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Flowers, Guns, and Money

Joel Roberts Poinsett and the Paradoxes of American Patriotism

A fascinating historical account of a largely forgotten statesman, who pioneered a form of patriotism that left an indelible mark on the early United States.

Joel Roberts Poinsett’s (17791851) brand of self-interested patriotism illuminates the paradoxes of the antebellum United States.  He was a South Carolina investor and enslaver, a confidant of Andrew Jackson, and a secret agent in South America who fought surreptitiously in Chile’s War for Independence. He was an ambitious Congressman and Secretary of War who oversaw the ignominy of the Trail of Tears and orchestrated America’s longest and costliest war against Native Americans, yet also helped found the Smithsonian. In addition, he was a naturalist, after whom the poinsettia—which he appropriated while he was serving as the first US ambassador to Mexico—is now named.
As Lindsay Schakenbach Regele shows in Flowers, Guns, and Money, Poinsett personified a type of patriotism that emerged following the American Revolution, one in which statesmen served the nation by serving themselves, securing economic prosperity and military security while often prioritizing their own ambitions and financial interests. Whether waging war, opposing states’ rights yet supporting slavery, or pushing for agricultural and infrastructural improvements in his native South Carolina, Poinsett consistently acted in his own self-interest. By examining the man and his actions, Schakenbach Regele reveals an America defined by opportunity and violence, freedom and slavery, and nationalism and self-interest.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Founding a Man, 1779–1810
Chapter 2 International and Domestic Politics, 1811–1819
Chapter 3 Domestic and International Politics, 1820–1825
Chapter 4 Interest in Mexico, 1825–1830
Chapter 5 Southern “Honor,” 1830–1836
Chapter 6 War, 1837–1841
Chapter 7 Final Battles, 1841–1851

List of Abbreviations

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