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
GovernorRobert Bowie
Preceded byLuther Martin
Succeeded byJohn Thomson Mason
Mayor of Annapolis
In office
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, Maryland, British America
DiedFebruary 25, 1822(1822-02-25) (aged 57)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Spouse(s)Ann Rodgers

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.


William Pinkney was born in Annapolis, 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]

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 was co-US Minister to the Court of St. James (i.e. Great Britain) (with James Monroe) from 1806 to 1807;

They were asked by President Jefferson to negotiate with Great Britain to end the harassment of American shipping, though 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 and never went 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 US Congress to charter the Bank of the United States was upheld.[7]

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

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

See also[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
  • Pinkney, Reverend William (nephew) (1853). The life of William Pinkney. D. Appleton and Company, New York.  e'Book
  • 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

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

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

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