Pinckney, Maria Henrietta

?–May 13, 1836

In her tract Pinckney posed a series of thirty-four questions and answers designed to summarize the southern case for nullification, which she defined as “the Veto of a Sovereign State on an unconstitutional law of Congress.”

Writer. Maria Pinckney was the eldest daughter of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Sarah “Sally” Middleton. She is notable for writing a defense of nullification entitled The Quintessence of Long Speeches, Arranged as a Political Catechism. Pinckney published the “Nullification Catechism” in Charleston in 1830, two years after the South Carolina General Assembly issued John C. Calhoun’s “Exposition and Protest.” The declaration asserted that the states had the right to nullify “unconstitutional, unequal, and oppressive” laws enacted by the federal government, in particular the 1828 “Tariff of Abominations.”

In her tract Pinckney posed a series of thirty-four questions and answers designed to summarize the southern case for nullification, which she defined as “the Veto of a Sovereign State on an unconstitutional law of Congress.” Pinckney asked, “Did the States, in forming the Constitution, divest themselves of any part of their Sovereignty?” and she answered firmly, “Of not a particle.” The refusal of the southern states to accept unjust tariffs was not rebellion because rebellion “is the resistance of an inferior to the lawful authority of a superior. A child may rebel against a parent–a slave against his master–citizens against the government, and colonies against the mother-country–but a State cannot rebel; because one sovereign cannot rebel against another, for all Sovereigns are equal.” States and federal governments should be able to coexist, she argued, but Washington, D.C., personified by “Daniel Webster & Co.,” was “continually wandering out of the sphere of its legitimacy, and usurping powers” previously understood to be held by the states. Pinckney did not think, however, that South Carolina’s assertion of her sovereignty would lead to civil war. “The General Government would not put itself so completely in the wrong,” she stated, “as to consecrate its Usurpation by the blood of those it shall have attempted to oppress.” In its “hour of peril,” she called on South Carolinians to follow the example of “the patriot band who achieved the Revolution” of 1776 and their descendants.

Pinckney never married. After the death of her father’s second wife, Mary Stead, in 1812, Pinckney and her sister Harriott took on the role of hostess for him. Maria Pinckney died on May 13, 1836, and was buried in St. Michael’s Churchyard in Charleston.

Pinckney, Maria. The Quintessence of Long Speeches, Arranged as a Political Catechism. Charleston, S.C.: A. E. Miller, 1830.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Pinckney, Maria Henrietta
  • Coverage ?–May 13, 1836
  • Author
  • Keywords Writer, published the “Nullification Catechism” The Quintessence of Long Speeches,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 24, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 24, 2016
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