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Joel R. Poinsett, 




Rcprvited from 
" The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography." 





Joel R. Poinsett. 






Reprinted from 
" The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 


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[Through the courtesy of the surviving member of Mr. 
Poinsett's family, the Historical Society has been placed in 
the possession of a mass of papers which illustrate very 
fully his public and his private life. That life was one of 
singularly varied interest. Mr. Poinsett was probably the 
greatest American traveller of his time, penetrating into the 
most remote and then little known regions of both the Old 
and the New World ; he afterwards won distinction in the 
diplomatic service of the country, and, above all, he was 
known as the leader of the Union party in South Carolina 
during its conflict with the Nullification heresy of 1832. 
The papers which he left at his death, and which his family 
have placed at the disposal of the Historical Society, seem to 
be of great value and interest, as they throw light upon the 
important events in which he took part. An attempt has 
been made so to connect them in the following narrative 
that their true significance as contributions to American 
history may be understood.] 


4 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

The career of Mr. Poinsett is not very familiar to this 
generation, at least in this part of the country, and indeed, 
the recollection of the great events which are associated in 
our history with his name during more than a third of the 
present century has strangely faded from the memory of 
most people. But fifty years ago his reputation as a states- 
man of a high order had been fairly gained by his public 
services, and was generally recognized. His title to this 
reputation seems, on a review of his public life, to have 
been on the whole a just one. He belonged in his early 
manhood to that small but brilliant body of Americans 
who, with plenty of means, many accomplishments, and 
much leisure, travelled with very observant eyes most exten- 
sively in portions of Europe, then little visited by cultivated 
people of any country. Their qualities gained them ad- 
mission into the highest social circles in the countries in 
which they travelled, and they succeeded by some means, 
of which those who came after them seem to have lost the 
secret, in knowing everybody worth knowing, however 
high their rank or official position throughout Europe, and 
in leaving a most favorable impression of themselves, and 
of the nation which they may be said to have informally 
represented. The curiosity of the foremost courtiers and 
statesmen of the Old World (men whose names are now 
historical) was naturally excited by observing the peculi- 
arities of the citizens of the New, as they were exhibited 
in the types who, at that era, presented themselves as 
Americans. It cannot be doubted that men like Wash- 
ington Irving in his younger days, the late Mr. George 
Ticknor, and Mr. Poinsett among others did us a service 
with the governing classes of the Old World during the first 
third of this century which it is not easy to over-estimate. 

Mr. Poinsett was not only a great traveller in his early 
manhood, but wherever he went he was proud of being 
known as an American citizen, a title which his own per- 
sonal qualities invested in the eyes of those with whom 
he was brought in contact with consideration and respect 
He wandered too through the most remote regions 01 

The Life and Services of Joel JR. Poinsett. 5 

Russia. He became acquainted with the Tartars, the Per- 
sians, the Armenians, the Georgians who live in the Trans- 
Caucasian range of mountains, and along the shores of the 
Caspian Sea, forming various tribes whose rulers had never 
heard of the existence of America; later, his travels led 
him to the other end of the world, to South America, 
where he was sent by our government to ascertain the con- 
dition of the different provinces at that time in revolt against 
the Spanish Crown. In all these countries he became favor- 
ably known to the most distinguished men of the time, from 
the Emperor Alexander of Russia down to the famous rev 
olutionary chiefs in South America. Everywhere he was 
received and treated with the utmost kindness and con- 
sideration. His great intelligence, his wonderful tact in 
dealing with men, and his perfect sincerity gave bim a 
commanding influence wherever he went, and that influence 
was always employed for the advancement of his country's 

The four years he passed in Congress (1821 to 1825) added 
much to his fame, owing to his long familiarity from per- 
sonal observation with all that concerned our foreign rela 
tions. He was thought so peculiarly fitted for the diplomatic 
service that he was appointed our first Minister to Mexico. 
There, even with his experience, he found it difficult to steer 
clearly through the embarrassments which were caused by 
the distracted and revolutionary condition of the country, 
but the knowledge that he gained was invaluable to us, and 
he at least taught the Mexicans, on a memorable occasion, 
a lesson in regard to the respect due the American flag (of 
which more hereafter) which they have never forgotten. 

He returned from Mexico just in time to take the lead of 
the Union party in South Carolina in its conflict with the 
nullification and threatened secession of that State, — a post 
peculiarly suited to his active and intrepid spirit. It seems 
to me that he has never received proper credit for the cour- 
age and intelligence with which he maintained the cause of 
the Union in those dark days when the great forces — social 
and political — not only of South Carolina, but of a consid- 

6 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

erable portion of other States of the South, were in the 
hands of the nullifiers, and of those who sympathized 
with them. By his influence, and that of the Union party 
led by him, supported by the inflexible determination of 
President Jackson to maintain the Union by any display of 
force which might be necessary to accomplish his object, 
the conspiracy for nullifying the laws of Congress, which 
was embodied in the famous ordinance of South Carolina 
in 1832, was broken up, the ordinance itself was repealed, 
and South Carolina was once more brought into her normal 
relations with the general government. 

Some years later Mr. Poinsett became the Secretary 
of War in the Cabinet of Mr. Van Buren. His adminis- 
tration of that office was marked by intelligent and compre- 
hensive measures in regard to many subjects of national 
interest, among others the improvement of the artillery of 
the army, the honest treatment of the Indians dependent 
upon the government, and the organization of the famous 
exploring expedition under Commodore Wilkes. He laid 
the foundation of much that has since been done by the gov- 
ernment, by advocating a wise and liberal national policy 
with reference to these and kindred objects. During his 
whole career Mr. Poinsett proved himself a thorough and 
typical American. His notions of public policy were essen- 
tially national, and his allegiance to the government of the 
United States was always paramount. As such a public 
man, especially a public man from South Carolina imbued 
with such principles, and always standing firm on the na- 
tional side, is something of a political curiosity, his life 
and career seem well worth studying. 

Joel Roberts Poinsett was born in Charleston on the 
2d of March, 1778. He was of that Huguenot stock whose 
force, intelligence, and virtue have been so conspicuous in 
the history of the whole country, and especially in that of 
South Carolina. His father, Dr. Elisha Poinsett, was an emi- 
nent physician in Charleston, and he seems to have taken un- 
common pains in the training of his son. Young Poinsett's 
school days were passed in Charleston and in Greenfield, in 

The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 7 

Connecticut, in which latter place he was under the care and 
instruction of the Rev. Dr. Dwight, afterwards so famous 
as the President of Yale College. His constitution was 
naturally frail and delicate, and it was found that his health 
suffered so much from the severe climate of Connecticut 
that he returned after two years' absence to Charleston. 
There, for a time, he pursued his studies, but in 1796 it was 
determined to send him to England, and enter him as a 
pupil at St. Paul's School in London, where his relative, Dr. 
Roberts, was the Head Master. There he made great prog- 
ress, particularly in his knowledge of the languages. He 
was a respectable classical scholar, for he speaks in after- 
years of having studied Herodotus in the original Greek, 
as a guide-book to his travels in Southern Russia and the 
shores of the Caspian Sea. In modern languages he became 
very proficient. He acquired a fluent knowledge of French, 
German, Italian, and Spanish, and made some progress in 
Russian, a sort of knowledge which proved eminently useful 
to him as a traveller. 

From London he went to Edinburgh, intending to pursue 
his medical studies there. He soon became the favorite 
pupil of the celebrated Dr. Gregory, then one of the fore- 
most Professors in the University. His health, however, 
broke down, owing to confinement to his hard work as a 
medical student. By the advice of his friends he abandoned 
for a time the study of medicine, and went to Portugal. 
Returning with restored strength, he became a pupil of Mar- 
quois, who had been a Professor in the Military Academy 
at Woolwich. The bent of Mr. Poinsett's mind and tastes 
was always towards the life of a soldier, and under Marquois 
he acquired a thorough theoretical knowledge of his pro- 
fession, and his body was strengthened by the active military 
habits and discipline in which he was trained. His father, 
however, was averse to his entering the army in time of 
peace, and he was called back to Charleston, and became a 
student of law. This pursuit, however, was little suited to 
his active, not to say restless, habits, and it was soon aban- 
doned. He was then permitted by his father to return to 

8 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

Europe and to become, what his ardent curiosity and quick 
intelligence had always inclined him to be, a traveller, going 
wherever his love of knowledge or adventure might call 
him. He spent the winter of 1801-2 in Paris. He was 
fortunate in being there at a period the most interesting and 
important in many respects of any in French history. It 
was the period of the first consulate of Napoleon, the era 
of transition from the horrors of the Revolution and of 
civil and foreign war to the settlement of a stable and or- 
derly government. It was the era of the peace of Luneville 
and of Amiens, which had been brought about by the 
French victories of Hohenlinden and Marengo. Never, 
perhaps, in the whole career of Napoleon was his power of 
doing good so absolute as at this particular epoch, and never 
was his transcendent genius so conspicuous as when he 
strove to reconstruct French society from the ruins which 
had been left by the Revolution. Mr. Poinsett witnessed 
the beginning of the mighty task which Napoleon had 
undertaken of endeavoring to bring order out of chaos. 
During his residence in Paris the churches were reopened 
for Divine service, and a Concordat with the Pope agreed 
upon, the Legion of Honor was established, a general am- 
nesty was proclaimed, the national finances and credit were 
re-established, a new system of taxation was adopted, the 
revolutionary law of succession to property was confirmed, 
a system of education was organized, the Code Civil, perhaps 
the grandest and certainly the most enduring monument of 
the Napoleonic era, was discussed and its main principles 
settled, and throughout France vast works of public utility 
designed to make people forget the miseries of the Revolu- 
tion, and bless the government of the First Consul, were 
undertaken. It was an era of unbounded activity and high 
hopefulness. The young American traveller had abundant 
opportunity of studying the effect of these conciliatory 
measures on public opinion, and of witnessing the violent 
strusrele between the elements of the old and new as the 
master-hand of Napoleon fused them together. Paris, too, 
at that time was full of foreigners, many of them men of 

The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 9 

distinction in their respective countries, who had been led 
there during the peace by their curiosity to see the wonder- 
ful First Consul, and who wished to judge for themselves of 
the likelihood of the stability of the vast changes which he 
had made in the organization of the national life. "With 
these men, as well as with the distinguished soldiers who 
surrounded Napoleon, he discussed freely the various meas- 
ures proposed for the reorganization of the nation, and thus 
in a very important way his political education was advanced. 
The next year Mr. Poinsett, taking advantage of the yet 
unbroken peace, visited Italy, then divided into a number 
of ephemeral republics established by the French after their 
conquest of the country. He did not fail to observe how 
little the real character of the people of that country had 
been changed by the strange republicanism (according to his 
standard) which had been forced upon them by the French 
That character remained still Italian, with all its defects and 
characteristic traits, and the administration was wholly con- 
trolled by French agents, and in harmony with French 
policy and interests. 

These were new specimen types of the republican form for 
Mr. Poinsett, and he found another of the same kind when 
he reached Switzerland on his travels. Switzerland was the 
oldest republic in modern history, but its ancient organization 
was not of the French pattern, and did not suit the French 
policy after the country had been overrun by the French 
armies. The radical party supported by the French strove 
to establish, contrary to all Swiss traditions and experience, 
a highly centralized system, the other, one in which each 
canton should be practically independent. This latter party, 
made up chiefly of the men of the forest cantons, determined 
upon resistance, and they selected the celebrated Aloys 
Reding as their leader. WTien Mr. Poinsett reached Swit- 
zerland he found that Reding had raised an army of ten 
thousand men to maintain the cantonal independence, and 
he joined his army without hesitation. The campaign was 
a short one, and Reding's forces even gained an important 
victory over their own countrymen at Morgarten, a spot 

10 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

sacred in the eyes of the Swiss, for there they had, in 1515, 
destroyed the army of their Austrian tyrants under the 
leadership of a Reding of the same name and lineage aa 
that of their present leader, but the French allies of their 
enemies having surrounded them, and cut them off from all 
supplies, Reding and his followers were forced to capitulate. 

Mr. Poinsett seems always to have embraced the oppor- 
tunity of becoming acquainted with the men in each coun- 
try he visited who had become for any reason famous. 
From the camp of Reding he passed into the society of 
M. decker and that of his accomplished daughter, Madame 
de Stael, who were then exiles from France, and were re- 
siding at Coppet, on the shores of the Lake of Geneva. 
Through the kind offices of Mr. Livingston, then American 
Minister in France, who was travelling in Switzerland, he 
was brought into friendly relations with these illustrious 
personages. They told him much concerning the stormy 
scenes of the French Revolution, in the early part of which 
they had been such prominent actors, and, according to Mr. 
Poinsett's account, they never wearied of talking of events 
in French and American history. They explained, too, the 
secret motives (which none knew better than they) of many 
little-understood acts of the French government in its policy 
towards the United States during the American Revolution. 
Mr. Poinsett confirms — what was well known from other 
sources — the filial devotion, approaching adoration, with 
which Madame de Stael regarded her father in his declining 
years. Owing to his imperfect utterance through the loss 
of his teeth, and Mr. Livingston's deafness, Madame de 
Stael became to Mr. Poinsett the charming interpreter of 
the words of wisdom which fell from his lips. 

From Switzerland Mr. Poinsett went to Vienna, passing 
through Southern Germany, at that time far from being the 
attractive and interesting country which it has since been 
made by the conveniences of modern travel. He remained 
but a short time in Vienna, long enough, however, to become 
a habitue of the salon of the celebrated Prince de Ligne, 
the most distinguished soldier of Austria. He was called 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 1 1 

home by the news of the death of his father, and by the 
serious illness of his only sister. 

His love of travel and of adventure still remaining un- 
abated, he returned in 1806 to Europe, intending to carry 
out his long-cherished plan of travelling in Russia. Indeed, 
at that time this was the only country on the Continent 
through which a traveller could pass without inconvenience 
or danger, as it was the only one which was not overrun 
by the armies engaged in the Napoleonic wars. He landed 
at Gothenburg, and passed through Sweden so rapidly that 
he seemed impressed chiefly with the extraordinary contrast 
between the poverty of the people and the vast amount of 
food and drink which they were capable of consuming. 

After a painful and tedious journey through Finland, he 
reached St. Petersburg in the beginning of the winter of 
1806-7. At this capital he had unusual advantages of J. 
studying the character of the people and the condition of 
the country at a most important crisis. We had then no 
Minister in Russia, and Mr. Poinsett was afterwards told by 
the Emperor Alexander that he was the second American 
gentleman who had been presented to him. 

The condition of Russia during that winter was a very 
critical one, as the danger of a French invasion became 
imminent. After the victories of Austerlitz and Jena, by 
which the French had destroyed the armies of Austria 
and Prussia, they pressed on eastward with the hope of 
subduing their ally, Russia. The battles of Eylau and of 
Pultusk were fought during this period, and although the 
Russians claimed a victory in each case, the progress of the 
French towards their frontier was not stopped. Those who 
were responsible for the safety of the country were filled 
with grave anxiety, and the Emperor Alexander did not 
hesitate to say, in a confidential conversation with Mr. 
Poinsett, that he might even be obliged to sign a treaty of 
peace under the walls of Tobolsk (Siberia). A ukaseVas 
issued in December calling for six hundred thousand addi- 
tional troops to defend the Empire. Notwithstanding all 
these preparations, and the grave preoccupations of the 

12 The Life and Services of Joel JR. Poinsett. 

time, the winter gayeties of St. Petersburg, according to 
Mr. Poinsett, were not interrupted. How the Russians 
bore themselves, and how they entertained strangers while 
in imminent danger of invasion, is best told in Mr. Poinsett's 
own letters, extracts from which we lay before the reader. 

..." Our consul, M r . Levett Harris, asked permission to 
present me at Court on the first presentation day, whereupon 
he received the next day a note from the Baron de Budberg 
minister of foreign affairs asking an interview, whereat he 
told him, that the Emperor would not wait until the next 
presentation day, but would receive M r . Poinsett the fol- 
lowing morning at Parade and that an aide-de-camp would be 
sent to conduct him there. Accordingly I rose and dressed 
by candlelight and after taking a cup of coffee had not 
long to wait for the officer who was sent to usher me to the 
Imperial presence. We were set down at the door of an 
immense barrack where I found the Emperor in front of 
the guard surrounded by a train of general officers in bril- 
liant uniforms. He towered above them- all and was dis- 
tinguished by his great height and manly form, as well as by 
a pleasing and refined expression of countenance. He re- 
ceived me courteously, even kindly. Spoke favorably of our 
country, said that I was the second American gentleman 
who had visited Russia and was glad to hear that I was the 
friend of M r . Allen Smith who was remembered in Russia 
with esteem and whose departure had been universally 
regretted. He made a sort of apology for receiving me 
so unceremoniously but supposed an American would not 
object to be so treated. After a pretty long talk he bowed 
meaningly & I withdrew. I have since been to court and 
been presented to the Reigning Empress and the Empress 
Mother — on this occasion the Emperor advanced to meet 
me & shook me cordially by the hand. This distinction 
has brought me into notice, into fashion I may say. I have 
not dined in my own lodgings since I have been here nor 
passed an evening in quiet. I dine out daily as a thing of 
course, and go in the early part of the evening to some ball or 
soiree or reunion of some sort and close the night at Count 
Gregory OrlofPs where the members of the Diplomatic 
Corps usually drop in to sup & talk over the news and 
events of the day. At Count OrlofPs I meet many very 
pleasant men among them Pozzo di Borgo a Corsican 
gentleman who has just entered the service of Russia. I 
was going to say that his principal recommendation is his 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 13 

avowed hatred & hostility to Napoleon, the inheritance of 
some family feud aggravated by personal injuries or insults ; 
but he professes other qualifications for office, is well in- 
structed and well informed, shrewd and bold. He enjoys 
the confidence of the Emperor & will rise high. He 
supped at OrlofPs the first night after he donned the Rus- 
sian uniform and we drank to his future success. He is a 
good talker and an agreeable companion. 

" My acquaintance with that gifted nobleman Lord Royston 
son of Lord Hardwicke, ripened into friendship and as our 
tastes accorded we agreed to travel together in the spring 
into the Asiatic possessions of Russia. The southern por- 
tion of the Continent of Europe was closed to English 
travellers and they were fain to turn their steps to the 
north, so that I met many distinguished men from that 
country in Vienna & in St. Petersburg. 

" Lord Royston was a ripe scholar and we read Herodotus 
together as a preparation for our eastern tour and studied 
Russ that we might talk a little to the people. "We found it 
a difficult language to acquire and thought it resembled the 
Greek in the grammar & construction. Like the Greek, 
it has the dual which no other modern tongue has, & we 
found some good Russian translations of Grecian poetry. 

" Let me tell you how the day passes here to the idle man 
of leisure who seeks to make the time agreeable. I gen- 
erally dress by candle light so that the dawn of a winter's 
day finds me ready to read or go forth to parade to show 
myself. Here the Emperor sometimes chats with me and 
the officers always. By the way I am indebted to them for 
information which saved me from much suffering. It is 
against all forms of etiquette to present oneself with great 
coat or other outward covering before the Emperor, so that 
the first time I waited on him at Parade I nearly perished 
with cold. The officers saw my situation and advised me 
before I repeated my visit to have my clothes lined with 
oiled silk — I did so and never sufi'ered again from the same 
cause. After breakfast Lord Royston calls and we have our 
Russian master & read for an hour or two when we then 
go out to walk or drive to see sights or separate to our sev- 
eral amusements. I usually to the Salle D'Armes kept by 
one Silverbriik a German an excellent master. Here there 
is always good company. We then sometimes adjourn to 
take a second breakfast with Prince Adam Ctzartorizki 
an accomplished Polish nobleman and a great favorite of 
the Emperor Alexander. Then home to dress for dinner 

14 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

and the evening passes as already described. Apropos of 
dining I received the other day an invitation, an order I 
should have said, to dine with the Emperor at three o'clock. 
I repaired to the palace at the hour indicated and was re- 
ceived by the Marshal Prince Tolstoi, and ushered into 
the presence. The Empress who is one of the most dig- 
nified persons, very pretty withal, I ever saw was walking 
about the room with her sister and His Majesty standing 
at a window overlooking the Neva. A favorite aide-de- 
camp was present who with the Mareschale made our party 
of six. I was received unceremoniously and treated kindly 
so much so that but for a little extra magnificence at table 
might have fancied myself dining with a bon bourgeois. Some 
of the servants were from the East & wore the rich and 
somewhat fantastic dress of their country. The soul of the 
repast was an easy, pleasant flow of talk in which the Em- 
press mingled with great sweetness & good sense. After 
dinner we returned to the reception room, where we partook 
of coffee and had a very long conversation upon the politi- 
cal affairs of Europe. The Emperor urged me to learn the 
language and seemed pleased when I told him I was doing 
so. He then expressed a wish that I should visit his domin- 
ions and bring him an exact account of their condition add- 
ing some flattering words which I will not repeat. I have 
met him since and he has always renewed the subject. 
The last time he addressed a few words to me jocularly in 
Russ which I fortunatelv understood & could answer. He 
laughed and encouraged me to persevere. By the way these 
meetings in the streets are awful events. When the Em- 
peror stops to talk to any person, which he does very rarely, 
every one stops too so that the pavement & street are choked 
with the passengers no doubt cursing in their hearts the 
interruption and its cause. 

