Thomas Ewing

Thomas Ewing

West Liberty, Ohio County, West Virginia, USA
Death 26 Oct 1871 (aged 81)
Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio, USA
Burial Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio, USA
Memorial ID 4113 · View Source
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US Senator, Presidential Cabinet Secretary. Born in West Liberty, Virginia, in April 1798, his family moved to Athens County, Ohio. To have money for college, he went to work in the Kanawha salt works. After much hard work he became an operator and the substantial owner of salt works in the Chauncey, Ohio, area. The salt works proved to be profitable and he was able to pay off his father's farm debt and enroll himself into Ohio University in 1809. After leaving for a time and returning to the salt works to make more tuition money, he became Ohio University's first graduate in 1815. It was the first B.A. degree ever granted by any college or university in the Northwest Territory. In July of that year he went to Lancaster, Ohio, where he studied law under Philemon Beecher for a year. He was admitted to the Ohio Bar in August of 1816. The following year, when Beecher left to serve in Congress, Thomas Ewing was left in charge of the office and he soon had a large practice before the Ohio Supreme Court. From 1818 to 1829, he also served as Prosecuting Attorney for Fairfield County. He then married Beecher's niece, who bore the couple seven children, among them were three sons who would later reach the rank of General in the Union Army. He and his wife also helped raise several other children, including the three children of his sister, the son of his cousin, and most notably William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman's father, Charles R. Sherman, was a judge of the Ohio Supreme Court who had died suddenly in 1829, leaving a widow and eleven children. Sherman later would become Ewing's son-in-law. Ewing was defeated in 1823 in a bid for a seat in the Ohio Legislature, however in January of 1828 he was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. In 1830 he was elected a U.S. Senator from Ohio as a Whig, serving until 1837. His intellectual speeches on the Senate floor earned him the title "Logician of the West". Daniel Webster was quoted as saying of Ewing that he was the best informed man he had ever met, and that he had never conversed with him for five minutes without being wiser for having done so. He became one of the leaders of the opposition to President Andrew Jackson's popular administration, leading to Ewing's defeat for re-election. After his failed bid for re-election he returned to his law practice. The Calhoun wing of the party was ready in 1837 to consider him a potential candidate for the Vice Presidency in 1840, however his defeat in 1838 in a bid for a vacated Senate seat ruined his chances for such a place on the ticket. In 1841, he was chosen by President William Henry Harrison, who was an old friend, to be Secretary of the Treasury. The next year, he and many other cabinet members submitted their resignations believing that new president John Tyler had betrayed the Whig Party. He became the first Secretary of the Interior under President Zachary Taylor, in which he was responsible for Indian affairs, patents, pensions, and public land. As Secretary of the Interior Ewing was criticized and blamed for creating department's the culture of corruption by wholesale replacement of officials with political patronage, for which newspapers called him "Butcher Ewing". He held the job, in which he is regarded to have been quite unaffective, until his resignation in August of 1850. President Taylor had died the month before and Ewing felt that he couldn't serve under the new president Millard Fillmore. During his lifetime he was an advisor to four presidents. He knew Abraham Lincoln well, and while serving as Secretary of the Interior had offered him the office of Commissioner of the General Land Office, which Lincoln found necessary to decline. After the assassination of Lincoln he continued as an advisor to President Andrew Johnson. In 1868 Johnson's internal struggle with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton came to a head. Johnson protested a new law, which stated the president could not dismiss anyone who had been appointed or approved to an office by Congress, by firing Stanton. he was nominated to be the new Secretary of War. The Radical Republican controlled Senate, furious at Stanton's firing, refused to confirm the nomination on the grounds that no vacancy existed. The House impeached President Johnson over this affair. Ewing spent the rest of his life practicing law, arguing his cases before the United States Supreme Court. In the fall of 1869, while addressing the Supreme Court, he was stricken and collapsed on the court floor. He remained in ill health for two years, dying at his home in Lancaster, Ohio. Following his death, both the Ohio and the United States Supreme Courts held and published memorial proceedings for him, unprecedented honors for any person not a member of the judicial bodies. Ewing Hall, erected on the campus of Ohio University, was named in his honor and the Alumni Gateway, erected in 1915, was constructed in memory of the centennial of his graduation from that institution.

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 6 Dec 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 4113
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Ewing (28 Dec 1789–26 Oct 1871), Find a Grave Memorial no. 4113, citing Saint Mary Catholic Cemetery, Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .