Joel Roberts Poinsett died 157 years ago today.
Poinsett was a Charlestonian, born in 1779. In his long public life, he was he was a congressman, diplomat, Secretary of War and Unionist. During the nullification crisis of 1832, he was President Andrew Jackson's confidential agent in opposing nullification and secretly organized Unionist militias.
In 1825, President James Monroe named Poinsett the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. He so antagonized the Mexican government that it demanded his recall in 1830. But he did not leave empty-handed.
He was an ardent naturalist and botanist and while in Mexico he took a fancy to a local red-leafed plant which he brought back to the U.S. Of course, it became the poinsettia, a handy thing to know in this season of the year.
(Source: The South Carolina Encyclopedia, edited by Walter Edgar)