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This celebrated man, a native of Annapolis, Maryland, was born on the seventeenth of March, 1764. At an early age he entered King William School, in his native town, and remained there until the completion of his thirteenth year. In this institution, and, subsequently, for a short period under the guidance of a private tutor, he acquired a thorough English education, and the rudiments of the classics. About this time his father, an adherent to the side of royalty during the war of the Revolution, was dispossessed of his property by confiscation; became reduced and dependent, and young Pinkney was obliged to relinquish his studies. From this time until he commenced the study of law with Judge Chase, in 1783, little is recorded of him except that he directed his attention to medicine, in which he soon found that he had mistaken his vocation.
He was admitted to the bar in 1786, and the same year removed to Harford county and commenced practice. “His very first efforts," says Wheaton, "seem to have given him a commanding attitude in the eye of the public. His attainments in the law of real property and the science of special pleading, then the two great foundations of legal distinction, were accurate and profound; and he had disciplined his mind by the cultivation of that species of logic, which, if it does not lead to the brilliant results of inductive philosophy, contributes essentially to invigorate the reasoning faculty, and to enable it to detect those fallacies which are apt to impose upon the understanding in the warmth and hurry of forensic discussion. His style in speaking was marked by an easy flow of natural eloquence and a happy choice of language. This voice was very melodious, and seemed a most winning accompaniment to his pure and effective diction. His elocution was calm and placid—the very contrast of that strenuous, vehement, and emphatic manner, which he subsequently adopted.”
In the Spring of 1788 he was elected to represent the county of Harford in the Maryland convention, for the ratification of the Federal Constitution. The history of his career in that assembly is unfortunately lost. Shortly after the adjournment of the convention, he was chosen a member of the House of Delegates, and remained in that station until the year 1792. His speeches there upon the subject of the voluntary emancipation of slaves, breathe “all the fire of youth and a generous enthusiasm for the rights of human nature," yet they are not an earnest of those splendid powers of rhetoric and reasoning which were so eminently displayed in his subsequent years.
Mr. Pinkney married Miss Ann Maria Rodgers, a sister of Commodore Rodgers, in 1789. The next year he was elected a member of Congress, but declined serving in that office on account of his private and professional duties. In 1792, he became a member of the Executive Council of Maryland, and continued in that office until his election to the State Legislature, when he resigned. Amidst these several public duties he continued his professional pursuits with unabated vigor and attention, and gradually attained a prominent position in the eyes of the public, as a legislator and an erudite lawyer. “His acuteness, dexterity, and zeal, in the transaction of business," says one of his cotemporaries; “his readiness, spirit, and vigor in debate; the beauty and richness of his fluent elocution, adorned with the finest imagery drawn from classical lore and a vivid fancy; the manliness of his figure and the energy of his mien,