Charles Pinckney

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746 - 1825)

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Major Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Born in South Carolinamap [uncertain]
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Dorchester, South Carolinamap
Husband of — married [location unknown]
Died in Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina, USAmap
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Categories: American Founding Fathers | Signers of the United States Constitution | Special Improvement Projects | American Revolution.

Major Gen. Charles Pinckney served during the American Revolution
Service started:
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Name: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Gender: Male
Event Type: Birth
Event Date: 14 Feb 1745
Father's Name: Charles Pinckney

Citing this Record:"South Carolina Births and Christenings, 1681-1935," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 16 March 2015), Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, 14 Feb 1745; Birth, citing SAINT PHILIP,CHARLESTON,CHARLESTON,SOUTH CAROLINA; FHL microfilm 976.

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1746, the son of Charles Pinckney and the celebrated planter, Eliza Lucas[1]. He was also second cousin to Governor Charles Pinckney. As a child he was sent to England, like his brother Thomas after him, to be educated. Both of them were at Westminster and Oxford and were called to the bar, and for a time they studied in France at the Royal Military College at Caen.

Law Practice

Returning to America in 1769, C. C. Pinckney began to practice law in Charleston, and soon became deputy attorney general of the province. He was a member of the first South Carolina provincial congress in 1775, and also served as colonel in the South Carolina militia in 1776–1777. Pinckney was chosen president of the South Carolina Senate in 1779, and took part in the Georgia expedition and the attack on Savannah in the same year. He was captured at the fall of Charleston in 1780 and was kept in close confinement until 1782, when he was exchanged. In 1783, he was commissioned a brevet Brigadier General in the Continental Army.

After the war, Pinckney resumed his legal practice and the management of estates in the Charleston area but found time to continue his public service, which during the war had included tours in the lower house of the state legislature (1778 and 1782) and the senate (1779) (taken from the National Archives).

Constitutional Convention

He was an influential member of the constitutional convention of 1787, advocating that slaves be counted as a basis of representation and opposing the abolition of the slave trade. He also advocated a strong national government to replace the current weak one. He opposed as impracticable the election of representatives by popular vote, and opposed the payment of senators, who, he thought, should be men of wealth. Subsequently, Pinckney played a prominent role in securing the ratification of the Federal constitution in the South Carolina convention called for that purpose in 1788 and in framing the South Carolina Constitution in the convention of 1790.

Minister to France

After the organization of the Federal government, President Washington offered Pinckney a series of appointments as associate justice of the Supreme Court (1791), Secretary of War (1795) and Secretary of State (1795), each of which he declined; but in 1796, he succeeded James Monroe as minister to France. The Directory refused to receive him, and he retired to the Netherlands. In the following year, he and fellow advisors Elbridge Gerry and John Marshall returned to Paris under the direction of President John Adams to serve as ministers in diplomatic negotiations with the French. France's demands for loans were perceived by the ministers as veiled bribery, and rejected. Pinckney is said to have made the famous reply rejecting France's demands, "No, no; not a penny." Another version is, "No, not a sixpence." The mission accomplished nothing, and Pinckney and Marshall left France in disgust, with Gerry remaining. Later, the secret correspondence of the commissioners was made public and sent to the United States Congress. The letters X, Y and Z, were inserted in the documents in place of the names of the commission's French agents, and they became known as the "XYZ Correspondence". The quote "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute" is often incorrectly attributed to Pinckney. Robert Goodloe Harper actually made this statement.

In 1800, he was the Federalist candidate for vice-president, and for president in 1804 and again in 1808, receiving 14 electoral votes in the former and 47 in the later year. From 1805 until his death, he was president-general of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Death and Memorialization

Pinckney died on August 16, 1825 and was buried in St. Michael's Churchyard in Charleston, S.C.

  • Castle Pinckney, a fort in Charleston Harbor, was completed in 1797 and named for Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.
  • Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, a national wildlife refuge on the site of the Pinckney family's plantation is named after Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.
  • Pinckney Elementary School in Lawrence, Kansas is named for Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.
  • A school in Fort Jackson, South Carolina is called C.C. Pinckney Elementary.
  • During World War II, a 422-foot Liberty Ship, SS Charles C. Pinckney, was named in his honor and built in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1942.

American National Biography Online

Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth (14 Feb. 1745-16 Aug. 1825), lawyer and planter, was born in Charles Town (now Charleston), South Carolina, the son of Charles Pinckney, a lawyer, and Eliza Lucas Pinckney. Pinckney was born into a life of privilege and wealth.


