Thomas Ewing, Sr. (December
28, 1789 – October 26, 1871) was a National Republican
and Whig politician from
He served in the U.S. Senate
as well as serving as the
Secretary of the
and the first Secretary of the
Liberty, Ohio County, Virginia (now
studying at Ohio
University and reading law under Philemon Beecher, Ewing commenced the
practice of law in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1816.
As a colorful country lawyer
, he was
elected to the U.S. Senate in 1830 as a Whig and served a single
term. He was unsuccessful in seeking a second term in 1836. Ewing
served as Secretary of the Treasury from March 4, 1841 – September
11, 1841, serving under Presidents William Henry Harrison
and John Tyler
Ewing was later appointed to serve as the first Secretary of the
Interior by President Zachary Taylor
Ewing served in the position from March 8, 1849–July 22, 1850 under
Taylor and Millard Fillmore
first secretary, he consolidated bureaus from various Departments,
such as the Land Office from the Treasury Department and the Indian
Bureau from the War Department. The bureaus were being kicked out
of their offices as unwanted tenants in their former departments.
However, the Interior Department had no office space, so Ewing
rented space. Later, the Patent Office building, with a new east
wing, provided permanent space in 1852. Ewing initiated the
Interior Department's culture of corruption by wholesale
replacement of officials with political patronage. Newspapers
called him "Butcher Ewing" for his efforts.
In 1850 Ewing was appointed to the Senate to fill the vacancy
created by the resignation of Thomas
, and served from July 20, 1850 - March 3, 1851. Ewing
was unsuccessful in seeking re-election in 1851. In 1861, Ewing
served as one of Ohio's delegates to the peace conference held in
Washington in hopes of staving off civil war. After the war, Ewing
was appointed by President Andrew
to a third post as Secretary of War
following the firing of Edwin M.
but the Senate, still
outraged at Johnson's firing of Stanton—which had provoked
Johnson's impeachment—refused to act on the nomination.
Ewing married Maria Wills Boyle
Roman Catholic, and raised their children in her faith. His foster
son was the famous general William Tecumseh Sherman
was given a Catholic baptism in their home, and it is often
reported that he only acquired the Christian name "William" at that
time and that previously he was known simply as "Tecumseh Sherman."
However, there is reason to believe that Sherman was always named
"William Tecumseh." Sherman eventually married Thomas Ewing Sr.'s
daughter, Ellen Ewing Sherman
Ewing's namesake son, Thomas Ewing,
, was an American Civil
War Union army
general and two-term
U.S. Congressman from Ohio.
of Ewing's other sons – Hugh Boyle
and Charles Ewing
– also became generals in the Union army during the Civil
Ewing was born a Presbyterian, but for many years attended Catholic
services with his family. He was formally baptized into the
Catholic faith during his last illness.
Prior to his death in 1871, Ewing had been the last surviving
member of the Harrison and Tyler Cabinets. Future President
and Governor of Ohio Rutherford B. Hayes
was a pallbearer
at his funeral.
- See Schenker, Carl R., Jr., "'My Father . . . Named Me William
Tecumseh ': Rebutting the Charge That General Sherman Lied
About His Name," Ohio History (2008), vol. 115, p. 55; for
more information see William Tecumseh Sherman, "Early
- Lewis, 33-34, 609-10.
- Memorial of Thomas Ewing, of Ohio (New York: Catholic
Publication Society, 1873), compiled by his daughter, Ellen Ewing
- Lewis, Lloyd, Sherman: Fighting Prophet (New York:
Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1932)
- Miller, Paul I., "Thomas Ewing, Last of the Whigs," Ph.D.
diss., Ohio State University, 1933.