" As I was told would happen after dining with the Em- 
peror, the Empress Mother who keeps a court of her own 
invited me to her table. This was a very different aflair, 
a dinner of twelve covers the only ladies the Empress and 
the Grand Duchess Catherine, the men were the officers of 
her court and attached to her service. I dare say pleasant 
gentlemanly men, but I had no opportunity of ascertaining 
their companionable qualities. I was seated nearly opposite 
the Empress and we had all the talk to ourselves. She took 
no notice of any one else & addressed herself altogether to 
me sometimes questioning me without pity & at others 
telling me of her charitable and manufacturing establish- 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 15 

ments both here and at Moscow. I must see them from 
Cronstadt to Moscow. The first part I have undergone, but 
the best is to be seen at Moscow, an orphan house & estab- 
lishment of Demoiselles nobles. The magnificence and re- 
finement displayed in these court entertainments are capti- 
vating and the notice of such personages highly flattering 
It has not turned my head quite & I do not think it 
would be agreeable to pass one's life in such companv I 
was going to write Society but there is no Society properlv 
so called without perfect equality. As I promised I went 
to Cronstadt the port of St. Petersburg. Harris (the Con- 
sul) accompanied me in a sleigh. We set out before day- 
light that we might return the same evening. We saw the 
cotton manufactory which is under the patronage of the 
impress mother, and the workshops of the navf V ard all 
very inferior to those I had seen at home and in England 
In the former I especially noted the excellencies & defect 
for I was warned that I should have to undergo a strict 
examination the first time I met the lady patroness. Look- 
ing trom the docks to seaward as far as the eye could reach 
was one sheet of ice covered with a thick coating of snow 
I was summoned to the palace to assist at another dinner 
party & to be questioned by the Empress mother. The 
affair went off exactly as the first party had done except 
tnat we talked a great deal about carding & spinning I 
explained how cards were made in the United State's b Y 
machinery, and her Majesty gave instant orders to have 
the machinery introduced into her manufactory at Cron- 
stadt 1 did not say so, but was sure manufactures fos- 
tered by imperial favor alone will never succeed. There 
is nothing of the energy & economy of individual interest 
nn?a « T 01 *™"* a . re s ? rfs receiving only a scanty modicum 
not sufficient to maintain their families in any sort of com- 

tW Jif W ° meU m Serfc J° m P a ^ no tribute > neith er do 
ba/d, tn tL anj - WageS r hen , tlie y accompany their hus- 
bands to these imperial workshops; altogether it is a 
wretched system. Alexander is suspected of%eing opposed 
I 1 ?™ actl ° ns a » d sa Jings are watched with |reat jeal- 
ousy by the nobles whose estates consist altogether of this de- 
scription of property. Fortunes are estimated by the number 
of sou s a proprietor possesses. These souls (the men only) 
t?fW ]■ S 6d and pa ? onl ^ a m °derate tribute ; but not- 
Wfit a ^ lng th ? !l umer ° us hu *iane ukases for their especkl 

W fk 7- ?,? thGlr families are slaves an <* although by 
law adsmpti glebv are sometimes sold without the land 

16 The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 

" The Emperor said to me one day, ' we cannot create a 
mercantile marine and have been hitherto entirely depend- 
ant upon England for the transportation of our produce. 
We now hope the United States will relieve us from this 
dependance, and are therefore anxious to encourage your 
shipping and to form the closest commercial relations with 
you. You must say so to your President,' which I accord- 
ingly did. But I sought the reason why Russia could not 
possess a commercial marine and soon found it in the 
nature of her institutions. If a ship is to be fitted out for 
a foreign port the ship's husband must give security that 
the sailors, who are private property will return to their 
owners. A condition so burdensome puts an effectual stop 
to all mercantile enterprize in Russian bottoms. The ships 
of war are manned either by the Crown peasants or by draft 
as the army is filled. By the way no army is recruited with 
so little trouble. Orders are extended to the Landed pro- 
prietors to furnish on a given day so many per cent, of their 
vassals of a certain age. The poor serfs are marched to the 
rendezvous and on the appointed day received by the re- 
cruiting officer, shaved, uniformed and speedily converted 
under the rudest discipline into a regular soldier of won- 
derful endurance and great passive courage. 

" There is in St. Petersburg a college of foreign affairs 
where those who are destined to conduct the civil and political 
affairs of the country are educated. It ensures some fitness 
and a steady undeviating policy in the government as some 
clever men have been brought up here. I distinguished 
young Count Nesselrode and Count Lieven among the 
number— Dolgorouki, but why should I repeat these Rus- 
sian names which you will never retain nor care^ about 
even if they should hereafter become conspicuous in his- 
tory. In this country to have rank at Court it is not suffi- 
cient to be born the son of a Knas or Prince the Russians 
have translated the word. A Knas is in most respects like 
the ancient Scotch Laird— chief of a clan, but the Knas's 
clan are more slaves than the highlanders ever were. Prince 
indeed! All the sons & daughters of these hereditary 
landholders are called Prince & Princess which multiplies 
the number of these titles inconveniently— Counts are more 
rare. They are later creations since Peter the Great and 
copied from the German; Graf & Graffen serving to des- 
ignate the numerous tribe in both countries. Well neither 
Prince or Count take rank at Court or dare drive about 
the streets of St. Petersburg or Moscow in a coach & four 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 17 

unless they have served in some civil or military capacity 
up to the rank of Major. All rank having relation to the 
military. My excellent friend Count Gregory OrlofF, a Sena- 
tor & Privy Counsellor, is a Lieutenant-General although he 
never saw an army except at a grand review. 

"I have seen a magnificent display of the Imperial 
troops, 20,000 men of all arms drawn up & maneuvre- 
ing on the solid ice of the Neva. You have no idea of 
the imposing appearance of such an array. Horse, foot 
& artillery perfectly appointed thundering away upon the 
smooth plain of the river. The cold was too intense for 
the troops to remain out long, so that the solemn impression 
of the spectacle rested pleasingly on the imagination. We 
have heard of the battles of Pultusk and Preusse Eylau. 
The Russians claim the victory and have chaunted Te 
Deum ; but there is an air of consternation about the Court 
which induces me to fear the worst. The Emperor too 
said to me that he would make peace under the walls of 
Tobolsk ; which looks like an expectation of being driven 
out of his capital by the arch fiend as Buonaparte is de- 
nominated here in common parlance. The common people 
look upon him as the devil incarnate for he has been ex- 
communicated in the Greek churches of the Empire. 

" The Emperor is about to depart and draw nearer the 
frontier. This movement I find fills his most sagacious 
friends with fear. If he joins the army his courage will 
expose him to danger & they dread his Eldest Brother 
Constantine. He is indeed a fiend, and with a government 
such as this the only alternative would be to repeat the 
tragedy of the death of Paul. Again those who know 
Alexander best say that he will succumb in case of renewed 
reverses and make peace with France. We shall see. The 
Emperor told me he was going & spoke right manfully. 
He sent for me to dinner at the palace and after it was over 
took mehy the arm and walked into an adjoining apartment. 
I am a little deaf you know said he & want to talk to you 
confidentially. He put many pertinent questions about our 
country & our system & after hearing my replies said 
emphatically well that is a glorious form of gov*. & if I 
were not an Emperor I would be a Republican, meaning 
of course that if he were not an Autocrat, a sovereign per 
se he would be one of the sovereigns. He then said that it 
was a pleasant thing to converse with a man who had no 
fear of offending & no favor to ask or expect, but that he 
wished to change these relations with regard to me and 


18 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

would gladly see me enter his service either civil or mili- 
tary. Seeing me about to reply & reading hesitation in 
my looks he continued execute your project, see the Em- 
pire, acquire the language, study the people & when we 
meet again let me hear your determination; and so we 
parted. The prospect is a brilliant one but somehow I 
cannot reconcile it to my sense of duty to abandon my 

In March, 1807, Mr. Poinsett, accompanied by Lord Roy- 
ston, began his journey to the southeastern provinces of 
Russia. They were furnished by the government with 
every facility for travelling in safety through the wild 
regions on the borders of the Caspian and the Black Seas, 
being specially recommended to the care of the Russian 
commanders in that quarter. They reached Moscow after 
a journey of five days, suffering intensely from the cold, and 
travelling in a conveyance which Mr. Poinsett says, " rolled 
and pitched like a vessel in a choppy head sea," the motion 
at times making them quite sea-sick. At Moscow they saw 
what few Americans have ever seen, — that wonderful city 
in its strange Oriental aspect, before it was destroyed by fire 
after its conquest by the French in 1812. From Moscow 
they passed on eastwardly to the ancient Tartar city of 
Kasan, and thence down the Volga to Astrachan at its mouth. 
Here they entered upon the threshold of a world totally new 
and strange to a Western traveller. That portion of Russia 
which they proposed to visit had been recently annexed to 
the Empire, the eastern part, or that between the Caspian 
and the Caucasian Mountains, having been taken from the 
Persians by Peter the Great, while the western, that between 
those mountains and the Black Sea, known as Georgia, had 
been conquered from the Turks by the Empress Catherine. 
These districts were then occupied by Russian troops, and 
they were inhabited by wild and savage tribes of shepherds, 
who were still in a great measure ruled by their own khans, 
and retained many of their old habits and usages. They 
stood to Russia very nearly in the same relation which Rus- 
sia had once held to their forefathers, the Tartar tribes, who 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 19 

had overrun their territory, — that is, they were tributary 
states. The country which they occupied between the Cas- 
pian and the Black Seas formed the route which the larger 
portion of the original Aryan stock had taken in prehistoric 
times in their migration from Asia to Europe. Many traces 
of their most ancient manners, customs, and religions still 
remained. The population was a strange medley of races 
and tribes, retaining in many cases the various forms of 
religious worship which their fathers had brought with 
them from their original homes. There were collected in 
this out-of-the-way and comparatively small territory not 
only Russians, but Cossacks, Calmucks, Tartars, Hindoos, 
Persians, Greeks, and Armenians. Each race lived apart, 
and preserved some of its original distinctive peculiarities. 
The travellers visited, for instance, the Hindoo temple of 
Brahma at Astrachan. There they saw, what has often been 
observed by travellers in India, a form of worship and ritual 
resembling in some respects that of the Roman Catholic mass. 
Buddhists were also to be found among the Calmuck Tar- 
tars, and the worship of the Lamas. They were there shown 
the famous prayer-machine, consisting of a barrel, on which 
were pasted written prayers, which, when revolved with 
great rapidity in the face of the idols placed before it, 
prayed as much and as effectually, in the opinion of their 
priests, in one minute as could be done in the ordinary 
method in a whole day. Later on, near Baku, on the 
southern shore of the Caspian, the seat of the naphtha- or 
petroleum-wells, and now the centre of a vast trade in that 
article with all parts of Europe and Asia, they encountered 
the Guebres, or Fire- Worshippers, who were Persian pil- 
grims, who had travelled a long distance in order to perform 
their devotions in the " Land of Eternal Fire." 

At Astrachan the travellers began to wonder why an 
empire so autocratic as that of Russia permitted such a 
diversity of opinions and usages in matters of religion as 
prevailed there, and this wonder was increased as they 
penetrated farther into the country. They saw nothing 
which they were in the habit of regarding as distinctively 

20 The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 

Russian except the garrisons intended to preserve the peace 
and obedience of the country. At Astrachan they remained 
about three weeks, and, although the plague was raging in 
the town, and even in the quarantine grounds, their curi- 
osity to see all the strange and novel things to be found in 
the neighborhood was boundless, and they were not deterred 
by fear of infection from visiting them all. 

The Caucasian provinces to the south of Astrachan were 
inhabited by warlike pastoral tribes, still ruled by khans 
who were practically independent. The Russian authori- 
ties considered travelling through this region dangerous, 
especially where the travellers were two strangers, who 
claimed that their only motive for visiting the country was 
curiosity, — a motive which the natives could not, of course, 
appreciate. They were provided, therefore, with an escort 
of three hundred Cossacks. They were advised, it is said, 
by one of the khans whom they met at an early stage of 
their journey, to dismiss their escort, and to trust to Tartar 
hospitality for their safety and kind treatment. Fortunately 
for them, they did not follow his advice, as it proved that 
their guards were more to be trusted than some of the wild 
chieftains whom they met. They reached Derbend (Portal 
Caspian) in safety, and thence went on to Baku, then a dis- 
trict regarded with superstitious terror as the land of eternal 
fire, and now converted into a place whence a large portion 
of the civilized world draws its supplies of material for artifi- 
cial light. The travellers, of course, met with some curious 
adventures on their way, and of these Mr. Poinsett gives in 
one of his letters the following lively account : 

"... From the constant state of warfare in which this 
country has been involved the Peasantry invariably at our 
approach took to the woods, but after a little while finding 
that their houses were not burnt they returned, and the 
Mahamandar presented to the principal the firman for 
quarters and a supply of provisions, which generally pro- 
duced great murmurings and generally ended by the Maha- 
mandar beating them most unmercifully, this argumentum 
baculorum invariably produced a supper. Our quarters 
always consisted of either a scaffold erected on four poles 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 21 

on the roof of a house, the inside being uninhabitable. 
The houses of the Peasantry are built of clay or unburnt 
brick. We had proceeded thro' a well cultivated Country 
having a view of Caspian on one side and the great chain 
of Mount Caucasus on the other the summits covered with 
snow. On the third morning the alarm was given that a 
troop of horsemen were advancing towards us, we arranged 
our little troop and prepared to receive them. When they 
were within musquet shot the Principal of them advanced 
and said that he was chief of several villages near us and 
entreated us with much importunity to accompany him to 
the nearest and spend the remainder of the day. We con- 
sented, and he immediately dispatched a Courier to have 
every thing prepared for our reception. We spent the re- 
mainder of the day with him and he entertained us in the 
best manner the village afforded. In the morning when we 
wished to proceed we missed the horses of our Conductor 
and Persian Escort; fortunately our own and the Copahs 
were picketed under a guard. Our treacherous host had dis- 
appeared. Whilst we were deliberating what was to be done, 
he sent us a message to say that as we were travelling with- 
out the escort of his Khan he should not permit us to pro- 
ceed any farther, and if we attempted it by force he would 
raise the whole Country ; he appeared at the same time at 
the head of a body of horse. To attempt to proceed would 
have been folly, to retreat to Derbend near two days journey 
was equally impracticable. We therefore resolved to gain 
Kouba the residence of the Khan about thirty miles from 
the village. I accordingly ordered the Copahs to seize all the 
horses in the village and mounted the Persians in the best 
manner possible and we began our march, the Beg and his 
followers hovered about us for some time without daring to 
attack us. He at length advanced, and demanded a Parley. 
I met him with only our Interpreter. He asked where we 
intended to go. I told him very calmly to the Khan of 
Kouba to complain of his robbery and insolence. He said 
all he wished was that we should go to the Khan and that 
he would accompany us. When we were within five miles 
of Kouba he again rode up, and said that if we would say 
nothing of what had passed to the Khan he would return 
the horses. We told him that we would make no conditions 
with such a villain. He hesitated for some time but at 
length returned the horses and his troop dispersed. 

" Upon our arrival at Kouba we were conducted to the 
market Place into a large open Piazza where Carpets were 

22 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

spread for us and we were desired to repose until the Khan 
was prepared to receive us. The whole town of Kouba col- 
lected in the market place to see European travellers a sight 
most rare in Kouba. The officers of the Khan household 
were obliged to exercise their sticks to keep them from 
crowding into the Piazza. After waiting more than an 
hour in grand exhibition, the gentleman waited upon us to 
say that the Khan was ready to receive us. 

" The Khan was seated in a large Persian summer house 
an elevation of three stories without walls. On the third floor 
the Khan was seated surrounded by all his court. Without 
the circle his guard were stationed leaning upon their fusils 
reversed. The Khan made a sign to us to seat ourselves near 
him and welcomed us to Kouba. I immediately harangued 
him upon the occasion of our coming to the Court, detailed 
the whole conduct of the Beg and demanded to know 
whether it was by his orders that we had been treated in 
that infamous manner and ended by declaring that it would 
be an eternal stain to the bright reputation of Chjek-ali 
Khan that strangers had met with such outrages in the 
Khannate of Kouba. The astonishment of the whole court 
when this was interpreted to them is not to be described. 
The Khan disclaimed all knowledge of the transaction, ex- 
pressed great regret at our treatment, but begged that now 
we were at Kouba we would no longer think of the disagree- 
able Circumstances which had brought us there, but en- 
deavour to divert ourselves in the best manner possible. He 
then became very inquisitive asking questions dictated by 
the profoundest ignorance. We were obliged to give him a 
long geographical lecture which he made his secretary write. 
Upon being told that I was from America he asked me if 
the King of America was powerful among the Kings of 
Europe and if we joined the French Empire. After a long 
explanation he insisted upon knowing the name of our Shah 
and Thomas Jefferson is on record at the court of Chiek-ali 
Khan of Kouba as Shah of America. In the meantime the 
servants spread cotton Cloths round the room and placed 
before each guest a thin piece of bread near a yard long 
which served likewise the purpose of napkins for they eat 
with their fingers and grease their hands and heard most 
filthily. They next brought water to wash our hands, and 
placed before us different meats cut small, with rice. The 
Khan's Physician sat next to him and pointed out what he 
was to eat and served him with wine of which he drank 
plentifully, obliging us to pledge him each time observing 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 23 

that he was a strict observer of the laws of Mahomnied ex- 
cept in this one instance but he could not refrain from wine. 
Whenever any one drank ' Khan Saluna' or the health of the 
Khan re-echoed round the room ; When he drank himself 
it was a horrid tintamarre for this ceremony was repeated 
four times. Whilst we dined, some musicians and buffoons 
entered the room and the Physician came to inform me that 
one of them would play the devil for our diversion. The 
droll put on a fools' Cap with bells and began dancing and 
singing with such antic gestures as put the whole court into 
a roar of laughter. Then ensued a Contest between two 
musicians who inflating their cheeks produced such long 
shrill notes from an octave pipe as excited universal applause. 
Their music consisted of these pipes, a three stringed fiddle, 
two guitars a small drum and two tambours de basque. 
They have little idea of time and have no notes, whilst they 
played, the whole Court beat time or rather clapped their 
hands. During the contest between the pipers which should 
produce the longest and shrillest notes, several girls entered, 
elegantly dressed after the Persian manner, long large red 
pantaloons which cover even the instep, a close silk jacket, 
and over it a short robe open in front, their heads covered 
with a vail. They took their seats at the lower end of the 
room and uncovered their faces. They were generally hand- 
some & highly painted which is a general "custom in the 
east. As the Pipe was handed constantly round they smoked 
in their turn with great gout. They danced and sung alter- 
nately, their dancing resembled that of the Spanish women, 
very little motion of the feet, but much graceful action of 
the arms and body. Their singing was a horrid squalling 
in loud falsett voice. They hid their faces which was neces- 
sary for to produce those sounds. The contortions must have 
been great. The Khan who had drank much wine became 
very facetious, and amused himself with drumming time 
upon his physicians head, and hitting his prime minister 
great thumps on the back to the great diversion of the court. 
During these entertainments fresh dishes were constantly 
brought in, some in a singular manner, the roast always on a 
long stick, which the Ecuyer tranchant shoved off into our 
plates. As this entertainment had lasted from five till long 
after midnight we thought it time to withdraw and accorcE 
ingly took our leave retiring to our piazza, where we passed 
the remainder of the night. 

