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Browsing nomination messages was always an adventure. I could be quite certain that I’d accounted for all of the (subjectively) important nominations within a certain date range, yet when I pulled the tray containing messages within those dates, I nearly always found something I hadn’t expected to see. I especially enjoyed learning something new about familiar figures.

For example, what better way to learn that President Monroe nominated Andrew Jackson to be the first American Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Mexico:Monroe sent Jackson’s name to the Senate in January 1823, shortly after the two nations commenced diplomatic relations in the wake of Mexican independence. Unsurprisingly, Jackson didn’t accept the appointment—he had big plans for 1824 and preferred to remain in the country. The new post remained vacant until Joel Poinsett was nominated and confirmed early in John Quincy Adams’ presidency:If JQA had chosen someone else for the job, we would probably know poinsettias by another name. And I love how “Esq.” was crossed out with what seems to have been the same pen Adams used to sign the nomination. I like to imagine him berating his secretary for conferring undeserved credentials on the nominee, striking the erratum, and signing the document anyway. I also think it’s fascinating that Jackson was chosen for the project of normalizing relations with Mexico for the long haul, as he eventually spent his declining months in tense epistolary maneuverings to secure the annexation of Texas, which Mexico regarded as an act of war.

I believe the John Mason nominated to be Jackson’s secretary in Mexico City was John Young Mason, later Congressman, federal judge, Secretary of the Navy, Attorney General, and Minister to France (where he co-authored the Ostend Manifesto). But I could very well be wrong. (Edit: I was.) And don’t confuse “Heman Allen, of Vermont” with the other Heman Allen of Vermont who also served in Congress in the early 1800s. Allen accepted Monroe’s nomination and became the first American Minister to Chile.