Last modified on August 30, 2021, at 17:53

Governor Charles Pinckney

Founding Fathers
Charles Pinckney.jpg
Governor Charles Pinckney
State South Carolina
Religion Episcopalian[1]
Founding Documents United States Constitution

Charles Pinckney (October 26, 1757 – October 29, 1824) was a lawyer and politician from South Carolina who served as Governor of that state on three occasions. He attended the Federal Constitutional Convention, where he played a critical role in drafting the United States Constitution.[2]

Early Life and Family

Charles Pinckney was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His mother and father weer Colonel Charles Pinckney, a planter and lawyer, and Frances brewton. He was homeschooled, studying first with private tutors and later with his father. He was admitted to the bar in 1779.[3]

In 1788, he married Mary Eleanor Laurens, and they would have three children: Frances, Mary and Henry.[4] Mary Eleanor was the daughter of Henry Laurens.

Military Service

In 1779, Pinckney enlisted in the South Carolina militia, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant. He fought at the siege of Savannah, and was later taken prisoner during the fall of Charleston in 1780. He remained a prisoner of war until June 1781.[5]

Continental Congress

Pinckney was appointed to the Continental Congress in 1785, and served through 1787.[2] During his time in Congress, he served as a strong voice for nationalism and increased congressional power.[6]

Constitutional Convention

Pinckney played an important role at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, having put forth what has come to be known as the "Pinckney Plan".[7] He also worked together with Pierce Butler to draft and introduce what would become the Fugitive Slave Clause.[8]

In fact, he claimed to have been the most influential representative, and to have submitted a draft which served as the basis of the finalized United States Constitution. While these claims are viewed with skepticism by historians, they nonetheless agree that his role was a vital one, and that his influence in shaping the Constitution was considerable.[5] Other members of the South Carolina delegation to the Convention were Pierce Butler, John Rutledge, and his cousin[9] Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.

The Snee Farm plantation property

Later Political Service

Following the Constitutional Convention, Pinchkey attended the State constitutional conventions in 1788 and 1790 and served as president; in this capacity, he worked hard to ensure ratification. He became Governor of South Carolina in 1789, and served until 1792; later, he would again serve as Governor from 1796-1798. Following his second term as Governor, he was elected in 1798 as a Democratic Republican to the United States Senate, serving until his resignation in 1801. Pinckney was appointed Minister to Spain in 1801, remaining in this position until 1804; following this, he embarked on a third term as Governor of South Carolina, serving from 1806-1808. In 1819, Pinckney was elected to the Sixteenth Congress, serving until 1821.[2]

Death and Legacy

Pinckney died in Charleston, South Carolina, on October 29, 1824; he was buried in St. Philip’s Churchyard. Pinckney's plantation property, known as "Snee Farm", is designated as a National Historic Landmark.[10]


Pinckney's views on Slavery have been the subject of considerable historical debate.[11][12] At the Convention, Pinckney defended slavery, pointing to the past tyrannies of antiquity as well as the modern(at the time) tyrannies in Europe.[13]


  • "If slavery be wrong, it is justified by the example of all the world. He cited the case of Greece Rome & other antient States; the sanction given by France, England, Holland & other modern States. In all ages one half of mankind have been slaves. If the Southern States were let alone they will probably of themselves stop importations. He would himself as a Citizen of South Carolina vote for it."[13]
  • "Let it be therefore our boast that we have already taught some of the oldest and wisest nations to explore their rights as men; and let it be our prayer that the effects of the revolution may never cease to operate until they have unshackled all the nations that have firmness to resist the fetters of despotism. Without a precedent, and with the experience of but a few years, were the Convention called upon to form a system for a people differing from all others we are acquainted with."[14]

See also