Get your political fix from an unrepentant political junkie.
October 8, 2015
Charles Pinckney was the second youngest delegate at the Constitutional Convention at the age of 29. From the prominent Pinckney family, son of the well-connected Col. Charles Pinckney, and with his senior cousin, Charles Cotesworth also attending the convention, young Pinckney was perhaps a little cocky but also very talented. If rumor is true, James Madison felt little fondness for the upstart Pinckney. Pinckney was already an influential political leader at the state and national level, and he was eager to present his plan for the new constitution.
Like Rutledge, Pinckney was educated privately with a tutor, who was a follower of the Enlightenment and believed in the solemn contract between the people and their sovereign and the sacred obligation of the government to protect the people’s inalienable rights. Pinckney’s own political philosophy would continue to evolve after the Constitutional Convention and lead him to separate from his fellow Federalist gentry and adopt the Jeffersonian philosophy of the Anti-Federalists/Republicans.
At 22 years old, Lt. Pinckney fought in the Battle of Savannah in 1779 and witnessed the carnage, as well as that of the seige of Charleston, the most significant loss in the Southern campaign. For refusing to turn Loyalist and fight for the British, Pinckney was imprisoned with the other Charleston Patriots until a general prisoner exchange at the end of the war. As a state legislator and delegate to the Continental Congress, Pinckney held onto his experiences during the war to fervently support a stronger central government that would better administer a more effective military and cohesive economic policy, and to resolve the states’ war debt.
On June 29, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pinckney took the floor, quickly began the debate, and presented the Pinckney Plan, which was very similar to the Virginia Plan that Edmund Randolph presented later that day, but more specific. Perhaps this is one reason why he was so eager to present first. The Pinckney Plan called for a bicameral legislature, granting Congress the power to establish laws concerning bankruptcy, counting slaves for political representation, allowing the president to seek counsel, giving the president control over the military, granting federal power to order a militia into a state, and granting the House the power to impeach, all which suggested a stronger central government. Approximately, thirty-two provisions in the Constitution can be attributed to the Pinckney Plan. According to constitutional scholar James M. Beck, “Pinckney’s plan was the future Constitution of the United States in embryo.” Pinckney continued to speak often and eloquently throughout the convention.
Disagreement among the S.C. delegates was rare, however, Pinckney and Rutledge disagreed vigorously over Congress’ power to veto state law. Rutledge warned that it would bind the states “hand and foot” and reduce each state to a “mere corporation.” Pinckney also dissented from the S.C. delegation on the issue of navigational acts and presciently argued for a 2/3 vote to limit Congressional power and reduce the potential for sectionalism. Rutledge favored a simple majority to encourage foreign trade. Pinckney’s prediction was proved accurate with the Tariff of Abominations in 1828 and the subsequent Nullification Crisis of 1832, a pivotal point in the growing sectionalism that led to Southern secession and the War for Southern Independence.