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William Pinkney

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


Born in Annapolis, Maryland, Pinkney studied medicine (which he did not practice) and law, becoming a lawyer after his admission to the bar in 1786. After some time practicing law in Harford County, Maryland, he participated in Maryland's state constitutional convention.

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, Attorney General of Maryland from 1805 to 1806, co-U.S. Minister to Great Britain (with James Monroe) from 1806 to 1807, and Minister Plenipotentiary from 1808 until 1811. He then returned to Maryland, serving in the Maryland State Senate in 1811, becoming the U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia, along with a special mission to Naples from 1816 until 1818. 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, and as a U.S. Senator from Maryland from 1819 until his death in 1822. He is buried at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC.

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United States 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

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
Succeeded by
John Thomson Mason
Preceded by
Caesar A. Rodney
Attorney General of the United States
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
United States Senate
Preceded by
Alexander C. Hanson
United States Senator (Class 1) from Maryland
1819 – 1822
Served alongside: Edward Lloyd
Succeeded by
Samuel Smith

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WILLIAM PINKNEY (1764-1822), American lawyer and statesman, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, on the 17th of March 1764. He was admitted to the bar in 1786, and in 1788-1792 practised in Harford county. In 1788 he was a member of the state convention which ratified the Federal constitution for Maryland, in1788-1792and in 1795 of the House of Delegates (where in 1788 and 1789 he defended the right of slave-owners to manumit their slaves), and in1792-1795of the state executive council. In1796-1804he was a commissioner under article 7 of Jay's Treaty of 1794 to determine the claims of American merchants for damage through "irregular or illegal captures or condemnations," and during this time adjusted on behalf of Maryland a claim of the state to stock in the Bank of England. In May 1806, with James Monroe, then minister at London, he was commissioned to treat with the British government concerning the capture of neutral ships in time of war; in 1807-1811, after Monroe's return to America, he was resident minister in London. He was elected to the Maryland senate in September 1811, and from December 1811 to January 1814 was attorneygeneral of the United States. In August 1814 he was wounded at Bladensburg. He served in the National House of Representatives in January - April 1816, and in1816-1818was minister plenipotentiary to Russia and special minister to Naples, where he attempted to secure indemnity for the losses to American merchants by seizure and confiscation during the rule of Murat in 180 0. From 1820 until his death, at Washington, on the 25th of February 1822, he was a member of the United States Senate. He was a member of the conference committee on the bill for the admission of Maine and Missouri, which in its final form embodied what is known as the Missouri Compromise. Pinkney was a remarkably able lawyer and an orator of the old school.

See The Life of William Pinkney (New York, 1853) by his nephew, William Pinkney (1810-1883), who was Protestant Episcopal bishop of Virginia in 1879-1883; and Henry Wheaton, Some Account of the Life, Writings, and Speeches of William Pinkney (New York, 1828).

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