Revolutionary War Historical Article

Charles Pinckney of South Carolina: Signer of the Constitution of the United States

Editor's Note: This article was reprinted from the November 1984 Edition of the Valley Compatriot Newsletter


Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825) went with his parents to London when his father was appointed Agent for South Carolina in 1753. He was educated at the Westminster School, and Oxford. Studied law at the Middle Temple and military science at the Military Academy at Caen, France. On January 27th, 1769 he was admitted to the English Bar, and returned to his native South Carolina where he set up a law office.

He was not a brilliant lawyer, but his impressive appearance, his cultured background, and his being a sound judge of men and movements made him prominent in public affairs. He further strengthened his position by marrying Sarah the sister of Arthur Middleton.

At the outbreak of the Revolution, he became a Senior Captain of the First Regiment of South Carolina Troops, and shortly thereafter was promoted. He served under General William Moultrie in the defense of Fort Sullivan (later re-named Fort Moultrie). On September 16th, 1776 he was promoted to Colonel, but took leave of his Regiment to serve as Aide-de-Camp to General Washington. He
was in that position during the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown, He then led his Regiment in the abortive expedition against Florida in 1778.

He continued his political advances in South Carolina during his military service. He had started his political career as a member of the Provincial Assembly in 1769, He advanced in the normal sequence of promotions and became President of the South Carolina Senate in January 1779. On May 11th and 12th of 1779, he became involved in the alarms occasioned by General Augustine Prevost's appearance before Charleston. During the Charleston campaign the next year he became
Commander of Fort Moultrie, where there was little action. When General Lincoln surrendered Charleston he was taken prisoner by the British. He was sent to Philadelphia and suffered (according to Lossing) while a prisoner. He was exchanged in February 1782. On February 3rd, 1783, he was promoted to Brigadier General.

After taking part in the Federal Convention in 1787 he went to the Constitution Convention where he was one of the signers. He established some kind of record for declining Presidential appointments. In 1791 he declined command of the Army (General St. Clair was appointed). He turned down Washington's plea that he become a Justice of the Supreme Court, twice he refused the post of Secretary of War and once the position of Secretary of State. He finally accepted the Ambassadorship to France as Monroe's successor. He was Commissioned Major General on 19 July 1798 and served until 15 June 1800 commanding the forces in Virginia and Kentucky. He was the Federalist nominee for Vice President and candidate for president in 1804 and 1808.

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