Today In Charleston History: March 2

1696 – Fortifications.

The Assembly passed a second act appropriating money for the construction of a brick wall along Charles Town’s eastern edge. It became known as the “wharf wall,” or the “curtain line upon the Bay.” The legislature also considered plans for building a brick “fort” at the east end of Broad Street.

1779 – Births.

Joel Roberts Poinsett, future American statesman and botanist, was born in Charleston. As the American minister to Mexico in 1828 Poinsett discovered a beautiful shrub which the locals called “Flor de Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve flower). Poinsett sent samples of the plant home to his plantations in Charleston and Greenville.  

Most botanists dismissed the plant as nothing more that a weed, but Poinsett shared the plant with friends and other horticulturists whose enthusiasm for its beauty led to it being called the “Mexican fire plant.” In 1836 the plant was officially renamed the “poinsettia”, following the 19th century convention of naming things after their “discoverers.” It is now the #1 selling potted plant in the world. 

greenhouse full of bright red poinsettia

Poinsettias in a warehouse.

1833 – Nullification Crisis

The Force Bill was passed by Congress at the urging of President Andrew Jackson. It consisted of eight sections expanding presidential power and was designed to compel the state of South Carolina’s compliance with a series of federal tariffs, opposed by John C. Calhoun and other leading South Carolinians. Among other things, the legislation stipulated that the president could, if he deemed it necessary, deploy the U.S. Army to force South Carolina to comply with the law.