William Pinkney

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William Pinkney
Williampinkney (1).jpg
United States Senator
from Maryland
In office
December 21, 1819 – February 25, 1822
Preceded byAlexander Hanson
Succeeded bySamuel Smith
United States Envoy to Russia
In office
January 13, 1817 – February 14, 1818
PresidentJames Madison
James Monroe
Preceded byJohn Quincy Adams
Succeeded byGeorge W. Campbell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1815 – April 18, 1816
Preceded byAlexander McKim
Succeeded byPeter Little
7th United States Attorney General
In office
December 11, 1811 – February 9, 1814
PresidentJames Madison
Preceded byCaesar Rodney
Succeeded byRichard Rush
United States Minister to the United Kingdom
In office
April 27, 1808 – May 7, 1811
PresidentThomas Jefferson
James Madison
Preceded byJames Monroe
Succeeded byJonathan Russell (Acting)
3rd Attorney General of Maryland
In office
1805–1806
GovernorRobert Bowie
Preceded byLuther Martin
Succeeded byJohn Thomson Mason
Mayor of Annapolis
In office
1794–1795
Preceded byJames Williams
Succeeded byAllen Quynn
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1791 – November 1, 1791
Preceded byBenjamin Contee
Succeeded byJohn Mercer
Personal details
Born(1764-03-17)March 17, 1764
Annapolis, Province of Maryland, British America
DiedFebruary 25, 1822(1822-02-25) (aged 57)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Spouse(s)Ann Rodgers
Signature

William Pinkney (March 17, 1764 – February 25, 1822) was an American statesman and diplomat, and was appointed the seventh U.S. Attorney General by President James Madison.

Biography[edit]

William Pinkney was born in Annapolis in the Province of Maryland. His home was on the banks of the Severn River, in view of the Chesapeake Bay.[1]

Pinkney attended King William school. His teacher was a Mr. Brefhard. At age thirteen he left school but his teacher, aware of the young Pinkney's intelligence, gave him private lessons at home.[2]

He studied medicine (which he did not practice) and law, becoming a lawyer upon admission to the bar in 1786. After practicing law in Harford County, Maryland, he participated in Maryland's state constitutional convention.

Pinkney was an excellent orator who possessing a command of language, and was said to possess a pleasing and articulate manner in his speaking.[3]

His son, Edward Coote Pinkney, became an accomplished poet.

Political career[edit]

In April 1788, Pinkney was elected a delegate to the convention of the State of Maryland, which ratified the United States Constitution, marking the beginning of his political career.[4]

Pinkney served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1788 to 1792 and then again in 1795, and served as a U.S. Congressman from the third district of Maryland in 1791 and from the fifth district from 1815 until 1816. He was mayor of Annapolis from 1795 to 1800. In 1801 he was appointed Attorney general for the District of Pennsylvania, by President Thomas Jefferson[5] and Attorney General of Maryland from 1805 to 1806.

Pinkney and James Monroe served together as co-U.S. Ministers to the Court of St James's in Great Britain 1806 to 1807. President Jefferson asked them to negotiate an end to harassment of American shipping, but Britain showed no signs of improving relations. They negotiated the Monroe–Pinkney Treaty, but it lacked provisions to end impressment and was subsequently rejected by President Jefferson, never going into effect.[6]

Pinkney was Minister Plenipotentiary from 1808 until 1811. He then returned to Maryland, serving in the Maryland State Senate in 1811. In 1811 he joined President James Madison's cabinet as Attorney General. He was a major in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812 and was wounded at the Battle of Bladensburg, Maryland in August 1814. After the War, he served as congressman from the fifth district of Maryland from 1815 to 1816. After serving in Congress he became the U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia from 1816 until 1818, along with a special mission to the Kingdom of Naples.

Pinkney successfully argued many important cases before the Supreme Court, including the landmark case of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), where the right of the U.S. Congress to charter the Bank of the United States was upheld.[7]

Pinkney served as a U.S. senator from Maryland from 1819 until his death in 1822. He is buried at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C..[8]

Criticism[edit]

Color oil painting of the bust of a young white man with light brown short wavy hair and a plain countenance, looking at the viewer. The raised color of a white shirt is visible beneath a dark jacket and cloak. He stands before a plain brown-green background.
Pinkney critic, John Neal

Writer, critic, and fellow Baltimore lawyer, John Neal dedicated eight pages in his 1823 novel, Randolph, to criticizing William Pinkney. Though written before Pinkney's death, it was published shortly afterward with a footnote explaining that the author acknowledged Pinkney's death but decided to publish the book as originally written anyway.[9] Though Neal referred to him as "the greatest lawyer in America,"[10] he also characterized his speeches as "a compound of stupendous strength; feeble ornament; affected earnestness, and boisterous, turbulent declamation,"[11] concluding that "God never meant William Pinkney for an orator."[12] Neal's insults went as far as to call Pinkney "a notorious sloven" who could be seen "wiping his nose and lips on the sleeve of his coat."[13]

On the basis of these printed insults, the son Edward Coote Pinkney challenged Neal to a duel, which Neal refused.[14] The episode likely contributed to Neal's decision to leave Baltimore later that year.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Hayes, Kevin J. (2008). The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-530758-0.
  • Ireland, Robert M. (1986). The legal career of William Pinkney, 1764-1822. Garland, 333 pages.  Book
  • Lease, Benjamin (1972). That Wild Fellow John Neal and the American Literary Revolution. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46969-7.
  • Neal, John (1823). Randolph, A Novel. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: For Whom It May Concern.
  • Pinkney, Reverend William (nephew) (1853). The life of William Pinkney. D. Appleton and Company, New York.  e'Book
  • Sears, Donald A. (1978). John Neal. Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 080-5-7723-08.
  • Wheaton, Henry (1826). Some account of the life, writings, and speeches of William Pinkney. J. W. Palmer & co.  e'Book
  • "PINKNEY, William, (1764 - 1822)". Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  • "William Pinkney, United States statesman". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 14, 2016.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Benjamin Contee
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 3rd congressional district

1791
Succeeded by
John Francis Mercer
Preceded by
Alexander McKim
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 5th congressional district

1815–1816
Succeeded by
Peter Little
Political offices
Preceded by
James Williams
Mayor of Annapolis
1794–1795
Succeeded by
Allen Quynn
Legal offices
Preceded by
Luther Martin
Attorney General of Maryland
1805–1806
Succeeded by
John Thomson Mason
Preceded by
Caesar A. Rodney
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: James Madison

1811–1814
Succeeded by
Richard Rush
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
James Monroe
U.S. Minister to Great Britain
1807–1811
Succeeded by
John Quincy Adams
Preceded by
John Quincy Adams
U.S. Minister to Russia
1816–1818
Succeeded by
George W. Campbell
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Alexander C. Hanson
U.S. senator (Class 1) from Maryland
1819–1822
Served alongside: Edward Lloyd
Succeeded by
Samuel Smith