Ratifying the Constitution

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (February 25, 1746 – August 16, 1825)

South Carolina sent four delegates to the Constitutional Convention (Pierce Butler, Charles 
Pinckney, Charles

Pierce Butler (July 11, 1744 – February 15, 1822)

Pinckney, and John 
Rutledge) with one concern in mind: slavery and the security of its practice. South Carolina was the richest state by the time the Constitution was drawn up in 1787 and wished to remain as such. To continue their economic prosperity, however, they needed assurance that the slave trade would be allowed to continue. Though most people believed slavery would simply vanish in time, in the Constitution, the slave trade was guaranteed to continue for twenty years, until 1808, a compromise South Carolina begrudgingly accepted (they were also generously granted fugitive slave laws).

Additionally, the dispute on proportional representation versus a “one state, one vote” policy proved to be an important issue to South Carolinians. With their economic fortune continuing, South Carolina’s delegates knew that a proportional method of representation would benefit them the most since they hoped their state’s population would one day counter those of larger states (like Pennsylvania). The matter of how slaves should be counted in representation arose with northern states arguing that because slaves were considered property, said property could not be granted a vote. It was in the South’s best interest to fight for slave representation since it would “increase” their population and therefore their allotted representation in Congress. After much debate, the Convention decided that each slave would

Charles Pinckney (October 26, 1757 – October 29, 1824)

count as three-fifths of a person, another compromise South Carolina was all but forced to accept.

John Rutledge (September 17, 1739 – July 23, 1800)

Following these resolutions, South Carolina ratified the United States Constitution on May 23, 1988, making them the eighth state to do so. They suggested many diminutive adjustments to the framers’ work, including a change in phrasing of Article Six from “no religious test” to “no other religious test,” suggesting that the document itself was a religious oath of some sort.

South Carolina was an important factor in creating much of the Constitution, especially with nationalist Charles Pinckney on their side. Though they lost some of the battles they fought, they were also guaranteed the continuation of the ever-important slave trade for two decades and fractional slave representation in Congress, all of which were in their best interest.



South Carolina’s Official Ratification of the Constitution


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Strom, Claire. Class Lecture. Decade of Decision: 1780s. Rollins College, Winter Park, FL. 2012.

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