"In the morning we "performed our toilette before hun- 
dreds even in the market place. When we had breakfasted, 

2-4 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

one of the officers led before us two handsome horses which 
he presented in his masters name. We shortly after had 
our audience of leave in which the Khan was particularly 
solicitous that we should mention him in foreign countries, 
and was particularly gratified on being assured that wherever 
we went we would always speak of the magnificence of 
Chiek-Ali Khan. We left the town of Kouba which is for- 
tified with a single wall and delightfully situated in a vast 
valley, having a view of Mount Caucasus. As we had an 
escort from the Khan and his firman we continued our 
journey in perfect security. The Khannat of Kouba is the 
most beautiful and fertile country we had hitherto seen. 
We stopped the first night at a village where, as usual, the 
Inhabitants fled at our approach and upon their return were 
most unmercifully beaten. I assured these unfortunate 
people that I would pay them and made my interpreter 
offer them privately money, they refused however saying 
that should their Khan be apprized of their having received 
money from us they would be severely punished. Once in- 
deed an Armenian declared that there were no provisions 
in the village and upon my giving him money rode off with 
the declared intention of purchasing every thing necessary 
from the next village, but we saw no more of him and upon 
his comrades being beaten they produced our usual supper 
which consisted of a Pilau. The ensuing day we left the 
Khannat of Kouba and entered that of Baku a gloomy 
desert, bleak barren hills sloping to the Caspian scarcely 
covered with a blade of grass. 

" The Russian commander received us very politely and 
assigned us very good quarters, we were obliged to remain 
here several days to recruit our sick for the fatigue of riding 
on horseback and sleeping in the air had proved too much 
for two of our servants. 

" The harbor of Baku is formed by a deep bay and the 
entrance protected by two islands. It is the best and indeed 
may be said to be the only port in the Caspian. The navi- 
gation of this sea is rendered extremely dangerous by the 
want of ports, the numerous sand banks, and frequent oc- 
currence of gales of wind, which, altho' there is no tide, raise 
the sea to a great height, and occasions an overflow of the 
adjacent low lands. 

" General Gouvief accompanied us to view the sources of 
Naptha which are within 15 miles of Baku and constitute its 
chief branch of commerce. On our approach to the source, 
the earth for a considerable distance round was covered with 

The Life and Services of Joel E. Poinsett. 25 

a thin stratum of ]S T aptba. The large source is of some depth 
and the petroleum is brought up in skins and deposited 
in large reservoirs whence it is conveyed in skins to Sha- 
mackie and other parts of Persia. It is used universally by 
the Persians for their lamps, and especially in the manufac- 
tories of silk, the people imagining that it is the only li«-ht 
they can use without destroying the worm. There are some 
small villages near these works, the machinery is the same 
used by the Persians and is as bad as can be imao-ined 
I here are some smaller sources of white naptha near this 
but the grey or black naptha is the most abundant and the 
most productive." 

From Baku the travellers crossed the country to Tifflis, 
in Georgia. Thence they went to Armenia, and were pres- 
ent at the unsuccessful siege of Erivan by the Russians. As 
war was then waging between Russia and the Ottoman Porte 
they were, therefore, unable to reach Constantinople, but 
returned northward to Moscow and St. Petersburg, the first 
portion of the journey being through so sickly a country 
that out of the party of nine who had left Moscow together 
for their expedition only three returned alive. The health 
of Mr. Poinsett suffered so much during this journey that 
he was obliged to remain several months in St. Petersburg 
before he gained sufficient strength to travel to the waters 
of Toeplitz and Carlsbad. 

On his way thither he passed through Koenigsberg, where 
the Court of conquered and devastated Prussia, driven from 
Berlin by the French, then resided. He was presented to 
the King and to the celebrated Louisa, Queen of Prussia (the 
mother of the late Emperor of Germany), celebrated alike 
for her beauty and her misfortunes. It was then generally 
thought, and the story even now is commonly believed, that 
the Queen had been insulted by the Emperor Napoleon while 
interceding with him for mercy towards the luckless country 
whose armies he had destroyed. The statement that she had 
been insulted she positively denied, according to Mr. Poin- 
sett, and said that she had no other cause of complaint than 
that the Emperor refused to grant her prayer that he would 
spare her country. The King complained that thf- Emperor 

26 The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 

Alexander, who had urged him to embark in this unhappy 
war, had accepted from Napoleon a portion of the dismem- 
bered Prussian territory. 

At Toeplitz he met the Prince de Ligne, and Mr. Poinsett, 
true to his instinct which led him to search out all the prom- 
inent men of his time wherever he found them, was much 
interested and instructed by the view he gave him of public 
affairs at that critical period. The peculiarity of the Prince's 
position was this : while horror-stricken with the spread of 
revolutionary ideas, and the ascendency of the French arms 
in Europe, he was disgusted because Austria had not placed 
him in command of the armed force designed to combat 
them. No man in Europe had at that time a higher repu- 
tation for brilliant qualities and great services than he, but 
he had lost his influence at the Austrian Court on the death 
of Joseph II. 

In the spring of 1808, Mr. Poinsett having recovered his 
health, went through Germany to Paris. Never was that 
city more brilliant than at this time, and nowhere could be 
found a greater number of men who had gained European 
renown by their services in the great Continental wars. One 
of the most distinguished of the soldiers of Napoleon was 
Massena (Prince of Essling), who previous to the French 
Revolution had been an instructor in fencing of Mr. Joseph 
Allen Smith, who had given Mr. Poinsett a letter of intro- 
duction to him. He seems to have been very kind to Mr. 
Poinsett, and presented him to Clausel, afterwards Marshal 
of France, and to many other distinguished French soldiers. 
Mr. Poinsett tells a curious story illustrating the relations of 
Massena with Napoleon. In a private interview between 
them a gun was suddenly heard to explode in the imperial 
cabinet. The attendants rushed in, and found Massena 
bathed in blood, while the Emperor explained that the gun 
had been discharged by accident. The rumor spread, how- 
ever, that Napoleon, in a fit of passion, had tried to murder 
the Marshal. Mr. Poinsett paid a visit to Massena, who 
was confined to the house by his wound. He spoke of the 
rumor, and Massena told him it was well founded, that the 


The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 27 

discharge of the gun was not accidental, adding, " The 
cursed little fool could not even shoot straight, or he would 
have killed me." 

Mr. Poinsett was present (as he always seems to have 
been, with his extraordinary luck, on every important occa- 
sion) at the celebrated interview between Napoleon and 
Count Metternich, the Austrian Ambassador, at the Tuil- 
eries in 1808, when the French Emperor publicly threatened 
Austria that, if she continued to arm her subjects, he would 
crush her beyond the power of recovery, a threat which 
Napoleon supposed he had carried out when he dictated a 
second time peace in the Austrian capital and married an 
Austrian princess. 

While Mr. Poinsett was residing in Paris there occurred 
the memorable incident of the attack in time of profound 
peace by the British war-ship " Leopard" upon the Ameri- 
can frigate " Chesapeake," the " Leopard" firing a broad- 
side into the " Chesapeake," and compelling her to surren- 
der certain of her crew, who were claimed to be deserters 
from the English navy. Like most of his countrymen, Mr. 
Poinsett regarded war with England as the inevitable result 
of this deplorable outrage. He lost no time in hurrying 
home and offering his services to the government. He 
hoped to receive the appointment of quartermaster-general, 
that being the office for which he deemed himself best qual- 
ified. He failed, however, to secure the position, and indeed 
the immediate prospect of war was removed by the disavowal 
on the part of the English government of the act of the com- 
mander of the " Leopard" and the punishment of the admiral 
who had ordered it. 

President Madison, who had been very much impressed 
with the capacity of Mr. Poinsett, then invited him to go to 
South America on a secret and confidential mission. The 
provinces of Buenos Ayres on the east and that of Chili on 
the west side of the Andes had risen in revolt against the 
Spanish government, and had established provisional Juntas, 
who were for the time being the de facto rulers of the country. 
Mr. Poinsett's instructions were to ascertain how firm a foun- 

28 The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 

elation these new governments had, and if he found that their 
existence was likely to be permanent, he was to negotiate 
treaties of commerce with them. Mr. Poinsett was obliged 
to dissemble the object of his mission, as the English, who 
were numerous and powerful at Buenos Ayres, were very 
jealous of the interference of any other power seeking to 
share in the rich harvest which they hoped that they alone 
would gather when the Spanish restrictive colonial policy 
was abandoned. By skill and address, however, not unmin- 
^led with a certain amount of personal danger, Mr. Poinsett 
reached Buenos Ayres by way of Rio de Janeiro, and there, 
notwithstanding the violent opposition of the English mer- 
chants, he concluded a favorable commercial treaty with the 
revolutionary authorities. 

To complete his mission it was necessary for him to cross 
the Andes and negotiate a treaty with the authorities of 
Chili. This province was then governed by the popular 
Junta, while Peru was still under the authority of the 
Spanish Viceroy. The two provinces were engaged in war 
with each other, so that until the war ended it was impossi- 
ble to tell whether it would be practicable to conclude such 
a treaty as Mr. Poinsett was instructed to make. There 
seemed, indeed, little probability that hostilities would soon 
be brought to a close. Mr. Poinsett became irritated by the 
helpless inactivity which he was obliged to maintain. Fired 
by the example of Carera, the leader of the Chilian army, 
and yielding to his influence, he was induced by him to 
accept the command of a division of his army. He could, 
it is true, find nothing in his instructions as Charge" d' Affaires 
to justify such an act, but he never was idle or inactive when 
the interests of his country required him to confront per- 
sonal danger, and he did not hesitate to take the responsi- 
bility. Shortly after he had assumed command, he learned, 
through an intercepted letter to the Viceroy of Peru, that the 
commandant at Talcahuano, on the bay of Concepcion, had 
seized eleven American whalers which had touched there 
for supplies, and that the crews of these vessels would be 
sent to Callao as prisoners as soon as a " set of irons could 


The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 29 

be completed for the purpose of securing the men." He 
immediately put his army in motion for Talcahuano and 
completely surprised the Peruvian detachment in charge of 
the vessels. He then posted his artillery in a commanding 
position and demanded its unconditional surrender to the 
Junta of Chili. His demand was at once complied with, 
the Peruvian commander who " was completing the irons" 
was made prisoner and the vessels were released. It is not 
easy, of course, to describe the surprise and gratification of 
the American captains when they found that their liberator 
was one of their own countrymen, exercising his functions 
as Charge d' Affaires in this novel and efficient way. 

While Mr. Poinsett was in Chili he was a spectator of 
one of the most memorable combats in our naval history, and 
indeed almost one of the participants in it. Captain David 
Porter was in the neutral port of Callao with the " Essex," 
considering himself in such a place out of all danger of attack 
from two English vessels, the "Phebe" and the "Cherub," 
that lay close beside him. Captain Porter had made a most 
successful cruise in the " Essex," destroying almost wholly 
the English whaling fleet In the Pacific. He was about to 
sail for home with Mr. Poinsett as one of his passengers, 
trusting to the speed of his vessel to outstrip the two ships 
of his enemy. Unfortunately for him a gale occurred, which 
injured some of his rigging, just as he was off the port. 
He was about putting back for repairs when he was attacked 
by both English ships, and a battle ensued which, whether 
we consider the disparity of the forces engaged or the con- 
spicuous gallantry with which the "Essex" was defended in 
a hopeless contest of more than three hours, is hardly paral- 
leled in naval history. The battle was fought within the 
range of a fort on the Chilian shore, and Mr. Poinsett was 
sent to beg the commander to fire on the English, who were 
violating the neutrality of his country. BuUhe fear of the 
consequences kept the Chilian officer quiet. The prisoners 
taken in the " Essex," including Captain Porter, were sent 
home by the English in a cartel, but permission for Mr. 
Poinsett to embark with them was positively refused, Cap- 


30 The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 

tain Hilyar giving as a reason what, under the circum- 
stances, was a high compliment to Mr. Poinsett, declaring 
" that he would not suffer the arch-enemy of England to 
return to America while the two countries were at war." 

Mr. Poinsett, nothing daunted, however, recrossed the 
Andes while they were covered with snow, reached Buenos 
Ayres in safety, and passing down the Rio de la Plata in a 
Portuguese vessel, and running the British blockade of the 
river, was at last safely landed in the island of Madeira. 
He soon made his way to the United States, but he found 
that peace had then been made with England, so that there 
was no longer any hope of his distinguishing himself, as he 
had always longed to do, in the military service of his country. 

On his return home he did not seek, as he well might 
have done, repose after all the exciting adventures through 
which he had passed. His active and enterprising spirit 
found a large field for the development of its energy in pro- 
jects for improving the condition of his native State, by the 
construction of good roads and water-courses between its 
widely-separated parts. He was appointed Chairman of the 
Board of Public Works, made many suggestions in regard 
to the internal improvements of the State, and superin- 
tended the construction of at least one road which in its 
day was regarded as a model for a work of that kind, — the 
turnpike through Saluda Gap. 

In 1821, Mr. Poinsett was elected a member of Congress 
from the Charleston district. He took a prominent part in 
many public measures of great importance, but his influ- 
ence was perhaps strongest on the question of recognizing 
the new republics of South America, concerning which his 
opinion, based upon personal experience, was singularly 
potent. He opposed the project of sending a commissioner 
to Greece until that country was at least de facto independent, 
in a speech of great statesmanlike force, not because he was 
without sympathy for the sufferings which the Greeks en- 
dured at the hands of the Turks, but because he regarded 
the measure as one likely to serve as a precedent for in- 
volving us in the complications of European politics. 

The Life and Services of Joel JR. Poinsett. 31 

In the year 1822 the question of the recognition of the 
independence of Mexico by our Government became a prac- 
tical one. From the year 1811, when the revolt of the 
Mexicans against the Spanish Crown began, a number of 
governments which, judging by their short duration, can be 
regarded only as revolutionary, had ruled that portion of the 
country from which the Spanish army had been driven. 
The insurgents who formed these governments had been at 
last subdued by the Spanish forces, but in the year 1821 
a new and formidable movement took place to establish 
the independence of Mexico under Don Augustin Iturbide, 
who had been an officer in the royal army. In 1822, 
Iturbide, in the face of much opposition, was proclaimed 
Emperor, and the question for our Government was to 
determine whether, in view of all the revolutionary dis- 
turbances which had preceded his accession, he was so sup- 
ported by public opinion that he would be able to establish 
a permanent government in Mexico and thus entitle him to 
a recognition on our part as the de facto ruler of the country. 
The President (Mr. Monroe) selected Mr. Poinsett for the 
delicate and responsible duty of ascertaining the true state 
of affairs. His mission to Mexico was secret and confiden- 
tial, and he went there in 1822. He travelled through 
many districts of Mexico, mingled with all sorts and con- 
ditions of people and with men of every party. The result 
of his observations, so far as he thought proper to make 
it public, appeared in a book called " Notes on Mexico," 
which he published shortly after his return. It contained 
the best and indeed the only trustworthy account of Mexico 
which had appeared in the English language up to that time. 
His familiarity with the Spanish language and his long ac- 
quaintance with public men both in the Old "World and the 
New, as well as his experience with people who " get up" 
revolutions in both hemispheres, gave to the judgment which 
he at last arrived at great weight. He came to the conclu- 
sion that Iturbide was not firmly seated on his throne, and 
therefore that it would not be wise for us to recognize him. 
He had hardly returned to this country when news reached 

32 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

here that the Emperor had been deposed by a new revolution. 
It may be added that Iturbide was exiled, but that hoping 
again to regain power he returned to Mexico, and having 
been taken prisoner was at once shot. It is perhaps worthy 
of remark that to the Mexicans of the present day Iturbide, 
although he was shot as a traitor, is nevertheless a national 
hero. At present the highest places in the Mexican Valhalla 
are appropriated to those who although Spaniards were them- 
selves in life conspicuous for their hostility to the injustice and 
cruelty of the Spanish domination. Thus in the new Paseo 
of the City of Mexico colossal statues commemorate four men 
whose title to fame rests in the eyes of the Mexicans on this 
basis. These statues are those of Columbus, victim of the 
ingratitude of Spain; Hidalgo, who headed the first out- 
break against her authority; Morelos, who continued the 
revolution ; and Iturbide, who although once a royal officer 
and in the end executed as a traitor to the republic is still a 
popular hero because he died an enemy to the Spaniards. 

On the return of Mr. Poinsett from Mexico in 1823 he 
became a candidate for re-election to Congress. The excite- 
ment concerning the tariff was just beginning, and the 
measures which it would be proper for South Carolina to 
take in case the Government should not change its policy 
on this subject were being discussed, and it was proposed 
by some of his constituents that he should pledge himself 
before the election as to the course he would pursue as a 
member of Congress. To his honor be it said, and as an 
example to us in these days of political degeneracy, that he 
promptly and decidedly refused to make any such pledge or 
declaration. He told those who asked him to make such a 
promise that his past public career was the best pledge he 
could give for his future course, and his constituents were 
wise enough to re-elect him by a large majority. 

In 1824, Mr. Poinsett was an ardent advocate of the elec- 
tion of General Jackson to the Presidency. As there was 
no choice by the people, the contest was transferred to the 
House of Representatives, when Mr. John Quincy Adams 
was chosen. On the day after Mr. Adams's inauguration 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 33 

he offered the post of Minister Plenipotentiary to Mexico to 
Mr. Poinsett. Two things are to be specially noted in this 
offer, — first, the purity of the public service at that time, 
which permitted the appointment of a political opponent to 
one of the most important offices in the gift of the Presi- 
dent; and, second, the high opinion entertained by Mr. 
Adams of Mr. Poinsett's qualifications, and certainly no one 
had had more abundant opportunities than he of testing his 
special gifts as a diplomatist, as he had been Secretary of 
State during Mr. Poinsett's former mission to Mexico. 

Mr. Poinsett's course while he represented this country 
in Mexico has been much criticised, and certainly the dis- 
tracted condition of the republic while he resided there 
was such that no active policy he could have pursued, never 
mind what, would have escaped the violent censure of some 
of the partisans who were struggling to secure power and 
office. When he reached Mexico he found the public mind 
in a highly-excited condition. Although the country was 
nominally a republic, he soon discovered that the real power 
was in the hands of the aristocracy, who, supported by the 
clergy and the army, strove to keep the ignorant populace 
under their despotic sway. One of the peculiarities of the 
Mexican revolt against Spain up to that period had been the 
maintenance of the privileges and the riches of the Roman 
Catholic clergy without any diminution whatever, for a 
fanatical devotion to their religion has always been a 
striking characteristic of the mass of the Mexicans. Many 
of the revolutionary disturbances were led by priests, and 
all of them were more or less under their control. What- 
ever else the revolutionists changed, or desired to change, 
the Church with its power and wealth was left unharmed 
and untouched like the Ark in the wilderness : it was to all 
sacred. The Church retained through all these convulsions 
property which is said to have amounted in 1857 (when it 
was confiscated) to the enormous sum of three hundred mil- 
lions of dollars, and of course the clergy from their posi- 
tion and organization with these means at their disposal 
became the most powerful body in the country. By the 


34 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

time Mr. Poinsett arrived in Mexico the higher clergy had 
become tired of the revolutions which were incessantly dis- 
turbing their peace and threatening their security. They 
had become conservative, and eagerly allied themselves with 
those who sought to establish a stable government, The 
other conservative class was the large landholders, proprie- 
tors of vast haciendas, sometimes many square miles in ex- 
tent, where they lived in a semi-independent state, defying 
any government which they did not choose to recognize, 
and, in short, enjoying the influence and possessing substan- 
tially the power of feudal lords. Indeed, so rooted is this 
system of holding land in the habits and ideas of the people 
of Mexico that to this day it remains almost wholly un- 
changed. The Church has been despoiled of its riches and 
privileges until now it is the poorest Catholic Church in 
Christendom ; the country for a number of years has been 
without serious revolutionary disturbances ; modern civiliza- 
tion in our sense has penetrated beyond the frontier; and 
yet this system of dividing the country among a few owners 
of large haciendas continues unchanged, and the proprietors 
exercise almost as much authority and influence now as they 
did in the palmy days of the Spanish viceroy alty. These 
two conservative bodies acting together had the entire con- 
trol of the army in the support of their pretensions, while 
the genuine republican party, as we should deem it, was 
made up of a few enlightened men, many adventurers, and 
the mass of the populace in the large towns. 

