Charles Pinckney

South Carolina Delegate

Delegate stuff

Born in South Carolina in 1757, Charles Pinckney fought in the American Revolution and was captured by the British. Upon his release, he practiced law before serving in the Continental Congress from 1784 to 1787, becoming the 37th governor of South Carolina soon after. Pinckney signed the U.S. Constitution and contributed to the Fugitive Slave and "no religious test" clauses. Pinckney later served in Congress, pushing for all white men to have voting rights.

Charles Pinckney was born on October 26, 1757, in Charleston, South Carolina. His father was a wealthy planter and lawyer with deep and influential roots in Charleston. Pinckney was taught privately by Dr. David Oliphant, who instilled in Pinckney, among other ideas, the philosophy that if government failed its people, the people had the right to form a new government. This would go a long way toward informing Pinckney's adulthood and eventual role as a founding father of the United States.

When Pinckney "graduated" from Oliphant's tutelage, he studied law under his father and was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1779. (Oliphant's influence also led to Pinckney becoming proficient in five languages.)

Charles Pinckney was a principal author and a signer of the United States Constitution. This remnant of his coastal plantation is preserved to tell the story of a "forgotten founder," his life of public service, the lives of enslaved African Americans on South Carolina Lowcountry plantations and their influences on Charles Pinckney.

Interment: St. Philip's Episcopal Churchyard, Charleston, South Carolina

Charles Pinckney, who represented South Carolina at the Constitutional Convention, was an ardent apostle of the rights of man. He dedicated his considerable political and legal talents to the establishment of a strong national government so that, as he put it to his fellow South Carolinians, "the effects of the Revolution may never cease to operate," but continue to serve as an example to others "until they have unshackled all the nations that have firmness to resist the fetters of despotism."

These ringing sentiments, perhaps easily explained as the idealism of a youthful veteran of the Revolution, nonetheless represented a very serious concern on Pinckney's part that his fellow citizens were growing complacent since their victory over Britain. While many politicians, enjoying the fruits of independence, celebrated the sovereignty of the individual states, Pinckney was among those who perceived a clear and present danger in allowing a weak confederation of the states to lead the new nation that had emerged from the Revolutionary War. He worked unceasingly for an effective and permanent union of the states because his own experiences in the Revolution and as a member of the Continental Congress had reinforced his conviction that only a strong central government could provide the economic and military strength essential to prosperity and security. Unlike some of his prominent colleagues, Pinckney saw little to fear in a powerful government. He agreed with the Federalists that the rights of the citizen would be protected under the Constitution since it recognized that the government's power came from the people and that the government remained in all things accountable to the people.

The Patriot

The Pinckneys were one of South Carolina's oldest and most distinguished families, and successive generations made a significant contribution to the development of the new nation. The family had arrived in America in 1692, and Pinckney's great-grandfather, a wealthy English gentleman, quickly established an enduring base of political and economic power. Pinckney's father, a rich planter and lawyer with an extensive practice in Charleston, rose to the rank of colonel in the state militia and was a prominent leader within the colonial assembly.