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Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

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Title: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney  
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Subject: United States presidential election, 1808, United States presidential election, 1800, United States presidential election, 1804, Elections in New England, List of candidates for President of the United States who received at least one electoral vote
Collection: 1746 Births, 1825 Deaths, 18Th-Century American Diplomats, Alumni of Christ Church, Oxford, Ambassadors of the United States to France, American Military Personnel of the Quasi-War, American Proslavery Activists, American Revolutionary War Prisoners of War Held by Great Britain, Burials in South Carolina, Continental Army Officers from South Carolina, Members of the American Antiquarian Society, Members of the Middle Temple, Members of the South Carolina House of Representatives, People Educated at Westminster School, London, People from Charleston, South Carolina, Pinckney Family, Signers of the United States Constitution, South Carolina Federalists, South Carolina State Senators, United States Army Generals, United States Presidential Candidates, 1796, United States Presidential Candidates, 1800, United States Presidential Candidates, 1804, United States Presidential Candidates, 1808, United States Vice-Presidential Candidates, 1800
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Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
United States Minister to France
In office
September 9, 1796 – February 5, 1797
President George Washington
Preceded by James Monroe
Succeeded by Robert Livingston
Personal details
Born (1746-02-25)February 25, 1746
Charleston, Province of South Carolina
Died August 16, 1825(1825-08-16) (aged 79)
Charleston, South Carolina
Political party Federalist Party
Spouse(s) Sarah Middleton
Mary Stead
Children 3
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Occupation Lawyer, planter, statesman, soldier
Religion Episcopalian

Charles Cotesworth "C. C." Pinckney (February 25, 1746 – August 16, 1825), was an early American statesman of South Carolina, Revolutionary War veteran, and delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He was twice nominated by the Federalist Party as its presidential candidate. He lost both elections.


  • Early life and family 1
  • Early political career 2
  • Revolutionary War 3
  • Constitutional Convention 4
  • XYZ Affair 5
  • Slavery 6
  • Later political career 7
  • Death and burial 8
  • Memorialization 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Early life and family

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was born into the Charles Pinckney, served as Governor of South Carolina, as a U.S. Senator, and as a diplomat in the administration of Thomas Jefferson.

In 1753, Pinckney's father moved the family to London, England, where he served as the colony's agent (essentially as a lobbyist to protect South Carolina's commercial and political interests). Both Charles and his brother Thomas were enrolled in the Westminster School, where they remained after the rest of the family returned to South Carolina in 1758. Both brothers also studied at Oxford University. Pinckney matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford in 1764, and left to study law at the Middle Temple in 1766. Pinckney was called to the bar in 1769, but he continued his education in France for another year, studying botany and chemistry. He also had a brief stint at the Royal Military College at Caen.

In 1773, Pinckney married Sarah Middleton, whose father Georgia. Pinckney had three daughters.

Early political career

After returning to South Carolina from Europe, Pinckney began to practice law in Charleston. He was first elected to a seat in the colonial legislature in 1770. In 1773 he served as a regional attorney general. When war erupted between the thirteen American colonies and Great Britain in 1775, Pinckney stood with the American Patriots; in that year he was a member of the first South Carolina provincial congress, which helped South Carolina transition from being a British colony to being an independent state.[1] During the American Revolutionary War he would serve in the lower house of the state legislature and as a member of the South Carolina Senate in addition to his military service.

Revolutionary War

A portrait from about 1773 by Henry Benbridge

In 1775, after the Continental Army. As a senior company commander with the rank of captain, Pinckney raised and led the elite Grenadiers of the 1st South Carolina Regiment. He participated in the successful defense of Charleston in the Battle of Sullivan's Island in June 1776, when British forces under General Sir Henry Clinton staged an amphibious attack on the state capital. Later in 1776 Pinckney took command of the regiment, with the rank of colonel, a position he retained to the end of the war.

After this, the British Army shifted its focus to the Northern and Mid-Atlantic states. Pinckney led his regiment north to join General Washington's troops near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pinckney and his regiment then participated in the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Germantown. Around this time he first met fellow officers and future Federalist statesmen Alexander Hamilton and James McHenry.

In 1778, Pinckney and his regiment, returning to the South, took part in a failed American expedition attempting to seize British Savannah in the Siege of Savannah. This attack was disaster for the Americans, who suffered numerous casualties.

Pinckney then participated in 1780 defense of Charleston against British siege. Major General Lincoln surrendered his 5,000 men to the British on May 12, 1780, whereupon Pinckney became a prisoner of war. As a prisoner of war, he played a major role in maintaining the troops' loyalty to the Patriots' cause. During this time, 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." He was kept in close confinement until his release in 1782. In November 1783, he was commissioned a brevet Brigadier General in the Continental Army shortly before the southern regiments were disbanded.[1] He was promoted to Major General during his subsequent service in the South Carolina militia.[2]

Constitutional Convention

Pinckney, who had returned to the lower house of the state legislature, represented South Carolina at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Pinckney advocated that African American slaves be counted as a basis of representation. According to a book review in the New York Times in January 2015:

The Northwest Ordinance of July 1787 held that slaves 'may be lawfully reclaimed' from free states and territories, and soon after, a fugitive slave clause – Article IV, Section 2 – was woven into the Constitution at the insistence of the Southern delegates, leading South Carolina’s Charles C. Pinckney to boast, 'We have obtained a right to recover our slaves in whatever part of America they may take refuge, which is a right we had not before.'[3]

Pinckney advocated for a strong national government (albeit one with a system of checks and balances) to replace the weak one of the time. He opposed as impractical the election of representatives by popular vote. He also opposed paying senators, who, he thought, should be men of independent wealth. Pinckney played a key role in requiring treaties to be ratified by the Senate and in the compromise that resulted in the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. He also opposed placing a limitation on the size of a federal standing army.[4]

Pinckney played a prominent role in securing the ratification of the Federal constitution in the South Carolina convention of 1788, and in framing the South Carolina Constitution in the convention of 1790. At the ratification convention, Pinckney distinguished three types of government and said republics were where "the people at large, either collectively or by representation, form the legislature". After this, he announced his retirement from politics.

