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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of History

Charles Pinckney

Charles Pinckney (1757-1824)

Charles Pinckney (1757–1824) was the son of another Charles Pinckney (1732–1782). His father was a first cousin of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746–1825) and Thomas Pinckney (1750–1828) and had lived as a boy with their father Charles Pinckney, and trained in the law in the latter’s law office. The senior Charles Pinckney eventually became one of the leading lawyers of the province and an important political leader resisting British authority in the lower house, the General Assembly, in the 1760s. Like his father, the younger Charles Pinckney served in the South Carolina General Assembly in 1779 and again in 1784, and like his cousin TP he combined political and military service in the American Revolution, joining the Charleston militia in 1779. He participated in the siege of Savannah, and was captured in the fall of Charleston in May 1780. In 1784 he was elected to the Confederation Congress, where despite his youth he became a spokesman for strengthening the Articles of Confederation. Chosen as the youngest of South Carolina’s five delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, on the third day of the Philadelphia meetings he introduced a draft proposal for a strong central government. Like his cousins, he strongly supported constitutional ratification in South Carolina. Elected governor of South Carolina in 1789–92, and again 1796–98, by the mid-1790s he broke openly with his Federalist cousins CCP and TP and supported the Jeffersonian Republicans in opposition to the Jay Treaty of 1795. He served briefly in the United States Senate from 1798 to 1800, supported Jefferson for the presidency in 1800 against the candidacy of CCP for that office, and in 1801 was rewarded with appointment as minister plenipotentiary to Spain, a post he held until 1805. Back in South Carolina he was elected for an unusual fourth term as governor (1806–1808) continuing then in other state offices until 1814, although he came out of retirement in 1819 to serve an elected term in the House of Representatives from 1819 to 1821, where he was an ardent opponent of the Missouri Compromise. A transitional figure in the post-Revolutionary era, unlike more conservative coastal rice planters including his cousins CCP and TP, he invested in lands and developments of canals and railroads in the interior of the state, and as governor supported the interests of the South Country back country. He married Mary Eleanor Laurens, the daughter of Henry Laurens.