On 10 January 1785, a twenty-seven-year-old politician, Charles Pinckney (1757–1824), purchased a copy of the first Dublin edition of Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa in New York. The South Carolinian was then serving in the Continental Congress, the convention of delegates who had drafted the Articles of Confederation in 1777 and were then engaged in drawing up the Constitution, among much else. The next day, 11 January, the Congress officially convened at the City Hall in New York. The most significant piece of legislation which it issued that year was the 1785 Land Ordinance—a mechanism for the parcelling-up and sale of unmapped territory west of the Thirteen Colonies.
Pinckney was a curious character—he seems to have been rather vain and self-important—but clearly assumed a central role in drafting the Constitution in 1787. To what extent, if any, he was informed in this activity by his reading of Macintosh’s text is something I intend to investigate. In the presidential election of 1800, Pinckney served as Thomas Jefferson’s campaign manager in South Carolina. Jefferson had also read Macintosh’s book (more on this later).
Pinckney’s copy of Travels is now in the Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections at the University of South Carolina. The front matter contains Pinckney’s signature, but also a short advertisement, pasted in by the Dublin bookseller Charles Lodge, designed to convey to the public the importance and interest of Macintosh’s book. The advert reads:
The intent of this Publication by its humane and patriotic Author, is to rescue Millions of Souls from groaning and bleeding under the iron Yoke of Tyranny and Oppression. He hath given in the Course of his Work, the most striking Proofs of Cruelty and Injustice, in the Mismanagement of the East-India Company’s Servants. It hath been from this ample Source of Information, that both Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox deduced their Knowledge, and founded all their Measures in their respective East-India Bills. In a Word, these interesting Volumes have caused greater Agitations in the English Cabinet, and greater Discussions in the English Senate, than, any Work published within the present Century. Whoever would form a just Idea of India Affairs, together with the modern State of Europe and Africa, may obtain it from a Perusal of this very ingenious and entertaining Publication.
A number of on-line resources—including the Journals of the Continental Congress and Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789—will be useful in investigating Pinckney’s life, work, and political interests.
Like James Cox (discussed in an earlier post), Pinckney accumulated a library consisting of more than 2,000 volumes.