As we were exploring Charleston, we kept coming upon a name that sounded familiar to us: Charles Pinckney. That was due in large part to our Michigan lineage, as there is a town in the Wolverine state named Pinckney. I remember it well, as I did a 50 mile bicycle ride there one day with some friends. After some research, it turns out that the South Carolina Pinckneys appear to not be related to the Michigan clan. But who was this Charles Pinckney, and why does he have a national historic site in his honor? Well, it turns out that there were several people by that name in Charleston. In this post we are going to focus on the one who is honored at Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.
Charles Pinckney (October 26, 1757 – October 29, 1824) came of age in a wealthy family as the people of the English colonies in America prepared to declare their independence from Britain. As a young man he fought in the Revolutionary War. He was captured during the battle of Charleston and was taken prisoner until after the war ended. Over his career, he was a four term Governor of South Carolina, a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Representative, and an ambassador to Spain. But his biggest claim to fame was as a member of the Continental Congress when the U.S. Constitution was drafted. On May 29, 1787, he submitted a plan to the convention that was called the Pinckney Draught. It was similar in many ways to the Virginia Plan, calling for the following:
- Three branches of government: Congress, Judicial and Executive branches.
- A separate House and Senate.
- A President shall inform Congress the conditions of the nation (State of the Union).
- The President shall be Commander-in-Chief.
- No state shall coin money, establish tariffs, keep troops, or enter into a treaty.
- Only the House shall have the power of impeachment.
He also exclusively came up with the idea that no person should be held to a religious test to hold any elected office in the United States.
Eventually, ideas from all of the plans presented were woven into what became the United States Constitution. Pinckney spoke often during the convention that was responsible for the creation of the instrument, and his signature is on the final document.
So how did his country plantation become a national historic site overseen by the National Park Service? At first glance, the answer to that is a bit confusing…as the 1820’s era home that occupies the site was built by a subsequent owner.
It turns out that the property had been sold to developers in the latter half of the 20th century. Most of the original 715 acre estate was turned into a golf course, homes, and such. US-17 even runs through it. When the builders began to prepare the final 28 acres for development into 42 individual home sites, a group of local preservationists led by two women came to the rescue. In 1986 they negotiated a $2 million purchase price, and proceeded to raise the money to cover it. In 1990, they donated the property to the National Park Service. The park opened to the public in 1995.
The grounds are beautiful, with several paths winding through the property. Over 150,000 artifacts have been unearthed from the site, along with the foundations from the original buildings. The visitor center has many displays regarding Pinckney’s life of service, several of the found artifacts, and an interesting display on the Gullah culture along the lower Eastern seaboard. Gullah is a language developed by the slaves that has an English base with West African influences.
A fantastic example of the language is this Bible they have on display. The English translation is on the sidebars. I found it mesmerizing. They actually let visitors page through it.
As with our other recent National Park visits, we completed our Junior Ranger books and earned our badges. Having to search the displays for answers really makes sure we read each display carefully. While the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site wasn’t a major attraction, we were glad we made the effort to go there. We now have an appreciation for the man and his contributions to our nation. As we see his name in the future, we will have a better understanding of who he was and where he came from.
Next up: A serendipitous assignment of campsites in Myrtle Beach. Be sure to see the amazing meetup that resulted from that, and the friendships that came about as a result! 🙂