Charles Cotesworth Pinckney | History of SC Slide Collection

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

When Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825) returned to Charleston in 1769 to practice law, he was also elected to the Provincial Assembly. (For more on Pinckney's life before 1769, see Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, In His 6th Year) At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he entered the First Regiment of South Carolina as a captain and was quickly promoted to the rank of colonel. He served as an aide to George Washington and was with him at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown. Captured by the British in the fall of Charleston in 1780, he was held prisoner until his exchange in 1782.

In 1787, Pinckney represented South Carolina at the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia, where he took a prominent role. In 1790, Pinckney helped to write a new state constitution for South Carolina. Elected to the South Carolina Senate in 1790, Pinckney served until July 1796, when President Washington appointed him as Minister to France. The French Directory, angered over Jay's Treaty between the United States and Great Britain, refused to recognize Pinckney. The next year Pinckney was appointed to a commission with John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry to negotiate a treaty with the French.

When France sought payment of a quarter of a million dollars in exchange for their signature, Pinckney refused by saying, "No! No! Not a six pence." In the United States, it was reported that he had said, "Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute." This series of events, known as the XYZ Affair, made Pinckney such a hero in his home state that a musical tribute, "Pinckney's March," was composed in his honor. During several campaigns, Pinckney ran unsuccessfully as the Federalist candidate for Vice President and President. He died in Charleston on August 16, 1825. This portrait of Pinckney, by James Earl (1761-1796), was done in 1795, and portrays him as a Revolutionary hero, with Fort Moultrie in the background.

Courtesy of the Gibbes Museum of Art/Carolina Art Association.

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