Appointed by President Benjamin Harrison
John Watson Foster, international lawyer, diplomat, and U.S. secretary of state, was born in Pike County, Indiana, in 1836. His English father, Matthew Foster, was a successful merchant and local politician. Foster attended local schools and then Indiana University, where he studied classical languages and graduated in 1855. After attending Harvard University for a year, Foster returned to Indiana, where he established a law practice in Evansville and became active in Republican Party politics. A strict Presbyterian and outspoken abolitionist, Foster viewed slavery and the Confederacy as the embodiment of evil. When the Civil War began, Foster felt morally obligated to enlist, despite being recently married and chronically concerned about his fragile health. During the war, Foster served as an officer with the 25th Indiana Volunteer Infantry and distinguished himself in combat at Ft. Donelson and Shiloh. He later served in campaigns in western Tennessee and Kentucky, attaining the rank of brevet brigadier general. Following the war, Foster published the Evansville Daily Journal (1865-73), became the city's postmaster (1869-73), and moved up the ranks in the Republican Party. He was chairman of the Republican State Central Committee in 1872, and his successful efforts to secure Indiana's electoral votes for the reelection of President Ulysses S. Grant that year brought Foster to the attention of party leaders such as James G. Blaine, who helped secure him an appointment as minister to Mexico.
Throughout his long career in international affairs, Foster tended to appear in key roles at critical times. From 1873, when he first accepted appointment as minister to Mexico, until the end of the century, Foster was involved with most of the nation's major foreign policy issues as a diplomat, international legal counsel, or informal adviser to presidents and secretaries of state. He arrived in Mexico in 1873, just in time to encounter the revolution led by Porfirio Diaz, and he was instrumental in bringing about U.S. recognition of Diaz's regime. Furthermore, Foster initiated a relationship with Diaz that would lead to significant U.S. invest-