Sunday, June 28, 2015

Prominent Pinckneys in South Carolina Politics


President Obama gave a nice eulogy to the Rev. and South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney on Friday after he laid in state at the South Carolina State Capitol.  He was the first African American to have such an honor after being gunned down by white supremacist Dylann Roof.  While Rev. Pinckney was the first African American to have such an honor he is not the first Pinckney to be prominent in South Carolina politics. 

Two generations before the Civil War and the Confederate Flag, Thomas Pinckney served as Governor of the Palmetto state from 1787 to 1789.  He also served in the Revolution and the War of 1812.  He was appointed by President George Washington (a fellow slave holder) as ambassador to Great  Britain and negotiated Pinckney's treaty with Spain in 1795 which guaranteed navigation rights for the US (for slave trading) and defined the borders of Louisiana and Florida.  In 1796 he lost to Thomas Jefferson (another slave owner) for the Vice Presidency which in those days went to the second place finisher for the Presidency in the electoral college. 
 
Thomas Pinckney was succeeded as governor of South by his cousin Charles Pinckney who was present at the constitutional convention in 1787.  At the convention he submitted a clause that required that fugitive slaves be returned to their owners.  He served two additional terms as governor one term as senator.  When not in office he was involved in the slave trade. 


Yet another Charles Pinckney was another prominent Pinckney Charles Coatesworth Pinckney.  Like his younger brother Thomas, he was active in the Revolutionary War under George Washington.  He later served with his cousin Charles at the Constitutional Constitutional Convention.  He helped broker the compromise there that ended the slave trade in 1808 and gave the Senate the power to ratify treaties.  He also advocated counting slaves as one person in the Census (while still denying them their freedom).  They ended up counting them as 3/5 or 60% of a person.  President Washington offered him the position of Secretary of War (now Secretary of Defense) but he accepted appointment as ambassador to France where he was part of the XYZ affair where he was offered a bribe by Napoleon's Agents.  The Federalist Party nominated him to run for Vice President in 1800 but he lost to Aaron Burr.  He was nominated for President by the Federalist Party in 1804 but he lost to fellow slave holder Thomas Jefferson.  The Federalists nominated him again for President in 1808 but he lost to another slave owner from Virginia named James Madison.


I don't know if Reverend Pinckney is related to these three aformentioned Pinckneys and there may be no way of knowing.  Sometimes slaves took the surname of their masters.  It's possible that those other three Pinckney's have living African American descendants today just as Thomas Jefferson does. This is their shared heritage whether Dylann Roof wants to admit it or not.  


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