His father was very active in the political life of colonial South Carolina and in 1753 was appointed interim chief justice of South Carolina, but his hopes were dashed when he was not granted a permanent appointment; instead the office went to a corrupt placeman of the Crown. Following this sharp disappointment, in 1753 the Pinckney family moved temporarily to England, where the father served as South Carolina's colonial agent. Charles

Education in England

Cotesworth remained there until 1769 for his education. He studied at Westminster School and matriculated in 1764 both at Christ Church College, Oxford, and at the Middle Temple, London, where he was called to the bar in 1769. He regularly attended debates in the House of Commons. A family portrait shows him declaiming against the Stamp Act of 1765, one indication that he was taking an active interest in politics, particularly questions relating to the American colonies.


Upon his return home in 1769 Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly. He immediately supported the move to provide monetary assistance for the English political radical John Wilkes.

1773 Marriage

In 1773 he married Sarah "Sally" Middleton, daughter of Henry Middleton, one of the richest men in South Carolina. Through his marriage he became the brother-in-law of Edward Rutledge, his best friend and political ally until Rutledge's death in 1800. Pinckney participated in radical measures taken against British authority.

1775 Resistance to British

On the evening of 22 April 1775 he and four colleagues seized British military stores. Then, as a member of the Committee on Intelligence, he tried to persuade backcountrymen to support the developing resistance to British measures and assisted in readying Charleston for a rumored British attack. He chaired the legislative committee that prepared a constitution for South Carolina; adopted in March 1776, it was conservative in nature and provided for generous representation for Charleston.

Disestablishment of Episcopal Church

During the war Pinckney also played a key part in bringing about disestablishment of the Episcopal church in South Carolina.

Military Service

In the American War of Independence, Pinckney rose to the rank of brigadier general. He participated in the expedition to East Florida in the spring and summer of 1778, in the unsuccessful defense of Savannah in December 1778, and in the failed defense of Charleston in May 1780. Captured when Charleston fell, he spent the rest of the war on parole, part of that time in Philadelphia. He stoutly declined British offers of lenient treatment if he denounced his earlier revolutionary activities. Exchanged in 1782, he returned to Charleston. Pinckney's hunger for military fame was not fulfilled, in part through lack of opportunity, in part through his lack of initiative. His hotheaded insistence in 1780 that Charleston be defended at all cost indicated a lack of sound judgment. In postwar South Carolina, Pinckney immediately set about building his fortunes through the purchase of new plantation land and by building a very large law practice.


His wife, with whom he had three daughters, died in 1784, and he married Mary Stead in 1786. They had no children.

Canal Projects

He busied himself as a director of the Santee and Catawba canal projects, by attempting to negotiate a boundary with Georgia, and by organizing in 1785 the Mount Zion Society, whose purpose was to establish a much needed college in South Carolina. The great debts incurred by South Carolinians following the war, the determination of some to confiscate the estates or to expel those who had earlier assisted the British, the winds of freedom let loose by the Revolution, and the demands of backcountry politicians for equal status with the low-country aristocracy created an unstable political environment in South Carolina in the 1780s. Pinckney resisted those who favored extreme punishments for Loyalists, denounced the easy-money elements, and defended the low-country leadership within the state. It soon became clear to him and his political friends that a stronger federal authority could assist South Carolina in matters of international trade and in achieving internal stability. Pinckney was elected a delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787, where he opposed popular election for House members and bitterly fought the proposal to grant a new federal government the right to levy export taxes. As an exporting state, South Carolina would, in his opinion, never accept a constitution with this taxing power. He insisted that slaves be counted as whole persons for purposes of determining political representation. When northern delegates urged an immediate stop to importing slaves, Pinckney suggested a compromise deadline of 1808. Back in South Carolina, Pinckney became perhaps the most active and able defender of the proposed constitution in the state legislature. During George Washington's southern tour in 1791, the patriotism, conservatism, and national orientation of the Rutledge-Pinckney faction caught his attention. In May 1791 Washington asked Pinckney and Edward Rutledge to consider a seat on the Supreme Court, leaving it to them to decide which one would take the position. Neither did, pleading the press of restoring their fortunes, a reason Pinckney repeated when Washington offered him the secretaryship of war in 1794.

John Jay's treaty, concluded with England in 1795, shook confidence in the Washington administration in South Carolina. South Carolinian plantation owners were particularly angry because England was not forced to make compensation for thousands of slaves carried off when the British evacuated Charleston in 1782. John Rutledge, Edward's brother, led the denunciation of the treaty. Pinckney quietly supported the treaty because his brother Thomas Pinckney, the U.S. minister to Great Britain, believed its terms to be reasonable. His reward was an offer of a ministership to France, which he accepted. As a firm friend of the French Revolution, Pinckney assumed that he would be received by the French government, although he knew it to be angered by Jay's Treaty and by Washington's abrupt recall of the U.S. minister to France, James Monroe.