Mr. Poinsett thus found the Church and the State banded 
together in possession of the power on the one side, and on 
the other the discontented but true republicans, watching 
every opportunity and willing to risk even a revolution 
(which, of course, in all Spanish-American countries is an 
event far less grave than it would be with us) in order to 
snatch that power from them. 

On his arrival the leaders of the opposition crowded 
around him seeking information and advice. It was natural 
that they should have done so, for to whom would they be 
likely to turn more readily than to the representative of 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 35 

that great republic which had successfully surmounted 
those obstacles which appeared so formidable to those who 
were trying to establish in Mexico a system similar to that 
which had been adopted here ? Mr. Poinsett gave the in- 
formation, but declined to give the advice, as inconsistent 
with his duties as Minister. He could not, of course, help 
feeling that they, and not the party in power, were the true 
republicans according to the standard which prevailed in any 
of the countries in which he had passed his life. He had 
probably, too, a certain sympathy with them, for, like every 
true American of that day, he ardently desired the spread 
of republicanism everywhere, and especially upon the Con- 
tinent of America, but he never forgot that he was not 
accredited to them, and that his business in the country 
was with the established Government and not with the 
opposition. He did no act which compromised his position, 
still his sympathy no doubt encouraged the discontented, 
and certainly did not aid him in negotiating the treaty 
which he was sent to Mexico to make. His position be- 
came a very difficult and embarrassing one, and many of 
the Government party became very hostile to him. 

Meanwhile, the disaffected became more and more clam- 
orous, and at last, in consequence of the armed resistance 
of the Government to the installation of Guerrero, whom its 
opponents claimed to have elected President, they broke 
out into open rebellion. With this revolt is connected an 
episode in Mr. Poinsett's career as Minister in Mexico 
which, as illustrating his cool courage and his chivalric 
nature, as well as the prestige of the American name and 
flag in foreign countries, is well worth repeating, although 
it is doubtless familiar to many. The revolutionists had de- 
termined to attack the National Palace, which is at one end 
of the principal street (that of San Francisco), while the 
Alameda, the public park, bounds the other. Having seized 
the Alameda, the barracks, and the artillery, the mob ad- 
vanced along this street towards the Palace. The houses 
on each side were filled with Government troops, and many 
of them were known to belong to families of Spaniards, or 

36 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

of persons supposed to be friendly to the Government. 
These houses were regularly besieged by the insurgents, and 
many of them were taken and destroyed. Mr. Poinsett's 
house was in this street, and while the conflict was raging, 
Madame Yturrigaray, the widow of a former Spanish Vice- 
roy, who was his neighbor, with some of her friends, all 
Spaniards, sought the refuge and protection of the American 
Embassy. The insurgents advanced to attack the house, 
which they do not seem to have known to be that of the 
American Minister, maddened by the story that was told 
them that its proprietor had sheltered the hated Spaniards. 
They attacked the gates which enclosed the court-yard and 
clamored for the blood of their enemies. A musket-ball 
which came through the window lodged in Mr. Poinsett's 
cloak. At this moment Mr. Poinsett, accompanied by his 
Secretary of Legation, Mr. John Mason, Jr., took the Ameri- 
can flag, and, advancing with it in his hand to the balcony 
of his house, displayed it for the first time before the eyes 
of the thousands who were thirsting for his blood because he 
had baulked their vengeance. He told them who he was, and 
what nation that flag represented. Either because they rec- 
ognized in that flag the emblem of the American power, or 
because some among them knew Mr. Poinsett as a diplo- 
matist who had always been a friend of their leaders, they 
at once ceased their hostile attitude. The display of that 
flag by its courageous upholder in the streets of the City 
of Mexico changed at once the threatening temper of that 
wild mob, and soon after it dispersed. 

Mr. Poinsett's affiliation with the Freemasons in Mexico 
proved a constant source of embarrassment to the success 
of his mission in that country. It seems that he had been 
long a member of the Masonic order here, and on his arrival 
in the City of Mexico he was welcomed as a visitor to the 
lodges with that cosmopolitan spirit of fraternity which is 
characteristic of the Masonic body everywhere. The Mexi- 
can Masons belonged to the " Scotch rite," while it seems 
that in the hierarchy of Masonry the " York rite" holds a 
higher rank. Mr. Poinsett explained this difference to his 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 37 

associates, and told them, with that spirit of courtesy which 
never failed him, that if it was agreeable to them he would 
apply to the Masonic authorities in this country for a charter 
to establish lodges in Mexico who should work accordiug 
to the " York rite." The charter was granted and the 
lodges duly organized under it. But, unfortunately, the 
persons elected as members of the new lodges were nearly 
all democrats, and opposed to the party in power. The old 
lodges and the new soon formed two political camps, and 
such was the bitterness and intensity of feeling at that time, 
that they were looked upon by public opinion rather as 
party organizations than as fraternal associations. Mr. 
Poinsett's well-meant efforts to extend the Masonic rule in 
Mexico was regarded by his enemies as an underhanded 
effort on his part to give aid and encouragement to the dis- 
affected. "When he found that he was being forced into the 
position of a partisan leader through his connection with 
this miserable squabble, he withdrew himself from all com- 
munication with both bodies. But the mischief was done, 
and his influence with the Government from that time was 
very much lessened. 

Mr. Poinsett negotiated a boundary treaty with the Mexi- 
can Government and also a treaty of commerce, which was 
not ratified because it contained a stipulation " that all per- 
sons bound to labor taking refuge in Mexico should be 
given up to their legal claimants." This is a noteworthy 
event in the history of republicanism on this continent, for 
it shows that the Mexicans even at that early date were at 
least so far advanced in their political education that they 
were unwilling to enact a fugitive-slave law even to oblige 
the United States. It should be added, however, in order 
to show how little public opinion at that time in other parts 
of the world supported the pretension " that a slave could 
not exist on Mexican soil," that Mr. Ward, the British Min- 
ister, concluded about the same time with the Mexican 
Government a treaty of commerce similar to ours, omitting 
the stipulation in regard to fugitive slaves. When this 
treaty was submitted to Mr. Canning, then the English 

38 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

Foreign Secretary, he sent it back to Mexico, refusing to 
ratify it until the Mexicans would agree to surrender not 
only fugitive slaves but also apprentices from the West In- 
dies and deserters from the English army and navy. 

The annoyances and vexations which Mr. Poinsett suf- 
fered in Mexico did not make him unmindful of the interest 
felt by people here in the wonderful curiosities, natural and 
archaeological, to be found in that country. He learned 
how to propagate olive-trees, and sent many cuttings to be 
planted in his own garden in South Carolina. He intro- 
duced into this country that well-known and truly splendid 
flower now called Poinsettia, of the order of PJuphorbiacece. 
He sent to the American Philosophical Society in Philadel- 
phia the original manuscript and the drawings from which 
Captain du Paix had copied the materials for his magnifi- 
cent work on the antiquities of Mexico, published in Paris 
in 1834. For a long time the ruins depicted in this work 
were regarded by the learned as antediluvian, an opinion 
which, by the way, has since been wholly disproved by Mr. 
John L. Stephens and other observers. 


Mr. Poinsett asked for his recall in 1829, and his request 
was granted without difficulty. He reached this country at 
a very critical period, the era of the nullification excitement, 
and he prepared to take an active part in the controversy 
as the champion of the Union party of his State. On his 
arrival in Charleston he was received and welcomed by his 
friends without distinction of party as a man who had done 
honor to his native State. On inquiry he found that while 
a large proportion of the inhabitants both in the city and 
the State were dissatisfied with the duties levied by the tariff 
of 1828, they wholly disapproved of the violent measures 
proposed by the JSTullifiers in order to resist their payment, 
but many of the leading men on the Union side seemed to 
doubt whether it was possible to stay the torrent which was 
sweeping the people of the State into an attitude of defiance 
against the General Government. Mr. Poinsett, however, 
was hopeful, and he tried to inspire hope in others. He sue- 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 39 

ceeded so well that at the next election (in 1830), which was 
conducted by both sides with great energy, the Union party 
in the State was successful, electing a majority of the mem- 
bers of the Legislature. His associates in this conflict bear 
names identified with the history of Carolina as among the 
most distinguished of her citizens,— Colonel William Dray- 
ton, Judge Huger, James L. Petigru, Thomas S. Grimke, 
the Richardsons of Sumter, Judge David Johnson, Judge 
O'Neal, the Pringles, and a host of others. Mr. Poinsett 
was elected Senator from the Charleston district. In Co- 
lumbia he met face to face with his late violent opponents, 
and although he and his friends maintained such pro- 
nounced opinions in favor of the Union, such was the 
character and bearing of the leading men on both sides, that 
the wide difference of sentiment between them led to no 
unseemly want of courtesy or even of cordiality in their 
personal intercourse. 

The position taken by the Nullifiers in their controversy 
with the United States Government at the beginning, and 
consistently maintained by them to its close, was simply this : 
" That any one State may not only declare an act of Con- 
gress void, but prohibit its execution ; that they may do this 
consistently with the Constitution ; that the true construction 
of that instrument permits a State to retain its place in the 
Union, and yet be bound by no other of its laws than those 
it may choose to consider as constitutional." It is to be re- 
membered that Mr. Calhoun and his friends whom he had 
convinced by his metaphysical subtleties always insisted 
that the doctrine of nullification was remedial only and not 
revolutionary, and that it was a reserved right (resembling 
the tribunitian power in Rome) on the part of each State, to 
be employed in the last resort to force the others to do it 
justice. Against such a colossal heresy, as Mr. Madison 
called it, the Union party, headed by Mr. Poinsett and his 
friends, protested with extraordinary vigor for more than 
three years, and they became, amidst many discouragements 
and much personal danger, the warm supporters of the Gen- 
eral Government in its efforts to maintain its authority in 

40 The Life and Seimces of Joel R. Poinsett. 

South Carolina as it did everywhere else throughout the 
country. It should not be forgotten, too, that the Union 
party was quite as much opposed to the provisions of the 
tariff of 1828 as their opponents, but they looked for a 
remedy to the methods prescribed by the Constitution of 
the United States itself, and not to the annulling of a federal 
law by the alleged sovereign power of one of the States. 

The following: sketch of the events of the " Nullification 
Era" in South Carolina, as it is called, written by Dr. Joseph 
Johnson, a friend of Mr. Poinsett and an eye-witness of 
most of the proceedings, seems so clear, accurate, and com- 
plete, and explains so fully Mr. Poinsett's connection with 
the movement, that we cannot do better than to present the 
life-like picture which he has drawn to the reader : 

" The foreign Enemies of our Commerce were hostile to 
our manufacturing establishments, & tried to crush them by 
various means. One of their plans was to deluge the 
United States with the coarse fabricks of their establish- 
ments. Protective Duties were imposed on all such impor- 
tations. In some cases they were so heavy, as to exclude 
such articles altogether, & thus produced an effect on Com- 
merce unlooked for & not intended. The freights of vessels 
returning from India & China were much reduced by the 
exclusion of these bulky articles, & their Profits diminished. 
The Southern States who were but slightly engaged in either 
Commerce or Manufactures, had liberally voted taxes for the 
encouragement of both, as national concerns. Their being 
willing to sacrifice so much for the public good, roused the 
manufacturers to impose much heavier Duties on most of 
the Articles of which the South was the chief Consumer. 
Many of those Articles were made to pay 40 ^ r C* on their 
first Cost, & the Southern Orators in their declamatory ad- 
dresses inflamed the minds of their hearers by asserting that 
this was taking from them $40 out of every $100 which they 
earnd by their daily labour. M r M c Dufiie insisted that the 
Genr 1 Govern* imposed on the South these unequal and un- 
just Taxes to oppress them, & by these imposts took from 
every Cotton Planter, forty Bales of every hundred that he 
could send to market. This was called M°Dufiie's forty 
Bale Theory, & many believed it. In vain was it explained 
to them by the Union Party, that this was an exaggerated 

The Life mid Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 41 

ZZ^In v^n grieV rf Wh J Ch n ° ° ne in the South ap- 
?™I ^ *S WaS ? Sh0Wed t0 them > *at if this were 

true they would now be obliged to pay from one third to 
one half more for their blankets Clothing, Salt, Su'ar Tea 
& coffee than they had always been a C & eustomed°to' pay 
They all used they all bought, they all knew the former 
cost of such things, & could readily say whether theyTow 
paid more for them m any thing like that proportion stated 
bv Ca houn M'Duffie, Hamilton, Hayne, Turnbu & others 
of their public men. That as to the inequality of the Im 
post, it was not possible to impose any Tax that mio-ht not 
bear unequally on some State or State's, according Sits or 
their peculiar habits or fashions. That every a?t of Con 
gress extended alike oyer every State in thTlJi on & all 
had equal rights to establish the Manufactories favored by 
these imposts. That they were not imposed to favor any 
Cr, ° f ou f r / OI ? m0 ?T Country, but to protect all the JJ. 
States against foreign Nations, & prevent them from crush 
mg our infant establishments by their overwhelminTcaS 
their greater practical skill & experience, & the fmproved 
cons ruction of their machinery/ That the South had an 

in "tead'ff / ltb , the \ 0rth t° pr ° fit * these regulations, & 
nstead of disputing about them with the North! to go & do 

likewise to establish similar manufactories, and avail tW 
selves of their black population-the cheaper description 
of operators. The public mind became more & more ex- 
cited against these heavy imposts, which unquesti ? onabfy 
bore unequally on the South, as they were not manufaX 
turersof the protected articles; & at the ensuiDg election 
tt l^Zlo^^ * maj ° ritieS in b0th biSndffrf 
" In 1828 at the Annual Meeting of the Legislature <i 
r; ra a PP oi ^/ to consider & r°eport on Gov° erno ?Tay 

IdoDted "t^^^^ 6 ^ 11 ? t0 the Tariffi A resolutio » wi 
stitution.lHvl 1S ex P edieut t0 P rote «t against the uncon- 
stitutionality & oppressive operation of the System of nro- 

of the g Se^ e :'o & f ^W? ^fS r ° teSt entered °° the Journals 
JJr T v at ? ° f the United States - Also t0 make a public 
exposition of our wrongs & of the remedies within our 
power & to communicate them to our Sister States with a 

.TXWr^ 16 ^ this state in p^^rinS 

a repeal of the Tariff for protection, & an abandonment of 
the Principle, & if the repeal be not procured, that they will 

theTv'r m SU mea8Ure8 aS ma ? hQ Gece sar ^ *™ 

42 The Life and Services of Joel E. Poinsett. 

" This select Coin* 86 consisted of James Gregg, D. L. Ward- 
law, Hugh S. Legare, Arthur P. Hayne, W m C. Preston, Will m 
Elliott, & R' Barnwell Smith. They reported an Exposition 
& Protest which was adopted on the 19 th of Dec r 1828, or- 
dered to be printed & appeared in Pamphlet form early in 
1829. These Pamphlets were diffused far and wide, read 
by most people of reflection, & commented on in all the 
public journals, variously according to the various opinions 
of their editors or Patrons. The Report admitted that a 
Tariff on Imports may be so arranged as to encourage man- 
ufactures incidentally, by imposing duties for Revenue, on 
articles now manufactured within the U. States : but asserted 
that the Tariff of 1828 was not so arranged ; that it was un- 
equal and oppressive on the South & S° Western parts of 
the Union, and was not necessary for Revenue, but declared 
to be for the promotion of manufactures. That the Protec- 
tive System is therefore unjust, Oppressive, & unconstitu- 
tional ; imposing such Duties on Commerce & Agriculture, 
for the avowed purpose of promoting manufactures : & im- 
posing them on the South to favor the interests of the 
North. That it was unconstitutional, as it was not imposed 
for the purpose of raising a Revenue, & ought to be resisted. 
That each State in the Union is a Sovereignty, & has as 
such a perfect right to judge for itself the violations of its 
Rights, & a perfect right to determine the mode & measure 
of its resistance. That in the present case Nullification is 
the rightful Remedy, & if properly carried out, is sufficient 
to protect South Carolina from the unconstitutional pro- 
ceedings of Congress. 'They therefore solemnly protest 
against the System of protecting Duties, lately adopted b> 
the Federal Government.' 

" No further measure was taken, at this session of the 
Legislature, but the subject continued to agitate the public 
mind, & the discussion was kept up with zeal & animation 
on both sides. The Union men urged that whatever may 
be the weight or inequality of the Tariff, they felt it in an 
equal degree with their fellow Citizens of the other party. 
That they too had endeavored to prevent it from being im- 
posed to the present extent, but now that it was imposed, 
resistance by force or unconstitutional measures, would only 
make things worse, & perpetuate the evils of which they 
complained. That in 1816 M r Calhoun & other influential 
Southerners, with the best of motives, had brought forward 
this System, & imposed prohibitory Duties on Coarse Cotton 
Fabrics, usually imported from India, by which the Shipping 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 43 

Interests of the North had suffered heavily. That although 
they complained, they did not resist an Act of Congress, 
imposed for the protection of manufactures of that descrip- 
tion. Some of them withdrew a portion of their Capital 
from Commerce & united in extending manufacturing estab- 
lishments of various descriptions. They now find that these 
new & finer fabrics require protection in proportion with the 
first & coarser kinds. 

" In these great changes the North did not all concur ; 
they who had first adventured, feared that they would be 
sufferers by the great competition in their own markets, & 
the value of their Stock on hand be depressed. A meeting 
of Merchants & Manufacturers in Boston was held in Nov* 
1827. They showed how much they were opposed, and on 
what strong grounds to such sudden & such great Changes ; 
such interference by Congress in the Concerns of Trade & 
manufactures. The Union men concurred in the impolicy of 
such measures as were pursued, but as to their being uncon- 
stitutional, there were strong grounds for a different opinion. 
That in the Administration of Gen 1 "Washington in a Con- 
gress mostly composed of those who had been members of 
the Convention, in which that Constitution had been 
framed, discussed & adopted; the second Act of that Con- 
gress, had the following Preamble ' "Whereas it is necessary 
for the support of Government, for the discharge of the 
Debts of the U. States, & for the protection & encourage- 
ment of Manufactures, that Duties be laid on Goods, "Wares 
& Merchandise be it therefore enacted.' This Act was sanc- 
tioned & signed by President Washington & its principles 
adopted. Although the Federal Party lost their influence 
at the close of M r J. Adams' Administration, this doctrine 
of Protection to Manufactures continued among the Demo- 
crats who succeeded his Administration, & was advocated by 
Jefferson, Madison & Monroe. 

" Gov r Miller's term as Governor of S° C a passed off with 
some increase in the proportion of Nullification Representa- 
tives & in his declaration of ' the Right to Fight.' The oth r " 
Southern States appealed to in the exposition of S° Carolii 
would not countenance or unite with them in Nullificatio 
doctrines. It was demonstrated that such Duties were paid 
by the Consumers of the Articles thus taxed, and by each 
portion of the Union in proportion to the population of such 
Consumers in that portion. That the Northern portions 
were much more populous than the South, & the adjoining 
States to S° C a much more populous than herself, therefore 

44 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

greater consumers in proportion & that they would not unite 
in her Crusade. They considered S° Ca B too sensitive of her 
grievances, and trusted that these however oppressive and 
offensive could be & would be remedied by constitutional 
measures much better than by force. That as to the Perfect 
Sovereignty of the State— this existed previous to the adop- 
tion of "the Federal Constitution, but a part of it was then 
o-iven up by each State to the Federal Government, to obtain 
their Guarantee of all their other public & private Rights. 
Under that Constitution all the States yielded their Sov- 
ei«m Rights to inlist Troops, to declare & carry on War ; to 
make Peace; to negotiate Treaties with foreign nations; to 
regulate Commerce ; to coin Money; to issue Bills of Credit; 
to°establish a Federal Court ; & to impose Duties & Taxes 
on Goods, Wares & Merchandise. The obligations thus 
assumed by the Federal Government on the grant of these 
powers, embraced yet another viz that all the States should 
possess' equal rights and privileges; and this carried with it 
an Obligation to prevent any State from assuming Rights & 
Privileges not enjoyed by all or any of the Rest. That the 
Federal Gov* was thus bound to prevent S° Car' from enjoy- 
ing her assumption of Rights, under the Nullification Acts 
& Ordinance. 

