Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

                    Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
was not only a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, but he was also a lawyer, a planter, a statesman from South Carolina, a military leader during the Revolutionary War, and a candidate for the office of President of the United States.

                    The boy who would be known as Charles Cotesworth (C.C.) Pinckney was born on February 25, 1746, in Charleston, South Carolina.  He was born into an aristocratic planter family that was very much involved in the affairs of South Carolina.  His father was Charles Pinckney (chief justice of the Province of South Carolina), and his mother was Eliza Lucas (celebrated planter and agriculturalist).  His younger brother was Thomas Pinckney (Governor of South Carolina, U.S. Representative, and diplomat for George Washington administration).  His first cousin once removed was Charles Pinckney (Governor of South Carolina, U.S. Senator, and diplomat for the Thomas Jefferson administration).

                    The Pinckney family moved in 1753 to London, England, where Charles' father was an agent or lobbyist sent to protect the commercial and political interests of South Carolina.  Charles and his brother Thomas attended Westminster School until the family returned to South Carolina in 1758; both brothers also studied at Oxford University.  Charles graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, earning degrees in science and law; he then went to Middle Temple where he further studied law.  Charles continued his education in France where he studied botany and chemistry; he also attended the Royal Military College at Caen for a short while.

                    Charles married Sarah Middleton in 1773; her father was Henry Middleton (second President of the Continental Congress) and her brother was Arthur Middleton (signer of the Declaration of Independence).  Sarah passed away in 1784, and Charles married Mary Stead in 1786.  Mary was from a wealthy family of planters in Georgia.  Pinckney was the father of three daughters and also belonged to the Episcopalian Church.

                    Upon his return to South Carolina from his studies in Europe, Charles practiced law in Charleston until he was elected to the colonial legislature in 1770.  He was a regional attorney general in 1773 and was a member of the first South Carolina provincial congress in 1775.

                    Charles sided with the American patriots when war erupted between the Colonies and Great Britain in 1775.  He served in the lower house of the state legislature and in the South Carolina Senate.  As a member of the provincial congress, he "helped South Carolina transition from being a British colony to being an independent state."

                    After the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Charles became a full-time regular officer in the Continental Army where he held the rank of captain.  He was a senior company commander when he raised and led the elite Grenadiers of the 1st South Carolina Regiment.  In June 1776 Charles' regiment was part of the successful defense of Charleston when British General Sir Henry Clinton and his forces attacked the state capital from the sea in the Battle of Sullivan's Island.  Charles was promoted to the rank of colonel and given the command of the regiment in 1776; he retained this position until the end of the war.

                    When the British Army focused its attack on the Northern and Mid-Atlantic States, Pinckney and his regiment went north to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to join the troops of General George Washington.  While there they participated in the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Germantown.  It was about this time that Charles met Alexander Hamilton and James McHenry.

                    Charles and his regiment returned to the South and in 1778 were part of an attempt to seize British East Florida.  The Americans had severe logistical difficulties, and the British won the Battle of Alligator Bridge.  In December of that year, the British Army refocused on the South and captured Savannah, Georgia.  In October 1779, Charles led one of the brigades in the Southern Army of Major General Benjamin Lincoln in the Siege of Savannah.  The attempt to retake Savannah was an American disaster with numerous casualties.

                    Charles participated in the defense of Charleston and became a prisoner of war when Major General Lincoln surrendered his 5,000 men to the British on May 12, 1780.  Even as a prisoner of war, Charles was helping the American cause of liberty by playing a major role in helping the troops to stay loyal to the cause.  He famously said, "If I had a vein that did not beat with the love of my Country, I myself would open it.  If I had a drop of blood that could flow dishonorable, I myself would let it out." 

                    Closely confined until he was released in 1782, Charles was commissioned a Brevet Brigadier General in the Continental Army in 1783 just prior to the disbanding of the southern regiments.  He was promoted to Major General when he served in the South Carolina militia.

                    Charles returned to the lower house of the state legislature and represented South Carolina at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  He was an influential member of the Convention.  He was for slaves being counted as a basis of representation, but he opposed the abolition of the slave trade.  He was for a strong national government with a system of checks and balances, and he opposed the election of representatives by popular vote.  He thought senators should be "men of independent wealth" and therefore opposed paying them.  He was instrumental in the requirement that treaties be ratified by the Senate as well as the compromise that ended the Atlantic slave trade.  He did not approve of limiting the size of a federal standing army.

                    After the Federal Constitution was framed, Charles was active in its ratification process in the South Carolina Convention of 1788; he was also a delegate to the South Carolina Constitution Convention in 1790.  He then announced his retirement from politics.

                    In 1789 President George Washington offered Pinckney his choice of the State Department or the War Department.  Pinckney declined both offices but accepted the role of Ambassador to France in 1796.  France was at war with Britain and was angry about the Jay Treaty between the United States and Great Britain; the French navy was ordered to increase their seizures of American ships trading with BritainFrance would not even accept Charles' ambassador credentials until the crisis was over.

                    Charles reported the situation to recently-inaugurated President John Adams in 1797, and the President commissioned Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry to "treat" with the French.  After Marshall and Gerry joined Pinckney at The Hague, the three Americans traveled to Paris in October 1797.  A preliminary meeting was held with the new French Foreign Minister Talleyrand, and then intermediaries presented the French demands.  Their demands included a large loan to France and substantial bribes for Talleyrand and members of the French Directory.  The commissioners had been instructed to refuse any loan, and they considered the bribes to be offensive.  When documents were published in 1798, these exchanges were the basis for what became known as the "XYZ Affair."

                    Pinckney and Marshall were Federalists and favored an aggressive stance toward France; Gerry was more opposed to hostilities and wavered between moderate Federalism and Republicanism.  Talleyrand was aware of these political differences and was successful at taking advantage of the division.  Gerry stayed in France in an unofficial capacity, but Pinckney and Marshall left France in April 1798.  The result of the breakdown of negotiations pitted the France and American navies against each other in what became known as the undeclared Quasi-War (1798-1800).

                    Charles was the Federalist candidate for vice-president in the 1800 presidential election when John Adams sought re-election.  The Adams-Pinckney ticket was defeated by Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr who ran on the Democratic-Republican ticket.  Charles was nominated in 1804 by the Federalist Party to run against Thomas Jefferson, but he was defeated in a landslide by a very popular incumbent President.  Jefferson was popular due to the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase and the nation's booming trade.  Pinckney carried two states and won 27.2% of the popular vote.  Pinckney ran for President again in 1808 on the Federalist ticket and was defeated by James Madison, Jefferson's Secretary of State.  Pinckney carried five states in this election and won 32.4% of the popular vote.

                    Pinckney became president-general of the Society of the Cincinnati in 1805 and held the position until his death.  He died on August 16, 1825 at age 79 in Charleston, South Carolina, and was buried in St. Michael's Churchyard in Charleston, South Carolina.  The inscription on his tombstone reads:  "One of the founders of the American Republic.  In war he was a companion in arms and friend of Washington.  In peace he enjoyed his unchanging confidence."

                    Charles Cotesworth Pinckney has the honor of having the following public properties carrying his name:  Castle Pinckney (a fort in Charleston Harbor completed in 1797); Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge (a national wildlife refuge on the site of the Pinckney family's plantation); Pinckney Elementary School in Lawrence, Kansas; C.C. Pinckney Elementary School in Fort Jackson, South Carolina; SS Charles C. Pinckney (a World War II era, 422-foot Liberty Ship built in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1942); Pinckney Street in Madison, Wisconsin; Pinckneyville, Illinois; and Pinckney Highway (SC 9) in Chester, South Carolina. 

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