SC Constitution Signers

Of the four South Carolinians who signed the Constitution, three are buried in famous Charleston church yards. Charles Pinckney, who is buried in eastern churchyard at St. Philip’s Episcopal, was the youngest South Carolina signer at age 29, but is considered to be one of the most influential in the final wording of the Constitution document. His version of Congressional representation included the tabulation of slaves, and Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution famously bases representation on each state’s number of free persons, indentured servants, Indians who paid taxes, and three-fifths of the number of slaves.
Charles’ cousin, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, is buried at St. Michael’s churchyard near a third signer, John Rutledge. Charles C. was a son of the famous Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who perfected the processing of indigo, which brought great wealth to Charleston in the 1740’s and 1750’s. Charles C’s career included being an officer during the Revolution and a diplomat thereafter, crafting compromises that created the Federal tariff system in 1789 and ended the international slave trade in 1808. He was most noted as minister under president John Adams, and responding to threats of war and demands for brides by Napoleon’s ministers by saying “millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.”
John Rutledge, who like Charles C. lived and studied in England during his early life, was nonetheless the most resolute of the signers in his determination to break from British rule. Rutledge was elected the first and only President of South Carolina after the province declared independecce from England in March of 1776. When an English fleet was sent to Charleston to crush the revolution, Military asked for him to order retreat from the tiny fort defending the city on Sullivan’s Island. In reply, Rutledge wrote that he would rather cut off his hand than sign such and order, and the fort and Charleston were saved.
Pierce Butler is the least well-known of the four signers and the only one who was not America born or buried in Charleston today. Butler was Irish, and actually came to America as a British officer. This is an interesting note for those who dismiss Confederates as traitors, but call fighters in the Revolution patriots. Butler was also an owner of hundreds of slaves and argued for slavery to be protected by the Constitution. Butler was one of a small number of American officers who avoided capture when the British seized Charleston in 1780, and joined ranks with other famous partisan fighters such as Francis Marion and Thomas Sumter, who eventually drove the English army out of South Carolina. Butler died in Philadelphia and is buried in the city’s Christ Episcopal Church graveyard.

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