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, November 5, 2012

Charles Pinckney

                    Charles Pinckney was a signer of the United States Constitution; he was also the Governor of South Carolina, a U.S. Senator, and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  In addition, he was the first cousin (once removed) of Charles CotesworthPinckney, signer.  He has the distinction of having seven members of his posterity serve as Governor of South Carolina; his descendents included the names of Maybank and Rhett, prominent South Carolinian families.  

                    Pinckney was born on October 27, 1757, in Charles Town, South Carolina (now Charleston).  He was the son of Colonel Charles Pinckney who was a rich lawyer and planter and was educated in Charleston.  Upon the death of his father, the younger Charles inherited Snee Farm, a plantation located near Charleston, and numerous slaves.

                    Charles did not marry until 1787, apparently because he was busy with the Revolutionary War and his political career.  He married Mary Eleanor Laurens, the daughter of Henry Laurens, the wealthy and politically powerful South Carolina merchant and slave trader.  At least three children were born to Charles and Mary.  Through his marriage to Mary, Charles became related to 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 and served there from 1777-78; he opened his Charleston law practice in 1779 when he was 22 years old and about that same time enlisted in the militia.  He served as a lieutenant during the siege of Savannah (September-October 1779).  He was captured when Charleston fell to the British in 1780 and was a prisoner of war until June 1781.

                    After the war was over, Charles was once again elected to the Continental Congress and served there from 1784 until 1787.  He was then elected to the state legislature for several terms (1779-80, 1786-89, and 1792-96).  Two important goals while in Congress were to make sure that the United States received the right from Spain to navigate the Mississippi River and to strengthen the power of Congress.

                    "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.  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.  Pinckney boasted that he was 24, allowing him to claim distinction as the youngest delegate, but he was 30 years old that year.  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….

                    "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."

                    Pinckney was also responsible for another important clause to the Constitution.  Even though his home state of South Carolina established Protestantism as the state religion, Pinckney "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."

                    The phrase was passed with little opposition when it was brought to a vote.  This marked "the first time in history an official of a national government was not required to have a religion."  Another interesting twist to this story is that the "final blow to states requiring office holders to swear to God was fought in his home state of South Carolina … in the 1997 South Carolina Supreme Court case of Silverman v. Campbell."

                    By being an important and influential delegate, Charles caused his political career to blossom as a member of the Federalist Party.  He was elected by the state legislature from 1789 to 1792 to serve as South Carolina's governor.  He chaired the State constitutional convention in 1790.  He fought against the Federalist-backed Jay's Treaty in 1795 and began to vote with the Democratic-Republicans from the Carolina back-country.  The state legislature elected him as governor again in 1796, and his Democratic-Republican supporters in the legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1798.

                    Strongly opposing the actions of the Federalist Party, Pinckney served as the South Carolina campaign manager for the 1800 presidential campaign of Thomas Jefferson.  The victorious Jefferson appointed Pinckney as the Minister to Spain (1801-05).  As minister, he tried to convince Spain to cede Florida to the United States, but he was unsuccessful.  He was successful in facilitating the Spanish acquiescence in the transfer of Louisiana from France to the United States in 1803; this transfer is known as the Louisiana Purchase.

                    When Pinckney left Spain, he returned to Charleston and to leadership of the state Democratic-Republican Party.  After sitting in the legislature in 1805-06, Pinckney was elected once again to serve as Governor (1806-08).  As the governor Pinckney "favored legislative reapportionment, giving better representation to back-country districts, and advocated universal white manhood suffrage."  He was again elected to the legislature in 1810 and served until 1814; then he retired from politics temporarily.  He won the 1818 election to serve in the United States House of Representatives; there he opposed the Missouri Compromise because he wanted slavery to expand to the new states and territories.

                    Pinckney retired from politics in 1821 because his health was beginning to fail.  He died on October 29, 1824, in Charleston, South Carolina - three days after his 67th birthday.  He was buried at St. Philip's Episcopal Churchyard in Charleston.

                    Charles Pinckney was honored by having his Snee Farm plantation maintained as Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.  His son, Henry L. Pinckney (September 24, 1794-February 3, 1863) was a U.S. Representative from South Carolina and Mayor of Charleston.  His daughter married Robert Young Hayne, U.S. Representative, Mayor of Charleston, and Governor of South Carolina.

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