Skip to main content

Pinckney, Thomas

Pinckney, Thomas

PINCKNEY, THOMAS. (1750–1828). Continental officer, South Carolina governor, diplomat. South Carolina. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, on 23 October 1750, Pinckney shared a European education with his elder brother, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, graduating from Oxford in 1768 before studying law at the Middle Temple and being admitted to the bar in 1774. He returned to Charleston the same year and set up his legal practice. Early the next year he became a lieutenant of rangers and—like his brother—captain in the First South Carolina Regiment (17 June 1775). He performed highly successful service as a recruiting and training officer before assuming the duties of a military engineer at Fort Johnson at Charleston Harbor. After having an orchestra seat while his brother and Colonel Moultrie defended Fort Sullivan, Thomas was assigned to defend that post in August 1776. Except for a few months' absence recruiting in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, he stayed two years at what was now called Fort Moultrie. On 17 May 1778 he was promoted to major, again helped organize and train new troops, and then took part in the unsuccessful expedition against Florida. As aide-de-camp to Lincoln he was at Stono Ferry, and as aide de camp to d'Estaing participated in the attack on Savannah on 9 October 1779.

Pinckney served in the legislature of 1778 and kept up his law practice while also serving in the army. In May 1779 the British burned his plantation and liberated his slaves. In 1780 he took part in the defense of Charleston, but he was sent from the city before the final stages of the siege to hurry forward reinforcements and escaped capture. After making his way to Washington's headquarters, he returned to the South, became aide-de-camp to Gates on 3 August 1780, was seriously wounded at Camden on 16 August, and was taken prisoner. Paroled to Philadelphia with his brother, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, who had been captured at Charleston, Thomas Pinckney was exchanged in December 1780. In September 1781 he was recruiting in Virginia, where he met Lafayette and served under the latter's command through the siege of Yorktown; they became good friends. Pinckney also was a partisan of Gates, and on his return to South Carolina at the end of the war published a defense of him.

Pinckney became a successful Charleston lawyer after the war and served as governor from 1787 to 1789. In 1791 Washington made him minister to Great Britain. Though not very successful as ambassador to that nation, and offended by John Jay's appointment to negotiate a treaty with Britain, Pinckney enjoyed a triumph in his negotiations with Spain. With a combination of bold persistence (which had not worked in London) and unfailing tact, his efforts resulted in Pinckney's Treaty of 27 October 1795. Back in London, Thomas worked unsuccessfully to win Lafayette's release from an Austrian prison. Pinckney returned to South Carolina in September 1796, having been nominated by the Federalists for vice president. But Hamilton's conniving to have him elected president in order to defeat John Adams resulted in Pinckney's getting neither post. (His brother Charles Cotesworth lost out in a similar manner in the 1800 election, while their cousin Charles was building his own political career in the Jeffersonian camp.) He served in Congress from 1797 to 1801, when he retired from politics. He was appointed major general on 27 March 1812, but as commander of the region from North Carolina to the Mississippi he saw no active service during the War of 1812. He succeeded Andrew Jackson after the Creek War and negotiated the peace treaty. He died in Charleston on 2 November 1828.

SEE ALSO Estaing, Charles Hector Théodat, Comte d'; Lafayette, Marquis de; Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth; Savannah, Georgia (9 October 1779); Southern Theater, Military Operations in; Spanish Participation in the American Revolution.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Leigh, Frances. A Founding Family: The Pinckneys of South Carolina. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.

Pinckney Family Papers. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.

Rogers, Charles C. Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.

                            revised by Michael Bellesiles

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pinckney, Thomas." Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2019 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Pinckney, Thomas." Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pinckney-thomas

"Pinckney, Thomas." Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. . Retrieved May 25, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pinckney-thomas

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.