Mission to France

When Pinckney arrived in France in December 1796, the French government threatened him with imprisonment and finally expelled him in January 1797. The Directory (the regime in power) was determined to show the American government that the French-American Treaty of Alliance of 1778 remained in force and that Jay's Treaty was not acceptable. Pinckney now spent several months in the Netherlands awaiting new orders from his government. He returned to Paris in September 1797 as part of a negotiating team appointed by President John Adams that also included Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and John Marshall of Virginia. Pinckney became outraged by the French demands for an American governmental loan; he believed such a loan could not be neutral in nature, given France's belligerent relationship with England. The French negotiating agents, three of whom are known to history as X, Y, and Z, also asked for bribes in order to expedite the negotiating process with the French government. Pinckney's indignant refusal, "no, no, not a sixpence," was eventually elevated to "Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute." In high dudgeon Pinckney left Paris in April 1798 and left France that August, convinced that the French intended war and that America should make immediate preparations to fight. Returning home, Pinckney found a new army in formation and was offered the position of third in command, behind Washington and Colonel Alexander Hamilton. He accepted, despite Hamilton's inferior revolutionary army rank, and played a very public role in preparing the South for a feared French invasion. He sided with the Federalists' combative position against France, which brought him considerable criticism and even ridicule from those who wanted reconciliation with the French. In 1800 the Federalists chose Pinckney as their candidate for vice president. Hamilton and the High Federalists conspired to secure a majority of electoral votes for Pinckney as president, rather than John Adams. Pinckney absolutely refused to countenance such a scheme, and it was defeated. After 1800 Pinckney increasingly retreated to Pinckney Island, a full day's journey from Charleston, where he remained with his three daughters except for the social season or to attend legislative duties. He busied himself with agricultural experiments, reflecting perhaps his mother's early interest in developing indigo suitable for commercial export. In 1801, as state senator for Charleston (1800-1804), he guided a bill through the senate to found a college in Columbia, now the University of South Carolina, and served on its first board of trustees. In 1804, in the full tide of the Jeffersonian triumph, and in 1808 as well, he was nominated by the Federalists for president. He had no chance of victory in either election and did not campaign.

Only a slight stir of activity occurred in 1808. In none of the three national elections did Pinckney obtain an electoral majority in South Carolina; the state was Jeffersonian in orientation and would not cast its electoral vote even for an admired son. Upon Alexander Hamilton's death in 1805, Pinckney succeeded him as president-general of the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of officers who had served in the revolutionary war. He held that office until his death.

Bible Society of Charleston

A person of considerable piety, Pinckney assisted in founding the Bible Society of Charleston in 1810 and was elected in 1817 as one of twenty vice presidents of the American Bible Society. Very late in life, Pinckney mounted an unsuccessful campaign to abolish the rising practice of dueling.

He made his last public appearance in 1825 when he received the Marquis de Lafayette upon his visit to Charleston. After his house on Pinckney Island was destroyed by a storm in 1824, Pinckney lived his last days in Charleston, where he died. The breadth of Pinckney's contributions to state and early national life has placed him in the charmed circle of Founding Fathers. He was a conservative revolutionary, bred to the law, who believed in rule by the elite, who should be guided by integrity and religious values. He saw himself as part of a service gentry, self-appointed to guard both local and national interests. His powerful political support for adoption of the federal Constitution, and for the new national government in its early years, was highly important. Pinckney was ever in the vanguard of those establishing educational and religious enterprises. Like most South Carolinians of his time, he was a firm supporter of slavery. Pinckney was not a person of great political or social vision, but he embodied the solid virtues of South Carolina's low-country gentry.


Saint Michaels Church Cemetery, Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina
Find A Grave Memorial# 816


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] [2]


Most biographical sources state that he had three daughters by his first marriage and no children by his second. Currently, however, WikiTree links him to two daughters and a son:

  1. Charles C. Pinckney, Jr
  2. Eliza, b. 1780
  3. Maria, b. 1782


  1. Wikipedia
A notice of the Pinckneys (1860)
Information about this person can be found in"The Thomas Pinckney Family of South Carolina" in volume 39 of The South Carolina Genealogical and Historical Magazine in January 1938 at pages 15 to 35.
Wikipedia - Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. (2014). The website

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Major Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Major Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

Signatures of US Constitution from South Carolina
Signatures of US Constitution from South Carolina


On 9 Mar 2015 at 21:55 GMT Cathryn (Hallett) Hondros wrote:

On 22 Aug 2014 at 12:27 GMT Michael Stills wrote:

Pinckney-34 and Pinckney-30 do not represent the same person because: Hi Trudy, This is father and son.

Charles is 22 degrees from Robin Helstrom, 24 degrees from Katy Jurado and 12 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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