Born: July 29, 1794
Died: December 18, 1865
Political Party: Whig, later Republican
Term of Office: December 16, 1840- December 14, 1842
No. 43 of 58
Thomas Corwin was born in Kentucky in 1794. His father was Matthias, and he moved the family to Lebanon, Ohio when Thomas was 4 years old. After moving to Ohio, Matthias became one of Ohio's earliest representatives in the state legislature. The elder Corwin served 11 consecutive terms in the state legislature, paving the way for his son's extensive political career.
During the War of 1812, a young Corwin served as a wagon boy in General William Henry Harrison's Army. After the war, Corwin began to study law and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1817. This opened the door to serving as Warren Counties prosecuting attorney from 1818-1828. Throughout the 1820's, he served 2 non consecutive terms in the Ohio House of Representatives, as well as working in his law practice in Lebanon. It was also around this time that he got married and started a family. He and his wife Sarah had 5 children.
In 1831, Corwin was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served 5 consecutive terms in Washington. While in Congress, he earned the nickname "terror of the house" because of his passionate and intelligent debating skills.
He resigned from Congress in 1840 to run for Governor of Ohio. During the campaign he became well known for his oratory skills. He won the election, beating sitting Governor Wilson Shannon. Corwin's former commanding officer General William Henry Harrison was running for President at the same time that he was running for Governor. Corwin helped campaign for Harrison, contributing to him winning the White House. Harrison sadly died on April 4, 1841, just one month after taking office.
Corwin was a Whig and during his time as Governor, Democrats controlled the state legislature. This made it difficult to accomplish anything. He and other Whig's in the state legislature proposed a "State Bank", which was easily shot down by the opposition. Corwin also took blame for an economic downturn and lost his reelection bid in 1842 to former Governor Wilson Shannon.
In 1844, Corwin was chosen by the Ohio General Assembly to serve in the U. S. Senate. In the Senate, he was very out spoken on his opposition to the Mexican War. He remained in the Senate until 1850, when President Millard Fillmore appointed him to be his Secretary of the Treasury. He resigned as Secretary of the Treasury on March 6, 1853, 2 days after President Franklin Pierce took office. He then returned home to his law practice.
In 1858, Corwin traveled to Illinois to be a co counsel in defense of former Ohio Governor William Bebb, who had shot a man. Corwin helped get him acquitted with a plea of self defense.
Later that year, Corwin was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives once again. With the Whig party now dissolved, Corwin was now a Republican. He supported the campaign of Abraham Lincoln during the election of 1860. Once Lincoln was elected, Corwin became chairman of a Congressional committee called the "Committee of 33", which had one representative from each state. This committee was a last ditch effort to prevent the Civil War. Corwin proposed an Amendment to the Constitution that would forbid the Federal Government to pass laws that would conflict with each individual states laws. Basically, it would of kept the Federal Government from overturning state laws allowing slavery in the south. The Amendment never got ratified and the War happened anyway.
Corwin won reelection to the House in 1860, but resigned shortly after to become President Lincoln's Minister to Mexico. As Ambassador, Corwin was popular in Mexico due to his opposition to the Mexican War several years earlier. He kept good relations with Mexico during the Civil War, in spite of the Confederacy being so physically close to Mexico at the time, and their efforts to turn Mexico against the U.S.
Corwin resigned from his position in Mexico and politics in 1864. He returned to Washington DC, where he practiced law until his death on December 18, 1865.
I visited Corwin's gravesite in late April 2017. It was the last stop on a very busy day in the Cincinnati area. I found his gravesite very interesting. There appears to be an old family obelisk with Thomas Corwin's name on it, as well a newer marker that has many of his accomplishments on it. And in between an old small individual marker that simply reads T. C. I can now proudly say that for the first time in a long time, I am all caught up on these Governor posts. Corwin is my most recent visit and my most recent post.
|I thought this newer marker was pretty cool. With the Ohio seal on it.|
|The Ohio seal|
|T.C. Thomas Corwin's individual marker|
|Governor Corwin, my sleepy son Grant and I|