XYZ Affair

In 1789, President State Department or the War Department; Pinckney declined both. When Washington offered Pinckney the role of Ambassador to France in 1796, Pinckney accepted. Relations with the French First Republic was then at a low ebb: the Jay Treaty between the US and Great Britain had angered members of the ruling French Directory, and they had ordered the French Navy to step up seizures of American merchant vessels found to be trading with Britain, with whom France was at war. When Pinckney presented his credentials in November 1796, they were refused, with the Directory stating that no ambassador could be accepted until the outstanding crisis was resolved. Pinckney was outraged by the offense.

After Pinckney reported this to the recently inaugurated President John Adams in 1797, a commission composed of Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry was established to treat with the French. Gerry and Marshall joined Pinckney at The Hague, and traveled to Paris in October 1797. After a cursory preliminary meeting with the new French Foreign Minister Talleyrand, the commissioners were approached informally by a series of intermediaries who spelled out French demands. These included a large loan to France, which the commissioners had been instructed to refuse, and substantial bribes for Talleyrand and members of the Directory, which the commissioners found offensive. These exchanges became the basis for what became known as the "XYZ Affair" when documents concerning them were published in 1798.

Talleyrand, who was aware of political differences in the commission (Pinckney and Marshall were Federalists who favored Britain, and Gerry wavered politically between moderate Federalism ideas and the Jeffersonian Republicans, who favored France and were strongly hostile to Britain), exploited this division in the informal discussions. Pinckney and Marshall left France in April 1798; Gerry remained behind in an unofficial capacity, seeking to moderate French demands. The breakdown of negotiations led to what became known as the undeclared Quasi-War (1798–1800), pitting the two nation's navies against each other. In July 1798 he was commissioned as a Major General in the US Army, and served until the end of the crisis between the two countries.


According to the state library of South Carolina,

Pinckney owned slaves throughout his life and believed that slavery was necessary to the economy of South Carolina. At the Constitutional Convention, he agreed to abolish the slave trade in 1808, but opposed emancipation. In 1801, Pinckney owned about 250 slaves. When his daughter Eliza married, Pinckney gave her fifty slaves. On his death, he bequeathed his remaining slaves to his daughters and nephews.[5]

Later political career

In the 1800 presidential election, Pinckney was the Federalist candidate for vice-president, running with the incumbent president, John Adams. They were defeated by the Democratic-Republicans Thomas Jefferson (who became president) and Aaron Burr (who became vice president).

In 1804, the Federalist Party nominated Pinckney to run for the presidency against Jefferson. Jefferson, who was very popular due to the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase and booming trade, defeated Pinckney in a landslide. Pinckney won 27% of the popular vote and carried only two states, Delaware and Connecticut.

In 1808 he was again the Federalist nominee for president, running against Jefferson's Secretary of State, James Madison. Pinckney did not fare much better against Madison, carrying only five states and winning 32% of the popular vote.

From 1805 until his death in 1825, Pinckney was president-general of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Pinckney was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1813.[6]

Death and burial

Pinckney died on August 16, 1825 and was buried in St. Michael's Churchyard in Charleston, South Carolina. 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."[2]



 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  1. ^ a b c DeConde, Alexander (1976). "Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth". In William D. Halsey. Collier's Encyclopedia 19. New York: Macmillan Educational Corporation. pp. 51–52. 
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ by Eric Foner"Gateway to FreedomQuote taken from book review by Kevin Baker, Jan. 28, 2015 of
  4. ^ Fields, William and Hardy, David. "The Third Amendment and the Issue of the Maintenance of Standing Armies: A Legal History," American Journal of Legal History (1991), volume 35, p. 393:
    Elbridge Gerry...proposed that the Constitution contain express language limiting the size of the standing army to several thousand men. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, ostensibly at the instigation of Washington, responded that such a proposal was satisfactory so long as any invading force also agreed to limit its army to a similar size.
  5. ^ Slavery at South Carolina College, 1801–1865: The Foundations of the University of South Carolina
  6. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory

External links

  • U.S. Army profile of Bvt. Maj. Gen. Charles C. Pinckney
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
James Monroe
U.S. Minister to France
Succeeded by
Robert R. Livingston
Party political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Pinckney(1)
Federalist Party vice presidential candidate
1800 (lost)(1)
Succeeded by
Rufus King
Preceded by
John Adams
Federalist Party presidential candidate
1804 (lost), 1808 (lost)
Succeeded by
DeWitt Clinton
Notes and references
1. Technically, Thomas Pinckney in 1796 and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney in 1800 were both presidential candidates. Prior to the passage of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804, each presidential elector would cast two ballots; the highest vote-getter would become President and the runner-up would become Vice President. Thus, in 1796 and 1800, the Federalist party fielded two presidential candidates, Adams and Thomas Pinckney in 1796 and Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney in 1800, with the intention that Adams be elected President and either Pinckney be elected Vice President.
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