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Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

delegate to the Constitutional Convention

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 25, 1746, the son of Charles Pinckney, a prominent figure in colonial times. He was educated at Westminster and Oxford in England and at the Royal Military College at Caen, France. Returning to America in 1769, he took up the practice of law at Charleston.

During the Revolutionary War, Pinckney was an aide to General George Washington at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown and also served in the South Carolina Provincial Congress (1775) and the South Carolina Senate (1779). He was captured when the British took Charleston in 1780 and was held until 1782.

Following the war, Pinckney became an influential member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, advocating the counting of all slaves as a basis of representation and opposing the abolition of the slave-trade. He also opposed the election of Representatives by popular vote as being "impractical," and the payment of Senators who, he believed, should be men of wealth. He subsequently played an important role at the South Carolina convention called to ratify the Constitution in 1788.

Pinckney declined repeated offers from President George Washington to serve in his Cabinet, but in 1796 he agreed to succeed James Monroe as Minister to France. The Directory refused to receive him, and he retired to Holland, but the following year, Elbridge Gerry and John Marshall having been appointed to act with him, he again appeared in Paris. In the resulting XYZ Affair, agents of the French Foreign Minister, Talleyrand, demanded a bribe as the price for receiving the men. Pinckney's reply -- "No, no, not a sixpence!" -- may have given rise to the familiar expression "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute." Having accomplished nothing for his efforts, Pinckney left France in disgust soon after.

Pinckney was the Federalist candidate for Vice-President in 1800, and for President in 1804 and 1808. He served as President General of the Society of the Cincinatti from 1805 until his death, on August 16, 1825.


From Revolution to Reconstruction

See Also

Charleston, South Carolina
Revolutionary War
George Washington
Constitutional Convention
James Monroe
Elbridge Gerry
John Marshall
XYZ Affair

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The Robinson Library >> United States >> 1775/1783-1861 >> Biography, A-Z

This page was last updated on August 16, 2018.