" James Hamilton J r was elected Governor m Dec r 1830. 
The so called American System continued in its strength, 
notwithstanding these statements & remonstrances, & on 
the 14 th of July 1832 an Act was passed called an Amend- 
ment of the Tariff. It indeed altered some of the Imposts 
by increasing those on articles consumed in the South, & 
reduced those only that were mostly used in the North. It 
was still more oppressive on the South & rendered the dis- 
satisfied desperate. In Octob r Gov 1 Hamilton issued a Proc- 
lamation convening an Extra Session of the Legislature of 
S° C\ They met accordingly on the 22 d Octob 1 1832 & the 
Governors message was delivered on the same day. In it 
he says, ' The Tariff Act of 1832 is in point of Fact a Law 
by which the consumption of the manufacturing States is 
nearly relieved of all burdens on those Articles which they 
consume & do not produce, & under the provisions of which 
they are secured in a bounty, on an average of more than fifty 
*§ r C fc on the productions of their Industry, whilst it taxes 
our consumption to an equivalent amount, & the exchange- 
able value of our products in a much more aggravated 
ratio.' 'Articles of Luxury are selected as the Objects of 
comparative exemption from all burden, whilst those of 

The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 45 

PrS 88it J w r ? ear X the w £ ole brunt of the Imposts. Iron, 
Cotton & Woolen fabrics, Salt & Sugar are burthened with 
a lax quite equivalent to an average of seventy five «' C< 
on the first Cost; whilst the Teas, the Coffees, the Silks & 

n h!!Z th ? RlCh ' ^7 a m ? St Un J USt ^crimination 
m then favor Levying at least three fourths of the whole 

SET* °«A he > Fe i eml RevenUe on the industl T of the 
Southern States.' He concludes by recommending the im- 
mediate call of a Convention, <as it was in every respect 
desirable that our issue with the General Government 
should be made before the meeting of Congress ' ' 

tJi«wT+ aC + t wa J accordingly passed, ordering an election of 
Delegates to a State Convention. < The number of Delegates 
from each election District, to be the same as the prfsent 
united^ Re P resentatives and Senators in the Legislature 
"The ratification of the Convention Bill was followed 

?iwtr\ * ft % d ^Y g f ° f Cannon and Music from 
Doodle ' ( ^ Pr ° P0 ^ Stmck up ' Yankee 

" The Union Party in S° Car 8 very properly considered this 
Convention of the State a Critical movement, pregnant with 
dangerous consequences. They therefore also called a con- 
vention of the Union Party to be held at the same time & 
place. m The Members of the two Conventions met accord- 
ingly in their separate Places; they eyed each other with 
suspicion at meeting in the Street, bowed coolly but politely 
& were evidently on the watch if either should commit itself 
by intemperate or illegal acts. The Union Members of the 
tetate Convention offered objections to the legality of its 
constitution— the members having been elected as if for 
laxation representing Property & persons not as Delegates 
IrT a u ? e °P le m a Primary Assembly. But this & all other 
difficulties were promptly overruled by the opposite Party, 
who followed their leaders. An Ordinance was ^accordingly 
ratified ' for Arresting the operation of certain Acts of the 
Congress of the U. States, purporting to be laws laying; 
duties & imposts on the importation of Foreign Commodi- 
ties. ±0 this Ordinance was attached an address to the 
people of S° Car* said to have been written by Rob' L Turn- 
b. rriS <* Jf other to the people of the U. States written 
by Gen. M'Dufhe & prefixed to the whole was an exposition 

1 it 

'In this he announces 'We have resolved that until these abuses 
shall be reformed,' no more Taxes shall be paid here." 

46 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

or Introduction written by Gen 1 R' Y. Hayne. The Ordi- 
nance itself is said to have been drawn up by Judge W m 
Harper. It was signed by Gov r Hamilton & by all the State 
Eights' Members of the Convention 136 in number. The 
Legislature met in a few days after the Ordinance was pub- 
lished. Gov' Hamilton's Message urged on them the duty 
of providing for inforcing that Ordinance. 

" They accordingly passed the Replevin Act — To carry 
into effect in part an Ordinance to Nullify certain Acts of 
Congress &C &C— Also ' the Test Oath Act' by which all 
Officers Civil & Military, were required to take the Oath or 
lose their Offices. Also An Act to regulate the Militia, & 
another to provide for the Security & protection of the State 
of S° Carolina. 

" These energetic Measures did not proceed without ex- 
citing suitable attention & corresponding measures, both in 
the Union Party of S° Car a , & in the heads of the Federal 
Govern'. The Administration employed agents in Columbia 
who silently condensed the transactions of each day & sent 
the dispatch off every night to Wash'gton, under cover to 
a person or name there, who was unknown or could not be 
suspected. The Union Convention continued its meetings 
also in Columbia, & on the 14 th Dec r 1832 adopted an address 
& series of Resolutions exposing the illegality & injustice of 
the measures lately adopted by the Party in power. Among 
many other objections it declared those measures not only 
revolutionary but essentially belligerent, & that the Natural con- 
sequences would be Disunion & Civil War. That it betrays 
all the features of an odious Tyranny to those Officers Civil 
& Military, who holding their appointments legally, accord- 
ing to the Laws & Constitution of S° Car a , were suddenly 
excluded, without impeachment, trial or conviction, by the 
new imposition of a Test Oath. To the members of the 
Union Party opposed to these Nullification Measures, who 
amount to the respectable Minority of more than 17,000 
votes these measures are equally despotic, oppressive, & im- 
politic. These measures produce irreconcilable opposition, 
in the bosom of their own State, with that large & respect- 
able Minority, who being equally opposed to the oppressive 
Tariff, cannot unite in such measures to effect its repeal. 
' Disclaiming all intention of lawless or insurrectionary vio- 
lence, they hereby proclaim their determination to protect 
their Rights by all legal & constitutional means, unless com- 
pelled to throw these aside by intolerable oppression.' This 
document was published with the signatures of 182 of the 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett 47 

Union members, headed by their Presid* the Venerable 
Thomas Taylor of Columbia. 

" The Inaugural Address of Gov r Hayne on the 10 th Dec* 
1832 was in his usual fluent & happ}^ style but replete with 
denunciations against the Federal Govern 4 & vaunted State 
Rights & the perfect Sovereignty of South Carolina. He 
then told the assembled Senate & House of Representatives, 
that it was their Duty to provide for carrying fully into ef- 
fect the Ordinance of the Convention & defend it with their 

" The Legislature accordingly proceeded to pass the fol- 
lowing Acts : 

"An Act concerning the Oath required by the Ordinance 
passed in Convention at Columbia on the 24 th day of No- 
vemb r 1832, which imposed the Test Oath on all Officers, 
Civil & Military, in S° Carolina. 

" An Act to carry into effect in part, An Ordinance to nul- 
lify certain Acts of the Congress of the U. S., purporting to 
be Laws laying Duties on the importation of foreign Com- 
modities, from & after the 1 st day of Feby 1833. 

"An Act to provide for the security & protection of the 
People of the State of S° Carolina, by which the Governor 
was authorised to accept Volunteers & to call out the Militia 
for the purpose of resisting any attempt of the Federal Gov- 
ernment to inforce the payment of Duties on importations, 
either by an overt act of coercion, or by an unusual assem- 
blage of naval or military forces, in or near the State. 
Also to authorise a Replevin on all such seizures by officers 
of the Federal Government. 

" On the receipt of these Documents, Presid 1 Jackson 
issued a Proclamation to the people of S. Carolina & sent a 
message to the two houses of Congress. In the Proclama- 
tion he appeals to their Reason, Patriotism, & Sense of Pro- 
priety, & then declared his determination to inforce the Laws 
of the U. States notwithstanding the measures adopted in 
S° Carolina. It was dated 16 th Jan'y 1833, very ably drawn 
up & believed to have been written by the then Secretary 
of State Edward Livingston. The Legislature of S° Carol* 
being then in Session, Gov r Hayne sent them these Docu- 
ments from "Washington & with them, his own Proclama- 
tion. The House of Representatives in S° Car* referred the 
whole to their Com tee on Federal Relations, & adopted a 
series of Resolutions, commenting on the Course of Pro- 
ceedings & confirming their own determination to resist. 
Having received lately about $200,000 from the Fed 1 Govern*, 

48 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

as a balance due to S° Car% the Legislature voted the whole 
of it for the purchase of Arms & other Munitions of War. 1 
" Here then was S° Carolina completely at issue with the 
Federal Government, both arming for attack & defence. 
Presid* Jackson ordered seven Revenue Cutters & the Sloop 
of War Natchez Com: Zantzinger to rendezvous in Cha'ton 
Harbor — the whole under the command of Commodore 
Elliot. He likewise ordered 700 additional U. S. Troops 
to rendezvous at Cha B ton & garrison the Forts, all of which 
were in possession of the Gen 1 Govern*: the whole were 
under the Command of Gen 1 Scott. A Company of U. S. 
troops had for five or six years occupied the Citadel in 
Cha 8 ton. They were called upon to give it up, & they 
promptly complied. The Officers of the State & of the 
General Govern* were polite to each other, but it was other- 
wise with the two parties of the Inhabitants, the Union men 
& the ISTullifyers. They had many irritating occurrences at 
their Elections — blows & broken heads were not uncommon, 
& some Duels occurred. When Volunteers were called out 
by the State to ' suppress Insurrection & Treason, they knew 
that such charges could not apply to the Govern* Troops ; 
& that however unjust to the Union Party hitherto, they 
now felt that they must enrol themselves for self protec- 
tion. They appointed a Central Com tBe of which M r Poin- 
sett was the Ch r man. The military divisions were soon ar- 
ranged, the Officers selected, & the places of rendezvous 
assigned to each Company. A sufficiency of arms & ammu- 
nition was obtained from Gen 1 Scott, & distributed subject 
to the call of the Union Officers respectively. Both Parties 
had their separate respective places of meeting, for harmo- 
nious consultation & arrangements. One of these Places 
occupied by the Union men was conspired against by a 
large body of the Nullifyers & the entrance surrounded at 
night. Several of their most respectable leaders tried to 
prevent it but could not, — the public mind was much ex- 
cited ; they sent to M r Poinsett apprising him of it, asking 
him to persuade his friends to retire by a different entrance 
from that in common use, but M r P. returned an Answer 
that they would defend themselves if assailed. Anticipating 

1 " In conformity with Gov r Haynes Orders, the Adj 1 General John B. 
Earle issued his proclamation for Volunteers ' to suppress insurrection, 
repel invasion & support the Civil Authorities in the execution of the 
Laws.' The Governor likewise issued Circular Orders to each Eegiment 
to examine & Report suitable Depots for Provisions &C, on the most 
direct routes from their several Muster Grounds towards Charleston." 

The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 49 

such an occurrence, he had provided strips of white Cotton 
to be tied on the right arm of each Union man that they 
might be known to each other in a mtUe ; he also prov ded 
from a Coopers Shop the but ends of their hoop P poTes a. 
Sticks to arm his party. He & Col W- Drayton were aS 
pointed by acclamation for the Command, & they Selected 
other persons as Lieu- to command each a Squad These 
arrangements were soon perfected, & the Union Party 
marched out three abreast in fine order. Mai chin? no 
King Street they found themselves followed by the crowd 
ot Nullifyers, that they had passed at the plLe of tW 

A demfnde T d h thYt n Z *** ^ ^ ^kfst^ 
^demanded that their opponents should immediatelv dis 
perse or they ^should be attacked by the Union men The 
Nulhfyers did accordingly disperse, but there w?re amt 
them many disposed to be mischievous. WhTle the tw f 
parties were facing each other almost within react .three 
of the Union Leaders Mess™ Petigru, Drayton & Poinsett 

i;r ed l fri bu ? from unkno ™ ^ who im: 

mediately sneaked into the crowd for concealment; The 
(rentlemen were not much hurt. 

ni'^A* J*™ * F& ^y found {t necessary to establish Ward 

were assailed. On one occasion the Nullify ers succeeded 

Pan^oTfou^oTr 011 8tati ^' & ? eat & m - used ^0^ 
one of t£ f • r ? ccasions the y were repulsed, & in 

firfrf • + 1 °", a 81 ? gle S un loaded wit ^ small shot was 

few felt VfiZ^ °V 'f? b l f ° re ^ Would -tire ;°some 
tew telt it & it was a hint to the rest, but it did no harm 

In these collisions the Officers & Leaders of the Zlifyers 
£ f f 0d faith ^ Prevent them, & sooth the angry feel- 
ings on both sides; but in order to keep up a distinction- 
they recommended that their men should al? wear in theb 

blurbulfol" 1 " ° 0Ckade ' ° f a C ° nical S^Pe-calTed the 

the' SlnL^f w ^l Governme nt were stationed thus; 

outh of P Easf^ i^ 2 n lthin ^ Snot of ^ Batter^ 
south ot Last Bay, & the Cutters about Cablelen<rth from 

each other in a line North of the Natchez; except One o? 
S the P °* ^ d er Captain Jackson which fay in the 
Anchorage between Forts Moultrie & Castle plnckney 

oTa Ma^n^fw' 1118 ^ 081 ' 1011 ' the Arm ^ent & disciple 
? % , £ f Y ar became an 0b Ject of Curiositv to the 
etch'dav fhr tlemen °^ ^arlestoi At certain Tours of 
each day, they were politely welcomed on board, and every 

50 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

part of the Ship freely thrown open to them. No distinction 
was made between those of the two Parties, unless when a 
blue button appeared, & then the Officers of the Ship were 
very polite to the wearer (an acknowledged Nullifyer). The 
Visiters on board were entertained with Promenades about 
the Decks, & then with Music, Dancing & Refreshments, 
Fruits, &C. The Guns of the Forts were understood to be 
well found, & ready for action if necessary, with Mortars 
in Castle Pinckney for throwing Shells into Charleston, 
whenever hostilities might commence. A Battery of heavy 
Cannon was likewise constructed N° East of the City on 
Smiths Wharf, then hired as a Naval Station, & the Guns 
pointed against the Citadel & against the Causeway in 
Meet'g S' Road, by which it was understood that the State 
troops would be marched into Cha a ton, & stationed at & in 
the Citadel. 

" The Nullifyers & State Authorities were likewise pre- 
paring for the Ultima Ratio, under their Laws & Ordinances. 
Arms, Ammunition & Provisions were provided & distrib- 
uted to the different selected Stations in & out of Charles- 
ton, except where from the election returns, it was found 
that a Majority of the Union Party unquestionably existed. 
Volunteers were accepted, armed, & trained in all the other 
portions of the State, & held under Orders that they should 
be ready at a moments warning, to march into Cha"ton 
which it was well understood would be the battle ground in 
case of hostilities. Among those organized in Cha'ton was 
a body of Artillerists under Col. J. L. Wilson, who had a 
battery of heavy Cannon on Magwoods Wharf command- 
ing the rear of Castle Pinckney, the channel of Cooper 
River, & Hog Island Channel. By means of the Test Oath 
they had got clear of many of the Militia Officers in the low 
& middle Country, who as Union men had refused to take that 
Oath, & their places had been supplied with enthusiasts in 
their Cause. The State Officers held all the Stores, depots 
& arms in every part of the State, the northern & eastern 
Districts excepted. Here, the majority of Union men was 
so great that the Officers either refused to resign, or if they 
resigned were sure of being reelected. 1 

1 " About this time many strangers were in Charleston & among them 
some attracted by curiosity, to witness the impending events. At the 
Balls which were then given, Ladies of both parties were invited recip- 
rocally ; some of them attended each others parties & were welcomed 
with polite attentions; the Gentlemen were much more shy of each 
other. On one occasion a gallant young Nullifyer exclaimed 'The 
ladies are all for Union— to a man.' Not all said a young Lady 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 51 

"At this Crisis another effort was made to prevent the 
payment of Duties on imported Goods. A fast-sail'g vessel 
was expected in Port, & her owner agreed to try & force her 
up to the "Wharves where her cargo might be rapidly landed 
& dispersed before the Custom h. Officers could have the 
means of preventing it. Orders had been issued to Cap* 
Jackson of the Cutter Polk, to bring every vessel to Anchor 
arriving from a foreign Port, until a signal was made from 
the Custom H — that the Duties had been secured according 
to Law. One of the Pilots was engaged to run up this Ves- 
sel to the City notwithstanding the opposition of the Reve- 
nue Cutter. He accordingly disregarded the Revenue Cutter 
& crowded all sail to pass up. Cap' Jackson pursued & over- 
took her but the Pilot would not obey his Order to come to. 
He then ran the Cutter along side & leaped upon the Ships 
deck; still the Pilot held his course, & did not quit the helm 
until he saw the drawn sword of Cap* Jackson raised against 
his life. The Ship was then put about, brought back to her 
place of anchorage, & detained there until the Duties were 
secured, & a signal given from the Custom house to allow 
her to pass up. One of the State Rights Party was overheard 
saying — 'they are too strong for us, but we must strike a 
blow, we may still take one of their Forts or Vessels, & will 
do so before we surrender.' Notice of this intention was 
given to the U. S. Officers that they might not be taken by 
surprise. Accordingly in a dark night a large Canoe fitted 
for 12 or 14 Oarsmen was observed rowing up astern of the 
Cutter Polk, as she lay at anchor, with her netting all hoisted 
& her watch on the look out. Only a few men appeared row- 
ing the boat who on being hailed answered like Country 
negroes, and were ordered off. They however pulled the 
stronger in the same direction, until threatened to be fired 
into. They then perceived that the matches were lighted, 
the lanterns burning, & the boarding Nets hoisted, and the 
Cannon pointed at the Canoe. They then rowed off and 
reported progress. 

" One of the most talented & influential of the State Rights 
leaders, not satisfied with the representations that every thing 
had been tried in vain, came down from Columbia to see & 
judge for himself. He went on board of the Natchez with 

promptly. I will have nothing to do with the Union. But said a 
friend at her elbow, you know that you would like to capture that hand- 
some U. S. Officer. . . . Oh said the fair Carolinian, I only wish to bring 
him over to our side ; to your own side you mean, rejoined her discerning 

52 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

others, & thought with reason that everything was there put 
in order for the public eye. He also hired a boat & went 
about the harbour inspecting the location & state of prepara- 
tion, at different times of day & night. In one of these trips, 
he passed close to the Natchez while all were under arms, & 
practising a Sham-fight, or naval engagement. They were 
all at the moment repelling supposed boarders; with the 
Netting hoisted, a part of the Crew were thrusting their 
boarding Pikes through it ; some were working the Cannon 
with lighted matches, — the Marines were firing in Platoons 
from the Quarter Deck & Tops, while others on the Spars 
were ready to light & throw their hand Grenades. The 
Gentleman was perfectly satisfied & in a few days the Circus 
Meetg was convened. 

" The Central Com* 6 ' had frequent consultations with the 
Army & Navy commanders on various interesting subjects ; 
concerted with them the Signals to be given & returned on 
various occurrences, & what would be expected of the Union 
Party in case of an attack. It was agreed that in such an 
event the Union Party should seize the Alarm Gun & Church 
Bells, & take possession of the Guardhouse. It was also 
agreed that if unable to hold the City, they should seize on 
the Peninsula of Hampstead about a mile N° E. of Cha'ton 
& intrench themselves there. 

" The Central Com* 66 had also frequent confidential meet 
ings by themselves. On one occasion a measure was pro- 
posed, which at first view appeared very plausible to several 
of them. M r Petigru prudently remarked that they should 
be very careful to keep their proceedings within the Law. 
That this was their surest protection against the other Party, 
who would probably commit themselves by some hasty or 
lawless Act. This observation probably led to the appeals 
made to the Courts of Law for cooler considerations, all of 
which resulted against the nullifying or State R* Party. The 
first of these was on a Custom-house Bond given for the Du- 
ties on an importation of "plains." The Signer & Securities 
of the Bond objected to the payment on different Pleas, 
wishing the question of their liability to be submitted to a 
Jury, which Jury would not decide in favor of the U. S. 
Government. The cause was very ably argued before Judge 
Lee U. S. Dis* C by the Dis' Atty. Gilchrist & M r Petigru 
against such reference ; & advocated by W. P. Finley & 
Geo. M°Dufiie. The Judge decided against the Pleas — 
the handwriting of the different signers on the Bond was 
then proved, & a verdict given in favor of the Govern*. 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 53 

An appeal was entered, & all the notes, proceedings & argu- 
ments submitted to Judge W m Johnson, then in bad health 
in North Carolina. He confirmed the decision of Judge 
Lee, & the Bond was finally paid. This was a Trial of 
great interest to both Parties. M r M°Duffie of very high 
reputation for talents, was sent for & came down from 
Abbe-ville to engage in the defence, & M r Petigru volun- 
teered in behalf of the Union Party to aid M r Gilchrist 
the then District Attorney in prosecuting the Suit. 

