Poinsett, Joel R.
Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced from Mexico the plant with crimson bracts which has become the national Christmas flower Poinsettia pulcherina. He was born in Charleston S.C., in 1779, like Paul Revere being of Huguenot descent, of parents who were able to send him to school in England, employ private tutors after his return, and finally to send him to Scotland for his education in law. He studied military sciences at Woolwich. After nearly four years of traveling about Europe, President Madison called him home for a-mission to South America to make the first of a long series of endeavors to create there a Good Neighbor policy. He served in the South Carolina legislatures then served as Minister to Mexico; once, in Chile, he led one of those small, but critical naval battles (with Spain, then on the verge of a war with us) which so often decided our national destiny but are forgotten by Americans. While in office as Secretary of War during President Van Buren's administration he pioneered the way for what was to become the National Guard system, a scheme adopted from Eighteenth Century England for having an army without having professional soldiers.
Brother Poinsett w as a member of Solomon's Lodge, No. 1, Charleston; filled a succession of offices including Grand High Priest, and was elected Grand Master but could not serve because of his appointment as Secretary of War. It was as Minister to Mexico that he made a place for himself in Masonic history when he introduced Masonry into Mexico City; and could the Lodges there have resisted invasion by the Church from one side and politics from the other, the Mexican Craft would have developed into one of great strength along with the Craft in the United States and Canada.
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