Appointed by President Andrew Jackson
Continued in office under President Martin Van Buren
John Forsyth is arguably the most obscure secretary of state in the early republic. The affable Georgian, an individual of modest talent and dogged determination, loyally served two presidents—Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren—over a seven-year period. Both chief executives, however, dominated foreign affairs, leaving Forsyth to administer their policies and languish out of the public view. Consequently, a revisionist approach to Forsyth's State Department career would be inappropriate and inaccurate. However, he does merit attention for his cool ability to handle the diplomatic tasks assigned him and for his dedicated efficiency in managing his department.
Born in Virginia in 1780, John Forsyth moved as a child with his parents to Georgia. Well educated (Princeton) and genteel, Forsyth personified the stereotypical Southern lawyer-planter aristocrat. Elected as a Jeffersonian Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1813, he soon moved to the Senate. Forsyth remained there only briefly before accepting James Monroe's offer in 1819 to become the U.S. Minister to Spain. The ensuing four-year sojourn in Madrid represented the low point of his career. Bubbling over with republican self-righteousness, Forsyth committed several diplomatic gaffes, the most serious being a written lecture to the King regarding his duties to his subjects and the international community. When he came home in 1823, Forsyth was promptly returned to the House of Representatives and then elevated to the Governor's chair in 1827. He spent considerable energy during the decade promoting Cherokee removal.
The states' rights crisis of the late 1820s and early 1830s revolving around the issues of the tariff and nullification forced Forsyth into a difficult position. Entering the Senate in 1829, as a loyal Southerner he strongly opposed high protective tar-iffs. However, he could not endorse the destructive, anti-union doctrines of Vice President John C. Calhoun and vigorously opposed the Carolinian's positions. Forsyth's courageous stance in defense of various policies of Andrew Jackson, including the removal of the federal deposits from the Bank of the United States,