" Two other causes arose in the State Circuit Courts, & 
were both carried by appeal up to the Supreme Court. 
These both originated in the Test Oath Act. Both were 
argued ably in Columbia at the Court of Appeals. Judges 
O'Neal & Dav d Johnson decided against the constitutionality 
of the Test Oath. Judge Harper was in favor of it, but did 
not enter upon much argument on the subject. 

" It will be recollected that in the Ordinance of the Con- 
vention & in the Act of the S° Car a Legislature dated Dec* 
1832 it was provided that no Duties should be paid on Impor- 
tations from foreign Countries into S° Car* after the l rt 
Feby 1833. These were published as the Laws of S° Car*, 
which none could violate with impunity, & none but the 
Courts of Law could set aside. Notwithstanding the for- 
mality & force of these enactments, a number of the State 
Rights Party in Cha'ton resolved to hold a Meeting of 
their Associates on the 21 st Jany 1833, only ten days pre- 
ceding the time appointed by the high Authorities of the 
State, for resisting the Power of the Union in collecting the 
duties on such importations. That informal Party meeting 
resolved that such resistance was inexpedient at that time, 
& must be postponed until the adjournment of the next 
Congress. That meeting of only a part of the State Rights 
Party, resolved to nullify the proceedings of their whole 
Party, in the Convention & in the Legislature, & to suspend 
the execution of their euactraents ; & this nullification was 
acquiesced in by the rest of their party. 1 

1 " A direct attempt to evade the payment of Duties to the Government 
about this time was made by Gen 1 Ja a Hamilton. He shipped some of his 
own Rice to Havannah & ordered the proceeds to be returned in Sugar. 
The Sugar arrived & the Vessel was brought to anchor in the appointed 
place, by the Vigilant Captain of the Cutter. Gen 1 Hamilton would 
not enter or bond it, or pay the Duties hoping that it would be landed 
in Cha'ton & he obtain possession by some means. But M r Pringle the 
Collector arranged it otherwise, he ordered the Sugar to be landed 
on Sullivan's Island & stored in Fort Moultrie in one of its arched 
entrances. Hamilton had been heard saying to some of his Adherents, 

54 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

" At this time the State of Virginia resolved to mediate 
& appease the dissensions in S° Car a , & sent for that pur- 
pose one of her most distinguished Citizens Benj n "Watkins 
Leigh to bear the Olive Branch. He arrived on the 4 th 
Feby & proceeded with great tact & judgment. He was 
kindly & courteously received by both of the contending 
Parties, & mediated personally with the most distinguished 
leaders on both sides. Great deference & respect was 
paid to him not only for his personal worth, but as an es- 
pecial Messenger from the State of Virginia. It was accord- 
ingly arranged that another Convention should be convened, 
& that no violent measures should be pursued in the in- 
terim. The Convention met accordingly on the 11 th March 
1833 & Gov. Hayne brought the business before them by 
inclosing the friendly & flattering letter which he had re- 
ceived from M r Leigh — Commissioner from Virginia. This 
was referred to a Com 168 of 21, who promptly reported an 
Ordinance repealing the Ordinance of ]STov r 1832, & this 
was adopted by the Convention. But many of the members 
could not divest themselves of the irritation long enter- 
tained, & of their purposes defeated. These were leveled 
against the Union Party, & of their sense of obligation of 
allegiance to the Federal Government. Some warm discus- 
sion ensued & some intemperate expressions used, but the 
majority concurred in accepting M r Clay's Bill which had 
passed in Congress, as a compromise of their difference 
with the Federal Government. 

" But as to the Law imposing a Test Oath, the State Rights 
Party were disappointed in its validity by the decisions of 
the Courts. They therefore determined so to amend the 
Constitution as to require of every one holding an Office, 
that he should previously take an Oath that his Allegiance 
to S° Carolina would be considered by him paramount to 
all other obligations. A clause to this effect actually passed 
the Legislature in Nov 1 1833 but as an Amendment of the 
Constitution, it was necessary that the same should be recon- 
sidered & ratified at another session of the Legislature. 
The prospect of this becoming a part of the Constitution 
alarmed the Union Party in S° C* particularly in the North- 
ern parts of the State, lest they should be involved by it in 
Disunion, & cease to be Citizens of the United States, or 
fail to be protected in case of need by the Federal Gov*. 

' We will have to fight for that Sugar.' He no doubt hoped for some 
opportunity to do so, but none offered & after the Compromise he paid 
the Duty & storage, on which the Sugars were given up to him.'' 

The Life and Semices of Joel R. Poinsett. 55 

The Union Party determined to resist this change in the 
Constitution, & if it should finally pass, that they would 
appeal to arms in defence of their Rights as American 
Citizens. Spartanburgh was appointed as their place of 
Rendezvous, & in this state of anxious suspense they awaited 
the Legislative Action. The Central Corn' 89 determined to 
try the effect of personal influence, talent & address to pre- 
vent the impending evils of Civil War. They appointed 
M r J. L. Petigru & Col. R. Blanding to meet their former 
friends at the Session in Columbia and prevent if possible 
the contemplated enactment. They attended accordingly & 
in personal interviews and conferences with Gen 1 Ja 8 Ham- 
ilton & other influential persons of the State Rights Party, 
they finally succeeded but with great difficulty. The Clause 
adopted at the previous meeting of the Legislature as an 
amendment of the Constitution, was insisted on by its 
former advocates, it could neither be rejected nor altered, 
but they consented that the following Proviso should be 
appended as a part of it. ' Provided however that noth- 
ing expressed in the above obligation shall be construed to 
impair the Allegiance of any Citizen of S° Carolina to the 
Federal Government.' Or words to that effect, for by some 
obliquity in the Record or in the Publication of the Laws, 
this Proviso has not been printed with the Ratification. 

"Both parties assented to this compromise Peace was again 
restored to S° Carolina & Gen 1 M c Duflie was elected Gover- 
nor in Dec r 1834." 

The foregoing account presents a vivid picture of the po- 
sition taken by the Union men in South Carolina during the 
Nullification excitement. Nothing is more remarkable about 
it than the spirit of obedience which they showed for the 
supreme law of the land, because it was the law, and their 
determination to appeal for relief to the law only as it had 
been administered among them from the period of the adop- 
tion of the Constitution, as well as their unwillingness to 
rouse revolutionary passions in the conflict. The action of 
their State had not merely made void an act of Congress, — 
creating an alleged grievance from which the rest of the 
country suffered in common with them, — but its effect was to 
deny them the protection of their own courts and virtually 
to disfranchise them. Under these trying circumstances they 
were bold but not boastful, and, unmoved by the clamor of 

56 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

their former friends and neighbors, they formed the strongest 
support to the General Government when it put forth its 
strong arm to help them. A good deal of their forbearance 
and determination to confine their action within the strict 
limits of the law was due to the personal character of their 
leaders. They belonged to the very elite of that social aris- 
tocracy which held undisputed sway in Carolina up to the 
period of the war of the rebellion, and their opponents, 
whose chiefs were of the same class, and who had known 
them well during their whole lives, always recognized not 
merely the force and earnestness of their convictions, but 
also their personal courage and the perfect purity and in- 
tegrity of their motives. 

In considering their methods of resistance to the law- 
less acts of the Nullifiers, the first question for the Union 
men to determine was how far and in what way they would 
be supported by the General Government. All parties in 
South Carolina had concurred in voting for General Jack- 
son as President in 1828, and he was well known at that 
time to have favored the enactment of a tariff law which 
would levy only such an amount of money as would suffice 
to defray the expenses of the Government and pay the in- 
terest on the public debt. The intending Nullifiers during 
the year 1830, well knowing General Jackson's opposition 
to the " American system," as it was called, spread far and 
wide the report not only that the President and many of 
his personal and political friends sympathized with them in 
their opposition to a protective tariff, but also that he would 
hesitate to execute a Federal law in South Carolina which 
the people of that State should declare to be inoperative 
within her borders. The first thing, therefore, naturally 
was to ascertain the exact position of the President on this 
question. Mr. Poinsett, as their leader and organ, accord- 
ingly wrote the following letter to President Jackson : 

" Charleston 23 Oct'. 1830 
" Dear Sir 

" When we parted at Washington in May last, I men- 
tioned to you, that I was returning to Carolina in order to 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 57 

oppose, by every influence I might possess there, the strange 
and pernicious doctrines advanced by some of the leading 
men of our state and which, if not counteracted might 
lead to the most serious and fatal consequences. On that 
occasion I understood you to say, that you regarded them 
as ' utter madness ;' and I left Washington in the firm con- 
viction, that I was acting in conformity with your wishes 
and for the good of our common country in controverting 
doctrines, which I regard as subversive of the best interests 
of that country, and in declaring myself opposed to princi- 
ples which, if they could be detected in the letter or spirit 
of our constitution by any subtlety of the human intellect, 
would render that instrument a worthless document, would 
entirely destroy the practical utility of our confederation 
and convert our bond of union into a rope of sand. 

" On my arrival in Columbia, where I went in order to 
ascertain the extent of the evil, and that my sentiments 
might be more generally known throughout the State, I 
found the public mind poisoned by the opinions uttered at 
Washington by our leading politicians there, and by the 
pernicious doctrines of the President of the College, D r . 
Cooper, whose talents and great acquirements give weight 
to his perverse principles, and make him doubly dangerous. 
On conversing confidentially with several old and valued 
friends in that place I found that they too, deprecated the 
measures proposed to be adopted as a remedy against the 
operation of the tariff" law; but regarded opposition as hope- 
less against such an array as had declared in favor of nullifica- 
tion. I found the same sentiments prevailing and the same 
fears entertained among the moderate men in Charleston ; 
but after frequent conferences with my friends Judge Huger, 
M r . Petigru, M r . Pringle, D r . Johnson and others it was re- 
solved at all hazards to organize an opposition to schemes 
which we considered likely to prove so ruinous in their 
consequences. In this determination we were confirmed 
and very much aided by Col. Drayton's honorable and pub- 
lic declaration of his sentiments in favor of the union. 

"The Nullifiers try to make us believe that the union 
party are acting against your wishes. This has been 
already and on several occasions broadly asserted by the 
advocates of the rights of the states to nullify the laws of 
the general government and besides the respectable names 
of the Vice Prest., of W. M°Duflie, Gen 1 Hayne and 
Major Hamilton we have had to contend against these as- 
sertions of your views on this question, which the censure 

58 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

or dismissal of M r Pringle would tend to confirm, for he is 
I believe the only officer of the general gov. in Charleston 
in favor of the Union party. The opposition which was 
commenced in Charleston has been extended throughout 
the rest of the state and the favorable result of the elec- 
tions leads us to hope, that we shall prevent the call of a 
convention, which might have ended in an act of insurrec- 
tion, for I can regard in no other light the consequences of 
this state nullifying an act of Congress. It has been as- 
serted of us that we have been induced to oppose ourselves 
to these doctrines because we are in favor of M r . Clay and 
of the American system. This M r . President is not so. M r . 
Clay and his system have no partizans in this state & so en- 
tirely do we rely upon your wisdom and sense of justice 
that we hoped that you would finally obtain for us a modi- 
fication of the system w b really is injurious and oppressive 
in its operation upon us. We severally and universally 
desire, that you should consent to serve another term." 

It seems, however, that a similar letter referring to the 

rumor prevalent in South Carolina had been written about 

the same time to the President by Mr. Kobert Oliver, of 

Baltimore. To this letter General Jackson at once replied, 

and his answer may be regarded as intended not only for 

him but for Mr. Poinsett also. 

" Washington, Octobr. 26 th 1830 

"Dear Sir 

" I had the honour this evening to receive your letter of 
the 25 th instant with its enclosure and agreeable to your 
request herewith return it, with a tender of my thanks for 
this token of your friendship & regard. 

" I had supposed that every one acquainted with me knew 
that I was opposed to the nulifying Doctrine, and my toast 
at the JefTerson dinner was sufficient evidence of the fact. 
I am convinced there is not one member of Congress who 
is not convinced of this fact for on all occasions I have been 
open & free upon this subject. The South Carolinians, as 
a whole, are too patriotic to adopt such mad projects as the 
nulifyers of that State propose. 

" That M r Van Buren should be suspected of such opinions 
is equally strange. 

" I am sir with great respect 

" & regard, your mo obdt servt 

"Andrew Jackson 

" Robert Oliver Esq." 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 59 

The " Jefferson dinner" to which General Jackson refers 
was an entertainment given on the 15th of April, 1880, in 
"Washington, to celebrate Mr. Jefferson's birthday. The 
occasion was secretly and adroitly taken advantage of by 
the Nullifiers and those who sympathized with them to 
obtain from the leaders of the Democratic party in Wash- 
ington, and especially from the members of the Cabinet, an 
expression of opinion that their proceedings would not be 
interfered with by the General Government. The President 
was a guest at this dinner, and he was not long in discover- 
ing what was expected of him by many of those present. 
He is said to have sat stern and silent, evidently trying hard 
to suppress the violent emotions which agitated him. He 
found relief when called upon for a toast, when he rose and 
said calmly but most earnestly to the astounded assembly 
who had hoped to entrap him, " The Federal Union — it 
must be preserved." The Vice-President, Mr. Calhoun, 
was then called upon, and this was his toast: " The Union, 
— next to our liberty the most dear. May we all remember 
that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the 
States, and distributing equally the benefit and the burthen 
of the Union." 

The day of this Jefferson celebration seems to me one of 
the most noteworthy in our history. On that day the issue 
between the Union and the Disunion parties was distinctly 
and finally made up ; each party prepared for the inevitable 
conflict, and each knew under what leader it would serve. 
General Jackson's honesty and inflexible will were even then 
pretty well understood by those friends and foes who had for 
their own reasons studied his character, and it became now 
clear to all that the Union men in South Carolina, in their 
struggle for the supremacy of the Federal law, would be 
supported by the whole force of the General Government, 
with the President at its head. The Nullifiers had foiled 
utterly in securing that sympathy of the administration 
upon which they had so fully counted. They were so much 
discouraged and disappointed that, although violent and 
revolutionary talk was still the fashion in South Carolina, 

60 The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 

no active efforts were made there to carry out their plans 
until more than two years later. Meanwhile, the Union 
party in South Carolina was much encouraged in organizing 
its powers of resistance. 

In July, 1832, Congress passed an act reducing the duties 
levied by the tariff of 1828 on certain articles, and remov- 
ing them entirely from tea, coffee, etc., by which it was cal- 
culated that the revenue from customs would be reduced 
three or four millions of dollars, or from twenty to twenty- 
five per cent. When Congress met in December, 1832, it 
was proposed by the Committee of Ways and Means still 
further to reduce the revenue levied under the act of 1828 
about thirteen millions of dollars. General Jackson was 
re-elected President by a great majority in the autumn of 
1832, and a sufficiently large number of members of the 
Congress which was to meet in December, 1833, had been 
chosen at the same time to render it apparent that the anti- 
tariff party would be largely in the majority in that Con- 
gress. Notwithstanding all these concessions present and 
prospective to the Free-trade party, and apparently in total 
contempt for the spirit of conciliation which was manifested 
by them in every part of the country, the leaders in South 
Carolina determined upon revolutionary proceedings. These 
proceedings, no doubt, confirmed the belief which had 
widely prevailed, that the cause of discontent in that State 
lay far deeper than the tariff, and that its removal would 
not remedy it. On the 24th of November, 1832, the con- 
vention in South Carolina adopted the ordinance of nullifi- 
cation and threatened secession, and the Legislature imme- 
diately afterwards passed laws to enforce its provisions. 
These measures are so fully described in Dr. Johnson's 
narrative that it is not necessary to explain them further 
here. Their effect was not only to place the State in a 
hostile attitude to the Government of the United States, 
but also to place those citizens of the State who were loyal 
to the Union beyond the pale of the protection of the State 
laws. Under these circumstances the Union men of South 
Carolina, through Mr. Poinsett, appealed to the Government 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 61 

for advice as to the course which they as supporters of the 
Union should pursue, and for aid in resisting these measures 
should it become necessary. How this appeal was met by 
the President is best told in the eight letters addressed by 
him to Mr. Poinsett, which, as far as we know, are now 
printed for the first time. It is thought better to give them 
in a connected series as presenting the most faithful picture 
of the attitude of the President during the whole of this 
unhappy dispute, from the beginning until all danger of 
an armed resistance to the execution of the laws of the 
United States had passed away. As soon as the ordinance 
of nullification reached the President, he issued, on the 10th 
of December, 1832, his proclamation denouncing the revo- 
lutionary proceedings in South Carolina, and expressing his 
determination to execute the laws of the Government of the 
United States. Early in January he sent a special message 
to Congress asking that specific powers should be given 
him to close any port in South Carolina where armed re- 
sistance should be made to the collection of import duties, 
and during such suspension to establish custom-houses in 
places on land or on naval vessels in harbors where such 
resistance was not to be expected. The Judiciary Commit- 
tee reported a bill, commonly called the "Force Bill," 
giving him the powers he asked for, but this bill was not 
passed until the close of the session in March. Indeed, 
from the view which General Jackson had of his duty it 
was hardly necessary. The President, as will be seen by 
his letters, needed no act of Congress either to shield him 
from responsibility or to give him authority to perform the 
constitutional duty he had assumed " faithfully to execute 
the laws." But the story is best told in his letters : 

(No. 1.) 

" (Confidential) 

., -p. „ " Washington, Nov br 7 th 1832. 

" Dear Sir, 

" This will be handed to you by my young friend George 
Breathitt Esqr, brother of the present Governor of Ken- 

62 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

tucky, in whom every confidence may be reposed. I beg 
leave to make him known to you as such. 

" M r Breathitt goes to your state & city as agent for the 
post office Depart, he bears instructions from the secretary 
of the Treasury to the collector of Charleston, but we want 
him only known as agent of the Post office. 

" I wish him to see the F ta and revenue cutters in your 
harbour and to visit Sullivan's Island. This to be done 
merely as a stranger having curiosity to examine your capa- 
city for defence and facilities for commerce, to your polite 
aid I recomend him for this object. 

" I have instructed him to obtain the real intentions of 
the nullifyers whether they mean really to resort to force to 
prevent the collection of the revenue and to resist the due 
execution of the laws and if so what proof exists to show 
that the imputations against important individuals and offi- 
cers of the government in being engaged in advising, aiding 
and abetting in this threatened nullification and rebellious 
course are true. 

" It is desirable that the Executive should be in posses- 
sion of all the evidence on these points, and I have referred 
Mr. Breathitt to you & Col. Drayton believing that you will 
afford him all the knowledge you possess. 

" Mr. Breathitt is charged with the enquiry what officers, 
if any, in the Customs or post office Department belong to 
or have adhered to the Nullifyers— and the character of Mr. 
Pruson Simpson from whom I have rec d a long letter to 
day, and all & every information of the views and measures 
of the Nullifyers which they mean to adopt. 

" We have been looking for some information from some 
friend of the Union in that quarter but have hitherto been 
disappointed, but it appears a crisis is about to approach 
when the government must act, & that with energy — my 
own astonishment is that my fellow citizens of S° Carolina 
should be so far deluded, by the wild theory and sophistry 
of a few ambitious demagogues, as to place themselves in 
the attitude of rebellion against their Government, and be- 
come the destroyers of their own prosperity^ and liberty. 
There appears in their whole proceedings nothing but mad- 
ness and folly. If grievances do exist there are constitu- 
tional means to redress them— Patriots would seek those 
means only. 

" The duty of the Executive is a plain one, the laws will 
be executed and the Union preserved by all the constitu- 
tional and legal means he is invested with, and I rely with 

The Life and Services of Joel 12. Poinsett. 63 

great confidence on the support of every honest patriot in 
S° Carolina who really loves his country and the prosperity 
and happiness we enjoy under our happy and peaceful re- 
publican government. 

