Joel Roberts Poinsett, an American statesman, born in Charleston, S. C, March 2,1779, died in Statesburg, S. C, in December, 1851. He studied medicine and the natural sciences at the university of Edinburgh, and afterward entered the military academy at Woolwich. He returned to Charleston in 1800 and studied law, but in 1801 again went to Europe. Returning in 1809, he was sent by President Madison to South America to ascertain the political condition of the country. On his return he became a member of the South Carolina legislature, and from 1821 to 1825 was a member of congress. In 1822 he visited Mexico in a semi-diplomatic capacity to report upon the condition of the country and the policy of opening diplomatic relations with the emperor lturbide; and on the accession of Mr. Adams to the presidency he was appointed minister to Mexico. He held the office for 18 months, negotiating during that period a treaty of limits and one of commerce. Returning to Charleston in the midst of the nullification excitement, he became the leader of the Union party. In 1837-41, under Van Buren's administration, he was secretary of war.

He published " Notes on Mexico" (Philadelphia and London, 1824).