment of South Carolina troops during the 1776 campaigns in the South, he later served as aide-de-camp to George Washington during the 1777–78 northern campaign, the origin of a life-long friendship. CCP then returned south to command a regiment that marched to Florida, besieged Savannah, and defended Charleston, where he was captured when the city fell in 1780. A delegate to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787, he argued effectively to protect his state’s economic interests of slavery and trans-Atlantic trade, and played a key role in the ratification of the United States Constitution in South Carolina. A staunch Federalist, he accepted appointment from President Washington as minister to France in 1796, and was one of the three American commissioners embroiled in the “XYZ Affair” in 1798. On his return home to the United States, President Adams appointed him commander of the southern army in anticipation of a war with France which never materialized. He was the Federalist’s unsuccessful candidate for vice president in 1800, and for president in 1804 and 1808. He took an active role in the Society of the Cincinnati, eventually becoming its national president general. His strong interests in agricultural experimentation and in education led him to serve as president of the South Carolina Agricultural Society, and as a founder of South Carolina College in 1801. He married twice, first to Sarah (Sally) Middleton (1756–1784), the daughter of Henry Middleton (1717–1784) and Mary Williams Middleton, of Middleton Place, and after her death to Mary Stead, daughter of Georgia plantation owner Benjamin Stead and his wife Mary Johnson. Sally and Charles Cotesworth had three surviving daughters.