"By the return of Mr. Breathitt I shall expect to hear from 

" With my sincere regards 

" I am yr mo. ob dt serv 4 

_, " Andrew Jackson 

" Joel Poinsett Escf." 

(No. 2.) 
"MY D- SIR, " December 2< 1832. 

"Your two letters of Nov. 24 & 25 th last have been 
received and I hasten to answer them. 

t " I / ull 7 concur with you in your views of nullification. 
It leads directly to civil war and bloodshed and deserves the 
execration of every friend of the country. Should the civil 
power with your aid as a posse comitatus prove not strono- 
enough to carry into effect the laws of the Union you have a 
right to call upon the Government for aid and the executive 
will yield, it as far as he has been vested with the power by 
the constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof. 

"The precautionary measures spoken of in your last 
letter have been in some degree anticipated. Five thousand 
stand of muskets with corresponding equipments have been 
ordered to Castle Pinckney ; and a Sloop of war with a 
smaller armed vessel (the Experiment) will reach Charles- 
ton harbor in due time. The commanding officer of Castle 
Pinckney will be instructed by the Secretary of War to 
deliver the arms and their equipment to your order, takino- 
a receipt for them and should the emergency arise he wifl 
furnish to your requisition such ordnance and ordnance 
stores as can be spared from the arsenals. 

" The Union must be preserved and its laws duly executed, 
but by proper means. With calmness and firmness such as 
becomes those who are conscious of being right and are 
conscious of the support of public opinion we must perform 
our duties without suspecting that there are those around us 
desiring to tempt us with the wrong. We must act as the 
instruments of the law and if force is offered to us in that 
capacity then we shall repel it with the certainty, that 
even should we fall as individuals the friends of liberty and 
union will still be strong enough to prostrate their enemies. 

64 The Life and Services of Joel It. Poinsett. 

Your Union men should act in concert. Their designation 
as Unionists should teach them to be prepared for every 
emergency : and inspire them with the energy to overcome 
any impediment that may be thrown in the way of the laws 
of their constitution, whose cause is now not only their cause 
but that of free institutions throughout the world. They 
should recollect that perpetuity is stamped upon the consti- 
tution by the blood of our Fathers, by those who achieved 
as well as those who improved our system of free Govern- 
ment. For this purpose was the principle of amendment 
inserted in the constitution which all have sworn to support 
and in violation of which no state or states have the right to 
secede, much less to dissolve the union. Nullification there- 
fore means insurrection and war ; and the other states have 
a right to put it down. And you also and all other peace- 
able citizens have a right to aid in the same patriotic object 
when summoned by the violated laws of the land. Should 
an emergency occur for the arms before the order of the 
Secretary of War to the commanding officer to deliverthem 
to your order, show this to him & he will yield a compliance 

" I am great haste 

" Y r ms ob dt servt. 

"Andrew Jackson 

'•J. R. Poinsett Esq 1 ." 

(No. 3.) 

Dec br 9 th 1832, Washington. 

" My D b Sir, 

"Your letters were this moment reed, from the hands 
of Col. Drayton, read & duly considered, and in haste I 
reply. The true spirit of patriotism that they breathe 
fills me with pleasure. If the Union party unite with you, 
heart & hand in the text you have laid down, you will not 
only preserve the Union, but save our native state, from 
that ruin and disgrace into which her treasonable leaders 
have attempted to plunge her. All the means in my power, 
I will employ to enable her own citizens, those faithful 
patriots, who cling to the union, to put it down. 

" The proclamation I have this day issued, & which I en- 
close you, will give you my views; Of the treasonable con- 
duct of the convention & the Governors recommendation 
to the assembly— it is not merely rebellion, but the act of 
raising troops positive treason, and I am assured by all the 
members of congress with whom I have conversed that I 
will be sustained by congress. If so I will meet it at the 

The IAfe and Services of Joel H. Poinsett. 65 

threshold, and have the leaders arrested and arraigned for 
treason — I am only waiting to be furnished with the acts 
of your Legislature, to make a communication to congress, 
ask the means necessary to carry my proclamation into 
complete effect, and by an exemplary punishment of those 
leaders for treason so unprovoked, put down this rebellion, 
& strengthen our happy Government both at home and 

" My former letter & the communication from the Dept 
of "War, will have informed you of the arms and equipments 
having been laid in Deposit subject to your requisition, to 
aid the civil authority in the due execution of the law, 
whenever called on as the posse comitatus $-c $c. 

" The vain threats of resistance by those who have raised 
the standard of rebellion show their madness & folly. You 
may assure those patriots, who cling to their country, & 
this Union, which alone secures our liberty & prosperity 
and happiness, that in forty days, I can have within the 
limits of S° Carolina fifty thousand men, and in forty days 
more another fifty thousand. How impotent the threat 
of resistance with only a population of 250,000 whites & 
nearly that double in blacks, with our ships in the port, to 
aid in the execution of our laws ! The wickedness, mad- 
ness & folly of the leaders and the delusion of their followers, 
in the attempt to destroy themselves and our union has not 
its paralell in the history of the world — The Union will be 
preserved. The safety of the republic, the supreme law, 
which will be promptly obeyed by me. 

"I will be happy to hear from you often, thro' Col. 
Mason or his son, if you think the post office unsafe. 

" I am with sincere respect 

" Y r mo. obdt. servt. 
"Andrew Jackson 

" Mr Poinsett" 

" (Private) 

(No. 4.) 

" Washington, Jan 1 * 16 th 1833. 
" My D b Sir, 

" This day I have communicated to both houses of Con- 
gress the Enclosed message, which has been referred to the 
committees on the judiciary, who, we have a right to be- 
lieve, will promptly report a bill giving all the power asked 

" I have rec d several letters from gentlemen in S° Caro- 


66 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

lina, requesting to be famished with the means of defence. 
M r I Graham, an old revolutionary patriot, a M r Harrison 
and Col Levy— I have requested Genl Blair to inform Col 
Levy to apply to you & I request that you will make it 
known confidentially, that when necessary, you are author- 
ized, & will furnish the necessary means of defence. 

" Mr. Calhoun let off a little of his ire against me to day 
in the Senate, but was so agitated, & confused that he made 
quite a failure, was replied to, with great dignity & firmness, 
by Major Forsyth — Calhoun finds himself between Scylla & 
Charybdis & is reckless— My great desire is that the union 
men may put nullification & secession down in S° Carolina 
themselves and save the character of the state, & add there- 
by to the stability of our Union— you can rely on every aid 
that I can give— only advise me of the action of the nulli- 
fyers— The moment they are in hostile array in opposition 
to the execution of the laws, let it be certified to me, by the 
att y for the District or the Judge, and I will forthwith order 
the leaders prosecuted, & arrested— if the Marshal is resisted 
by 12,000 bayonets, I will have his possee 24,000 — but the 
moment this rebellious faction finds it is opposed by the 
good people of that state, with a resolution becoming free 
men and worthy the name of Americans and under the pro- 
tection of the union it will yield to the power of the land, 
and they will return to their obedience. 

" I write in great haste, late at night, and much fatigued, 
& indisposed by a bad cold— You will excuse this scrawl it 
is for your own eye — write me often, ^ give me the earliest 
intelligence of the first armed force that appears in the field 
to sustain the ordinance— The first act of treason committed, 
unites to it, all those who have aided & abetted in the execu- 
tion to the act— we will strike at the head and demolish the 
monster, Nullification & secession, at the threshold by the 

power of the law. 

" I am very respectfully 

" yr mo. ob dt servt 

" Andrew Jackson 

" Joel R. Poinsett EsqV 

(No. 5.) 

Washington January 24 th 1833. 

"My Dear Sir, 

" I have rec d yours of the 16 th 19 th & 20 th instant, that of 
the 16 th late last night & hasten to reply by the return ex- 
press which will leave here early to-morrow. 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 67 

" My Message to Congress, forwarded to you by the last 
express was referred to the committee in each house, on the 
judiciary — that of the Senate has reported a bill which you 
will receive from the secretary of the Treasury by the con- 
veyance that will hand you this — you will see from a perusal, 
that it contains, with the powers you possessed, every 
authority necessary to enable the executive to execute the 
revenue laws, and protect your citizens engaged in their sup- 
port, & to punish all who may attempt to resist their execu- 
tion by force. This bill has been made the order of the day 
for Monday next, and altho this delay has been submitted 
to by the Senate, still I have no doubt but it will pass by a 
very large majority in both Houses — There will be some 
intemperate discussion on the bill & on Calhoun's and 
Grundy's resolutions. 

" It was my duty to make known to Congress, being in 
session, the state of the Union ; I withheld to the last 
moment to give Congress time to act before the first of 
February — Having clone my duty in this respect, should 
Congress fail to act on the bill, and I shall be informed of 
the illegal assemblage of an armed force with intention to 
oppose the execution of the revenue laws, under the late 
ordinance of S° Carolina, I stand — prepared forthwith to issue 
my proclamation warning them to disperse. Should they 
fail to comply with the proclamation, I will forthwith call 
into the field, such a force as will overawe resistance, put 
treason & rebellion down without blood, and arrest and hand 
over to the judiciary for trial and punishment, the leaders, 
exciters and promoters of this rebellion & treason. 

" You need not fear the assemblage of a large force at 
Charleston — give me early information, officially, of the 
assemblage of a force armed, to carry into effect the ordi- 
nance & laws, nullifying our revenue laws, and to prevent 
their execution, and in ten or fifteen days at farthest I will 
have in Charleston from ten to fifteen thousand men well 
organized troops, well equipped for the field — and twenty 
thousand, or thirty, more, in the interior. I have a tender of 
volunteers from every state in the Union — I can, if need be, 
which God forbid, march two hundred thousand men in 
forty days to quell any, & every insurrection, or rebellion 
that might arise to threaten our glorious confederacy & 
Union, upon which our liberty prosperity & happiness rest. 

" I repeat to the union men again fear not, the union will 
be preserved & treason and rebellion promptly put down, 
when, & where it may show its monster head. You may rest 

(38 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

assured that the nullies of Carolina will receive no aid from 
any quarter — They have been encouraged by a few from 
Georgia and Virginia, but the united voice of the yeomanry 
of the country and the tender of volunteers from every 
state have put this down — They well know I will execute the 
laws, and that the whole people will support me in it, and 
preserve the Union. . Even if the Governor of Virginia 
should have the folly to attempt to prevent the Militia from 
marching thro' his state to put the faction in S° Carolina 
down & place himself at the head of an armed force for 
such a wicked purpose, I would arrest him at the head of 
his troops, & hand him over to the civil authority for trial. 
The voluntiers of his own state would enable me to do this. I 
repeat again, my pride and desire is, that the Union men may 
arouse & sustain the majesty of the constitution & the laws, 
and save my native state from that disgrace that the Nulli- 
fiers have brought upon her. Give me early intelligence of 
the assemblage of an armed force anywhere in the state, 
under the ordinance & the laws to nullify & resist the revenue 
laws of the United States, and you may rest assured I will 
act promptly and do my duty to God and my country, & 
relieve the good citizens of that despotism & tyranny, under 
which the supporters of the Union now labour. 

"On yesterday the tariii' bill (Verplancks) would have 
passed the House of representatives had it not have been for 
a very insulting & irritating speech by Wilde of Georgia 
which has thrown the whole of Pennsylvania New York 
& Ohio into a flame — I am told there is great excitement, 
and no hopes now of its passing this session. It is further 
believed that the speech was made for this purpose, at the 
instigation of the nullies, who wish no accommodation of 
the tariff — This will unite the whole people against the 
nullifiers, & instead of carrying the South with the nullies, 
will have the effect to arouse them against them when it is 
discovered their object is nothing but disunion. The House 
sat late & I have not heard from it since 7 o'clock — I must 
refer you to M r M°Lane for further information as it is very 
late & my eyes grow dim — keep me well advised & con- 
stantly — The arms are placed subject to your requisition, 
and under your discretion I keep no copy, nor have I time 
to correct this letter — 

" In haste very respectfully 

" " Your Friend 

" Andrew Jackson 

" J. R. Poinsett Esq r ." 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 69 

(No. 6.) 

"Washington City February 7 th 1833. 

" D B Sir, 

" Yours of the 27 th and 28 th ultimo have been handed me 
by M r Smith— that of the 30 th thro' Col. Drayton has also 
been rec d . Their contents being considered I hasten to reply. 

" The nullifiers in your state have placed themselves thus 
far in the wrong. They must be kept there notwithstanding 
all their tyranny and blustering conduct, until some act of 
force is committed or there is an assemblage of an armed 
force by the orders of your Governor under the ordinance 
and Replevin laws to resist the execution of the laws of the 
United States. The Executive of the United States has no 
legal and constitutional power to order the Militia into the 
field to suppress it until that time, and not then, until his 
proclamation commanding the insurgents to disperse has 
been issued. But this you may rely on, will be promptly 
done by the President the moment he is advised by proper 
affidavits that such is the condition of your state. You should 
not therefore fear the result of the movement anticipated from 
the upper country for the purpose of enforcing the odious 
and despotic writ in withernam should it really be made. 

" Keep me advised of the first actual assemblage of an 
armed force in the upper part of your state, or in any other 
part of it, or in any part of the adjoining states, and before 
it reaches you I shall interpose a force for your protection 
and that of the city strong enough to overwhelm any effort 
to obstruct the execution of the laws. But bear in mind 
the fact that this step must be consequent upon the actual 
assemblage of such a force, or upon some overt act of its 
commission. In this event which I trust in God will not 
happen, I will act and with firmness, promptness and effi- 

" I sincerely lament that there is a contingency so probable 
which menaces the safety of those who are acting with you 
to sustain the Union and laws of our happy country. But 
let what will happen remain at your post in the performance 
of this the highest of all duties. Be firm in the support 
of the Union : it is the sheet anchor of our liberty and 
prosperity — dissolve it and our fate will be that of unhappy 
Mexico. But it cannot be dissolved : the national voice from 
Maine to Louisiana with a unanimity and resolution never 
before exceeded declares that it shall be preserved, and 
those who are assailing it under the guise of nullification 
and secession shall be consigned to contempt and infamy. 

70 The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 

" In resisting the tyrannic measures by which the ruling 
party in S° Carolina have proposed to obstruct the laws of 
the Union, you are thrown back upon the right of self 
defence. Deprived of the protection guaranteed to you by 
your own constitution, violent resistance to the tyranny 
which thus oppresses you becomes a duty, and in the per- 
formance of it the constitution and the laws of the United 
States will be your shield. Do not doubt that this shield 
will be upheld with all the power which I am or may be 
authorised to use. 

" As soon as I am notified that the hostile array which you 
anticipate has been made the positions recommended as 
proper to be occupied for defence will be taken. Of this 
fact let me be notified by an express who will bring the 
proper evidences of it. 

" I have regretted that your convention did not, as such, 
memorialise Congress to extend to you the guarantee of 
the constitution, of a republican form of Government, 
stating the actual despotism which now controls the state. 
The action of Congress on the subject would have placed 
your situation before the whole Union, and filled the heart 
of every true lover of his country and its liberties with 

"I can order the regular troops to take any position 
which may be found necessary : but your own advice has 
been to ' do nothing to irritate.' "When the crisis comes and 
I issue my proclamation, authority will be given to embody 
all volunteers enrolled for the support and execution of the 
laws, and the officers of the same of their own selection 
will be sanctioned by the president, as has been usual upon 
the receipt of the muster rolls. 

" It has just been mentioned to me that a bet has been 
taken by a man supposed to be in the secrets of the nulli- 
fiers that the convention will be called and the odious or- 
dinance repealed. God grant that this may be true. Let 
not this hope however lessen your watchfulness or your ex- 
ertions — my pride is to save the character of my native 
state by the patriotism of its own citizens. Firmness on 
your part will do this. 

" The Tariff will be reduced to the wants of the Govern- 
ment if not at this session of congress certainly at the next. 

"Referring you to Mr. Smith I close this hasty scrawl 
with my prayers for yr happiness 

" Andrew Jackson 

" J. K. Poinsett Esq"." 

The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 71 

(No. 7.) 
" (Private; 

" Washington February 17 th 1833. 
" My Dear Sir, 

" I have just received your letter of the 9 th instant, I 
never once thought, that the mission of M r Leigh, with his 
powers, would be attended with any beneficial result what- 
ever : It has only served to place the legislature of Virginia 
in a disagreeable attitude, and has done more harm than 
it can good. Had Virginia passed resolutions disapproving, 
as she has done, nullification, and admonishing the nullifiers 
to retrace their steps, this would have done much good, and 
instead of encouraging them in expecting her aid, would 
have caused them to have repealed their ordinance. The 
great body of the people of Virginia are firmly opposed to 
the course of the Legislature in this respect, and will sup- 
port the United States nobly, should the crisis come, which 
I trust the firmness of the Union men may yet prevent. 

" The bill granting the powers asked will pass into a law. 
M r Webster replied to M r Calhoun yesterday, and, it is said, 
demolished him. It is believed by more than one, that M r 
C. is in a state of dementation — his speech was a perfect 
failure; and M r Webster handled him as a child. I fear 
we have many nullifiers in Congress, who dare not openly 
appear ; — the vote on the pending bill will unrobe them. 

" I am delighted to learn that you will convene the Union 
Convention simultaneously with that of the nullifiers, or 
soon after. A bold and resolute stand will put them down, 
and you will thereby save the character of your State. 
"When you recollect the noble cause you are defending, — 
that our precious union is the stake, — that the arm of the 
United States, sustained by nineteen twentieths of the whole 
people, is extended over you, — you cannot be otherwise than 
firm, resolute and inflexible. One resolution, — that you nail 
the United States colours to the mast, and will go down 
with the Union or live free ; that you will, to your last 
breath, resist the tyranny and oppression of their ordinance, 
test oath and unconstitutional proceedings, will restore to 
you peace and tranquility, which a well adjusted tariff will 

" Before the receipt of your letter M r . Livingston had an 
interview with M r Bankhead on the subject of the conduct 
of the British consul at Charleston. M r Bankhead has 
written & admonished him that his exequatur will be revoked 
on his first act of interference. This I assure you, will be 

72 The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 

done. I have only to request that you will give us the 
earliest intelligence that you can obtain of his having ordered 
a British squadron to the port of Charleston ; and on an 
affidavit of the fact of one arriving there, his exequatur will 
be revoked. 

" Keep me constantly advised of all movements in bouth 
Carolina,— the marshalling troops to oppose the execution 
of the laws of the U. States, affirmed on affidavit, and I will 
forthwith use all my powers under the constitution and the 

laws to put it down. 

" with great respect 

« Y r friend 
"Andrew Jackson 
" J. R. Poinsett Esq*" 

(No. 8.) 

" Washington, March 6, 1833. 

"My Dear Sir, 

" Your letters of the 22 nd & 28 th ultimo are both before me, 
and I hasten to give you a reply by Col. Drayton, who leaves 
in the morning. 

I rejoice at the firmness lately evinced by the Union party. 
The Bill more effectually securing the collection of the 
revenue, or, as some call it, the enforcing Bill has passed the 
House of Rep's by the unparalleled majority of 102. I say 
unparalleled because it has not happened, according to my 
recollection, in the course of our legislation, that any meas- 
ure, so violently contested as this has been, has been sustained 
by such a vote. This Bill gives the death blow to Nullifica- 
tion or Secession, and, if the Nullifiers of your state have 
any regard for the Union, or the bold, but respectful ex- 
pression of the peoples determination, that the laws shall be 
executed, and that no state shall secede at her will and pleasure, 
there will be no difficulty. 

The Tariff Bill has also become a law, but was not passed 
until after the collection Bill. The passage of the Collection 
Bill proves to the world the fixed determination of Congress 
to execute, as far as their action was necessary, the laws 
passed in pursuance of the Constitution. I have always 
thought that Congress should reduce the Tariff to the wants 
of the Government, and the passage of such a Bill became 
peculiarly proper after Congress had, by the passage of 
the " enforcing' Bill, so fully shewn to the world that she 
was not to be deterred by a faction, which, if found in rebel- 
lion and treason, she was prepared to crush in an instant. 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 73 

" The Bill which has passed is not of the exact character 
which I would have preferred, but it is hoped that it may 
have a good effect in the South, as most, if not all, of her 
prominent men gave it their support. 

