Charles Pinckney National Historic Site

Location: Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina

Webpage: National Park

General Description: Born in Charleston, South Carolina, to the wealthy Pinckney family, in 1757, Charles Pinckney was a lawyer, three time Governor of South Carolina, US Senator, and US Representative.  He was one of the framers and signers of the US Constitution and is known as a “Forgotten Founder” since all of his personal papers were lost in a fire that burned his home in Charleston.  Charles grew up as one of the privileged class of South Carolina, which at the time of the Revolutionary War was by far the wealthiest and most powerful English colonies.  At the age of 21 he was elected to the Continental Congress in 1777, after which he enlisted in the militia and served during the siege of Savannah in September 1779.  During the siege of Charleston the following year, he was captured and held on a prisoner ship before being traded in a prisoner exchange a month later to serve out the rest of the war in Philadelphia.  He was elected again to the Continental Congress from 1784-1787, during the time he was a representative to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  His role at the Continental Congress is debated since his personal papers have been lost and his contributions were not included in a later compilation of documents by John Quincy Adams.  Reportedly he submitted a draft to the Constitution, named the Pinckney Plan, that in addition to the Virginia Draft formed the basis of the Constitution.   It is known that he was very influential and many of his ideas became part of the Constitution including his views on an annual State of the Union address required of the President, as well as, clauses protecting the rights of slave owners.  Along with his cousins, Charles Cotesworth and Thomas Pinckney, he worked hard for the ratification of the Constitution.  They were early leaders of the Federalist Party and proponents of a strong national government.  In 1795, he attacked the Federalist-backed Jay’s Treaty and began to support the views of the Democratic-Republican Party and especially those of Thomas Jefferson.  When he strongly supported Jefferson for President over the Federalist ticket of John Adams and his cousin Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, he was virtually disowned by his family.  His political career and contributions to the founding of the US is the main topic of the National Historic Site which is located at what remains of Snee Farm, one of four large plantations owned by Charles Pinckney.  The original house and other buildings were destroyed in a hurricane, the current house being built in the 1820s.  The site includes a small part of the grounds with archeological finds of the foundation of some of the slave houses as well as the original foundation under the existing house, well, and kitchen.

Brochure

Impressions:

1) The Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is located at what remains of the Snee Farm, the rest are now residential homes or other private property.  The Visitor Center in the current house (which itself is an historic structure) offers a very good video about Charles Pinckney and a few exhibits about life at Snee Farm and the Pinckney family legacy.  It was interesting to learn that all of the delegates to the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention (Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Rutledge, and Pierce Butler) were all related to Charles Pinckney by either blood or marriage.  This family was definitely in control of one of the most influential states of the time.

VisitorCenter

2) The grounds surrounding the house are beautifully maintained with walking paths along the old road that led to the ferry to Charleston, the remains of the slave quarters, and a short overlook of the old rice fields.

ModelRiceDuct Grounds2

3) They have outlined the locations they have found for the kitchen and well of the old house and there are some pictures of the work the archeologists have done underneath the current house to find evidence of the original structure.  There are also the outlines of the slave houses on the grounds.

SlaveHouses

4) While it only takes about an hour and a half to see everything the National Historic Site has to offer, it is well worth the visit to learn about a Founding Father that has been all but forgotten in the history we are taught about the founding of America.

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