Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (politician, 1746)

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Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (born February 5, 1746 in Charleston , Province of South Carolina , † August 16, 1825 ibid) was an American politician. The lawyer was instrumental in the constitution of the state of South Carolina and ran as a representative of the Federalist Party in the elections in 1800 for the office of Vice President and 1804 and 1808 for the presidency.



As a child, Pinckney had his first experiences with the colonial situation at the time. His father was the Colony's Chief Justice and his mother, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, was known for her work in cultivating indigo , a plant that soon became a major source of income in South Carolina. In 1753 the family moved to London and Charles Cotesworth Pickney enrolled in Westminster's famous private elementary school. When the family returned to America in 1758, he stayed with his brother in England to complete his education there. After graduating from Christ Church College , Oxford , he studied law at Middle Temple in London and was licensed to practice in England in 1769. Instead of starting his professional career immediately, he continued his studies for a year in France , where he studied botany and chemistry and attended the French military academy in Caen .

Military background

In 1769 Pinckney returned to America and opened a law firm in Charleston. After a short time he became assistant attorney general of the province, since 1775 a member of the first South Carolina provincial congress. In 1773 Pickney married Sarah Middleton, the daughter and sister of major South Carolina's political leaders. In addition, he served as a colonel in the South Carolina military from 1776 and was instrumental in the successful defense of Charleston from the advancing British in 1776. After South Carolina became a sideline to the war, Pickney joined the forces of Washington and was involved in the fighting for Brandywine and Germantown in 1777 . Here he made first contacts with later important leaders of the post-war period. After the focus of the fighting had shifted south again, Pickney returned to South Carolina in 1778 and was involved in the fighting for Savannah in October of that year . When Pickney was finally arrested in the unsuccessful defense of Charleston, the British celebrated one of their greatest successes of the Revolutionary War . His saying became known during his imprisonment “If I had a vein in my body that did not call for the love of my country, I would tear it out of myself. If I had a drop of dishonorable blood in my body, I would let it flow out. "

Pickney was imprisoned at Haddrell's Point in Charleston Harbor. He was not released until 1782 through a general amnesty .

Political career

The political rise is evident in the fact that he was elected President of the Senate of South Carolina in 1779 .

After the war he continued his legal practice. At the same time he was busy selling real estate in the Charleston area. During the war he suffered considerable financial losses and tried to compensate for them. His wife died in 1784, and in 1785 he was seriously injured in a duel with Daniel Huger . This significantly influenced his legal commitment to a ban on duels.

Pinckney had used his growing political power to become an influential member of the 1787 constituent convention. At the same time he was a well-known opponent of the abolition of the slave trade . But it was not only in this respect that he took radical positions. For example, he was of the opinion that senators should not be paid because they should be wealthy. The existing weak government must be replaced by a strong, central government. As a member of the convention, Pinckney was instrumental in drawing up a constitution for South Carolina in 1790.

Pinckney's grave in Charleston

President Washington offered Pinckney several important positions in his administration. He turned them all down. It was not until 1796 that he succeeded James Monroe as envoy in France. This started one of the first international affairs of the young state. The Directory refused to see him and Pinckney withdrew to the Netherlands. It was only in the following years that he and his advisors Elbridge Gerry and John Marshall returned to Paris under the presidency of John Adams . France's demands for bribes to be paid before negotiations between France and American shipping companies took place were rejected by ministers as unacceptable. This matter was supposed to be kept secret, but later became public and went down in history as the XYZ Affair .

In 1800 Pickney ran for the vice presidency and in 1804 and 1808 for the presidency as a candidate for the weaker and weaker Federalist Party, which could no longer compete with the Democratic-Republicans in the following years. In these elections he was defeated by victories by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison .

From 1805 until his death he was President General of the Society of the Cincinnati. Pinckney died on August 16, 1825 and was buried in St. Michael's Episcopal Church cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina.


  • Marvin Ralph Zahniser: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding Father. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 2011, ISBN 978-0-8078-9915-1 .

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