« Congress displayed, after shewing how little it regarded 
the threats of some South Carolinians a proper sense of 
justice to the people by making the reduction they did 
and to that extent, relieving the people of useless taxation.' 
I am happy to learn that you intend moving on pari 
?assu : with the nullification party, and that your convention 
is called to meet at Charleston to be prepared to act if 
necessary, in support of the Union. ' 

"The stake is an important one, and the retention of it 
worthy the patriots best, and noblest efforts. If lost the 
world may bid adieu to liberty and all that is dear to free- 

III L 1 1 . 

. " Should the nullifies be rash enough to attempt seces- 
sion and form a constitution and submit it to the people 
surely no one would countenance such an unauthorized act 
by voting on the question. I do not doubt but that those 
who love their country and our happy union would, in such 
event, be united to a man in their maintenance, and that 
the union convention would come forth in the majesty of 
her strength-which consists in the justice of her cause and 
the will of the people— in denunciation of such an unholv 
procedure. J 

" I have only time to say one word on the Subject of the 
union members attending the nullifying convention. Mv 
opinion is that they ought to attend, but upon this condi- 
tion that they present, with boldness and talent, the tyrannical 
wicked and unconstitutional proceedings of the JSTulliners 
to the world, in all their naked deformity. The union party 
will always gain by coming in open contact with the STulli- 

"Keason must, when exercised, always triumph over 
error. Witness Calhoun's defeat in the Senate. If the 
nullifyingconvention determine on secession, and forming a 
new constitution the Union members ought, after entering 
their solemn protest against the proceedings immediately 
withdraw, and forthwith join the Union convention, which 
ought then to issue its proclamation, or determination, to 
adhere to, and support the Union of these United States to 
the last extremity. ' 

" I must refer you to Col. Drayton for the news of the 
city. Heep me constantly advised of matters relating to 

74 The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 

the conduct or movements of the nullifiers, and all will be 
well, and the federal union preserved. 

" T r Friend 

" Andrew Jackson 

" J. R. Poinsett Esq*." 

These letters of General Jackson seem to me strikingly 
characteristic of the man. They are clear, bold, and de- 
cided in their tone, beginning, it will be observed, with a 
certain calm dignity, and then swelling with a crescendo of 
passionate indignation as the thought of the crime with 
which he is dealing fires his heart. They leave no doubt 
either as to his sentiments or his intentions. The cloud of 
sophistry, which the disunionists had thrown around the re- 
lations between the General Government and that of the 
States and the obligations of obedience to the supreme law 
of the land, disappears as it comes in contact with the strong, 
practical common sense of the President. In the position 
which he occupied he could see but one duty which he was 
called upon to perform, and that was to take care that the 
laws should be faithfully executed. His views of his duty 
may have been narrow, but they were exceedingly clear. In 
these letters there is not one word of sympathy for those 
who have taken revolutionary methods of righting what he 
in common with them regarded as a grievance. He makes 
no excuse or apology for any one who has been involved in 
the guilt of rebellion, and he waits only for the overt act, 
which shall make their act treasonable, to order their arrest 
and trial. He is so carried away by the earnestness of his 
desire to suppress armed resistance to the execution of the 
laws that he is utterly unyielding, even at times stern and 
pitiless. His business is not to advise or suggest com- 
promises, still less to conciliate, but to act. He goes so 
far as to maintain that although an act of Congress may be 
useful in authorizing him to close the ports, yet that no 
such act is necessary to empower him to execute his con- 
stitutional duty of enforcing the execution of existing laws. 
Yet he had no design or intention of doing any arbitrary 
or illegal act. His duty he looked upon as completed when 

The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 75 

he arrested traitors against the government, even, as he 
says, " the Governor of Virginia at the head of his troops," 
and handed them over to the courts, to be there tried and 
punished for their treason. 

It may readily be conceived how these letters must have 
cheered and encouraged Mr. Poinsett and his friends and 
colleagues, the leaders of the Union party in South Carolina. 
The military forces of the State had been rapidly organized 
under its authority, and thousands of armed men from the 
country districts burned with impatience to sweep down 
upon Charleston and seize there the men who were loyal to 
the Union. During the early months of 1833 it cannot be 
doubted that the position of these men was one of great 
personal danger. They looked upon the measures which 
had been adopted by the General Government for the de- 
fence of Charleston (which are so graphically described in 
Dr. Johnson's narrative) as inadequate, and in their anxiety 
they naturally complained that the Government seemed 
slow in coming to their relief. The letters of two of these 
leaders, Mr. Poinsett and Judge Huger, at this crisis have 
been preserved, and they show how great was the alarm 
and how well-founded were their fears of danger. 1 These 
letters were addressed to Colonel Drayton, at that time a 
member of the House of Representatives from the Charles- 
ton district, — a man who did more and suffered more for 
the cause of the Union in those trying times than any other 
inhabitant of the State, — and it was intended that they 
should be laid before the President for his information and 
guidance. Some extracts from these letters may be given 
as disclosing the actual condition of affairs as it appeared to 
these leaders of what then seemed to be a " forlorn hope." 

On the 8th of January, 1833, Mr. Poinsett writes : 

1 1 am indebted to my friend Mr. Heyward Drayton for the letters 
which were addressed by Messrs. Poinsett and Huger to his father. 
These letters complete the secret and confidential correspondence be- 
tween the chiefs of the Union party in 1832-33. It is a little singular 
that these letters, coming from such different quarters, should find a 
common resting-place in Philadelphia, and that they should now be used 
for the first time to vindicate the course taken by their authors. 

76 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

" I am afraid that all hope of putting down nullification 
in this State by moral force must be abandoned — I most 
sincerely hope the vain blustering of these madmen will 
not influence the deliberations of Congress upon the tariff. 
Here a hope is cherished that nothing will be done in the 
matter this year as such a concession would confirm the 
power & the popularity of the Kullifiers of the State. I do 
not share this sentiment. Such a result is of minor im- 
portance. Let us destroy the monster, and try conclusions 
with these men afterwards. I am glad to hear your opinion 
of the sentiments of Congress respecting the secession of 
the State. I go for practical results rather than for meta- 
physical abstract rights. If a State should be allowed to 
secede our gov' is at an end." 

He then adds significantly, — 

" I should like to have one hundred sabres, and as many 
pairs of pistols sent to the commanding officer here." 

On the 16th of January he writes to Colonel Drayton, — 

" I observe that you say that you have urged the Pres* 
not to interfere with our party by affording them the aid 
of the Federal troops under existing circumstances. But what 
are we to do if Charleston is filled with Nullifiers from the 
country? The regular troops, Municipal and Magazine 
guards will consist of 150 men divided into two companies. 
The artillery is in the hands of our opponents, and even if 
we had ordnance we have no artillery men. Five thousand 
men have Volunteered, and those from Richland & Sumter 
are anxious to be brought down to insult us . . . 

" Is not raising, embodying and marching men to oppose 
the laws of the United States an overt act of treason? 
Ought not such acts to authorise the interference of the 
Executive ? I have no hope & see no means by which the 
revenue laws can be enforced by legal process &c." 

Many other letters from Mr. Poinsett might be given, all 
showing an earnest desire on his part that a sufficiently large 
Federal force should be sent to South Caiolina, ready to act 
the moment the Nullifiers should begin hostilities. The 
letters of General Jackson were written to reassure him 
and his friends that the whole force of the Government 
would be employed to sustain them. 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 77 

Another of Colonel Drayton's correspondents was Judge 
Daniel E. Huger. He was a most conspicuous man in 
South Carolina, an earnest leader of the Union party there, 
and, like all the others, had many friends and relatives 
on the other side. He took a somewhat different view 
of the subject of Federal armed intervention from Mr. 

In a letter dated December 17, 1832, Judge Huger, after 
explaining that the Union Convention at Columbia did not 
call upon the President for protection lest such an appeal 
should " Exasperate the Nullifiers," goes on to say, — 

" I trust in God that the President will not use the means 
he confessedly has, but will leave to Congress the deter- 
mination of the course to be pursued. Not that I would 
have our noble President flinch from responsibility, but 
Congress is regarded as the People of the United States. 
From their course there could be no appeal, and this would 
dampen very much the spirit of our opponents." 

Again, in another letter of the same date, he says, — 

" The great body of the Union party, at this moment, are 
unwilling to look to the Gov* for protection, and I confess 
for one that I would prefer defending ourselves, and only in 
the last extremity accept of Federal assistance. I am aware 
how dangerous this course is. I do not like the idea of 
having our opponents put down by force. If the parties 
take the field, the Gov* might be used as an auxiliary with- 
out offending the State pride of our people, but if the Gov* 
be principal in the war, our people will join most reluctantly 
if they join at all. The Gov*, of course, must do its duty ; 
the revenue laws, I suppose, must be enforced, but disabuse, 
if you can, the President of any wish on our part to have 
forces marched into this State with a view to our protection. 
We would rather suffer much than see our countrymen 

It was perhaps well for the peace of the country at that 
time, that these conflicting opinions of the leaders of the 
Union party in South Carolina, as to the nature and amount 
of coercion which it was expedient to use in order to secure 

78 The Life and Services of Joel B. Poinsett. 

obedience to the laws, were reviewed by the cool and saga- 
cious judgment of Colonel Drayton before they were sub- 
mitted to the President. Between the urgent appeals of 
Mr. Poinsett for the immediate use of force enough to effect 
the object, and the strange kind of force advocated by Judge 
Huger, half principal and half auxiliary (a truly Southern 
definition of force, by the way), and the inflexible deter- 
mination of the President to employ force of any kind, 
"principal or auxiliary," or both, to compass his ends, 
which were the execution of the laws and the punishment 
of rebels against their authority, Colonel Drayton must have 
been sorely perplexed how to satisfy all parties. But he proved 
himself a negotiator and diplomatist worthy of the occasion. 
He had some peculiar qualifications for such an onice. He 
had proved himself during a long course of public service a 
man of such high honor and such unimpeached integrity 
that he was at that time not only respected but trusted by 
all parties. He was deeply impressed with the soundness 
of the political views held by the Union party, he knew 
well the lawlessness and madness of the Nullifiers, and he 
could not help seeing that if obedience to the laws of the 
United States was to be secured, force must be in the last 
resort employed. But with the far-seeing sagacity of a 
statesman, and with a certain tender regard for the mis- 
guided men of his own State, he thought that the ultima 
ratio should be postponed until every other method of 
compelling obedience had been exhausted. 

With these views he turned his attention first to removing 
the great obstacle to peace, — the provisions of the Tariff Acts 
of 1828 and 1832. On the 9th of February, 1833, he pro- 
posed an amendment to the pending bill of Mr. Verplanck, 
reducing the rate of duties one-third after the 2d of March, 
1834, and although his proposition was then rejected by the 
House, its introduction none the less marks the beginning 
of the compromise system which was afterwards adopted 
as a modus vivendi by both Houses. In a letter to Mr. Poin- 
sett of that date, he thus explains the motives that led to 
his action : 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 79 

" Should what I have proposed become a law the accumu- 
lation of the surplus revenue would be prevented, the rate 
of protection would be diminished, and an interval would be 
allowed for the manufacturers to save themselves from the 
losses which they would sustain by an instantaneous removal 
of the protective duties. For the sake of South Carolina as 
she is, I would not make the slightest effort to reduce the 
protective duties. On the contrary, I should be opposed to 
legislating altogether at this time unless by doing so a result 
might be accomplished which might deprive the Nullifiers 
of their means of doing mischief by conciliating those States 
whose co-operation they are desirous of obtaining, and 
without whose co-operation they must be sensible that their 
revolutionary plans would fail." 

Meanwhile, Colonel Drayton had submitted to the Presi- 
dent the views of Judge Huger. On the 31st of December 
he writes to Mr. Poinsett, — 

" I have had several conversations with the President & 
proposed to him not to interfere with our party by affording 
them the aid of the Federal troops under existing circum- 
stances, & he acquiesces in the policy of this forbearance, 
observing that he hopes to see the patriots of S. Carolina 
put down sedition & rebellion themselves. So soon as the 
laws passed by our late legislature in conformity with the 
directions of the Ordinance shall reach here a special message, 
I presume, will be sent by the Pres* to Congress. Congress 
will then have this distracting subject before them, and 
unless I labor under the darkest error, the majority of Con- 
gress will not permit South Carolina peaceably to secede from 
the Union." 

As time went on, and the JSTullifiers grew more bold and 
defiant, Colonel Drayton was forced to regard armed inter- 
vention as a measure becoming more probable every day. 
But his loyalty to the Union never grew cool even when 
submitted to the crucial test of coercion should it be found 
necessary to adopt it. 

"If our citizens," he says in a letter to Mr. Poinsett, 
January 13, " will not pay duties upon dutiable imports, and 
we resolve to exclude the Federal Courts from deciding con- 
troversies which are constitutionally within their jurisdic- 

80 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

tion our ports will be blockaded. ... In the event of our 
being drawn into a struggle with our foes and the foes of 
our country, and of our rights and liberties I hope & trust 
that we shall meet the emergency like men, prepared without 
boasting to defend ourselves with arms in our hands. The 
Nullifiers appear to be persuaded that they could raise the 
blockade of our ports and produce the retreat of the navy and 
military of the Federal Gov* whenever they please simply 
by the formal declaration of Secession ; but in this respect 
they labor under the same delusion which has characterised 
ail "their proceedings, for nothing is more evident to any 
observer at this place than that the Congress of the United 
States will not permit South Carolina to withdraw herself 
from the Union." 

" The President contemplates sending a special message 
to Congress upon the subject of our affairs & declared that 
he would immediately execute his intention unless I should 
say to him that a delay would contribute to the safety of 
the members of the Union party. I told him that it would 
be a source of infinite regret to us if the proper course of 
the Gov* should be arrested or paralysed by any considera- 
tion which was personal to ourselves, that we felt, I was 
confident, the same inclination which he did that the mad- 
ness & folly and lawless usurpation of those who now tyran- 
nised over us should be suppressed by the authority of the 
Union. I suggested to the President that it might be ad- 
visable to postpone the communication for a few days in 
order that some impression may be made on the tariff dis- 
cussion, this he has promised to do." 

The danger of an armed collision was averted, as is well 
known, by the unshaken firmness of the President, and the 
passage of the Compromise Bill of Mr. Clay by the com- 
bined vote of the Protectionists and the Mlifiers, with Mr. 
Calhoun at their head. The secret history of this bill may 
be read in Mr. Benton's " Thirty Years in the Senate," vol. 
i. p. 342. Suffice it to say here that the result was that the 
bill gave to the Protectionists all that they could reasonably 
claim in the changed condition of feeling throughout the 
country in regard to the Tariff question, — a rate of protection 
gradually decreasing during nine years, — while, of course, it 
was not satisfactory to the Legislature of South Carolina, 
which continued for some time to protest, threaten, and 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 81 

nullify. But the people outside of the State, and the General 
Government paid little attention to all this talk, regarding 
it, as it proved to be, mere brutum fulmen. 

I certainly have no design of writing a history of the 
Nullification troubles. I merely wish to present the views 
of some of the most eminent men in South Carolina at that 
time — of Poinsett, of Huger, and of Drayton — in regard to 
a question which has always been important, and which our 
later history has shown to be the most practical in its bear- 
ings of any which can agitate the country, — namely, the duty 
of the General Government to enforce the execution of its 
own laws under all circumstances and everywhere. If this 
is a principle which is now deeply rooted in the national life, 
and universally recognized as the basis of our national policy, 
we ought, it seems to me, to recall with pride and thankful- 
ness the heroic struggles of those men who in the darkest 
days of trial and personal danger, and with a full conscious- 
ness that they were sacrificing fortune, and old friends, as 
well as social and political position, boldly proclaimed and 
maintained the truth upon which the Government under 
which we live has been built. 1 

When the strife and excitement attendant upon the 
" troublous times" of the Nullification era had closed Mr. 
Poinsett married, and became a rice planter near George- 
town. Here he exhibited the same enterprise, intelligence, 
and activity which he had displayed in his public life. He be- 
came a prosperous planter, and the hours which he could 
spare from the cultivation of his farm were given to reading, 
and especially to scientific studies, while he enjoyed the 
society of the cultivated people who thronged around him, 
eager to learn from his lips the lessons which had been taught 
him by a large experience of life in many countries and under 
many diverse conditions. Like many retired statesmen he 
became extremely fond of the comparative repose of rural 

1 Colonel Drayton resigned his seat in Congress in 1833, owing, as he 
expressed it, "to a deep-rooted and thorough disgust of public life." 
He removed shortly afterwards to Philadelphia, and the remainder of hia 
useful and honorable life was passed in that city. 


82 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

life. He believed in the possibility of cultivating success- 
fully here mauy of the plants which he had seen growing 
in the various countries he had visited, and he amused 
himself with experiments to naturalize them here. Prob- 
ably this period of his life was the happiest he had ever 
known. He had at last a home where he was surrounded 
not only by the comforts of life, but where his refined and 
elegant tastes had full play. Shut out, it is true, by his 
political opinions from public life in his own State, he 
nevertheless enjoyed what has always been " the classic 
diversion of a statesman's care," — the cultivation of his 
fields and the never-failing resource of his books. 

But although his own State neglected him, he was not 
forgotten by those who remembered and could reward his 
services to the nation. He was appointed Secretary of "War 
in 1837 by Mr. Yan Buren, and certainly no one was a bet- 
ter judge than he of the activity, temper, and tact which 
Mr. Poinsett would bring to the execution of the duties of 
his office. The new field of duty upon which he entered at 
Washington was, as we have seen, one entirely suited to his 
tastes and habits from his earliest boyhood. He at once 
introduced strict methods of accounting: into the transaction 
of the business of the office, and he especially distinguished 
himself by improvements in what may be called the scien- 
tific work of the Government. It was he who was chosen 
(although the subject properly belonged to the Navy Depart. 
ment) by Mr. Yan Buren's Cabinet to organize and equip 
the " Wilkes Exploring Expedition," and whatever credit the 
nation received for the results of that voyage, a good deal of 
it belongs to his provident care and liberality in fitting out 
the expedition. He planned and founded, moreover, the first 
National Museum and Institute in Washington, which was 
the worthy progenitor of the more famous Smithsonian In- 

While in Europe in early life he had been much struck 
with certain improvements which had beeu introduced into 
the organization of the French armies under Napoleon. 
Among these things was the constitution and duties of the 

The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 83 

MU major, or general staff of the army, the improvements in 
artillery equipment and practice, and the vast importance of 
a corps, known in the English service as that of sappers 
miners. He labored hard to introduce all these improve- 
ments into our own small army. He was only partially 
successful. He completely reorganized, however, our artil- 
lery, and established batteries of what were called flying 
artillery. He sent Colonel Ringgold, who was afterwards 
killed while doing gallant service at Palo Alto in command 
of one of these batteries, to Europe to perfect himself in 
the details of the service. Much of our success in the bat- 
tles of the Mexican War was owing, as is well known, to the 
superiority of our artillery, and its excellence was in a great 
measure due to the prudent care and foresight of Mr. Poin- 
sett while Secretary of War. 

When Mr. Van Buren's term as President expired, Mr 
Poinsett returned to his plantation in South Carolina He 
went back to his old work with renewed interest, and took 
no further part in political affairs. His health, as well as 
that of his wife, required attention, and they lived happy 
and contented together in private life. No one enjoyed 
more domestic happiness than he; and no one had more 
reason to wish for its long continuance. But the time of 
his departure was at hand, and he died peacefully on the 
12th of December, 1851, being nearly seventy-three years 
old. J 

Mr. Poinsett had been much in the public eye for more 
than a half a century, and his career had been, as I have 
endeavored to show, a singularly useful and honorable one 
During the whole of it he was remarkable for many quali- 
ties in which our prominent men are often singularly defi- 
cient. In the extent of his knowledge, in his devotion to 
duty as a principle in public affairs, in the firmness and de- 
cision of his character, in the great courage of his opinions 
he had few if any rivals. As a speaker he was clear and 
forcible; his voice was not strong, but so distinct that he 
could be heard without difficulty. In the control of his 

84 The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett. 

temper, in his self-possession in danger, in the courteous 
simplicity of his manners, he was a model. Above all, he 
was a typical American, willingly sacrificing everything to 
maintain his American principles, and as such, it seems to 
me that he is one of those Americans whose memory we 
should not willingly let die. 



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