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Thomas Ewing, Sr. (December 28, 1789 – October 26, 1871) was a National Republican and Whig politician from Ohiomarker. He served in the U.S. Senate as well as serving as the Secretary of the Treasury and the first Secretary of the Interior.


Born in West Libertymarker, Ohio Countymarker, Virginiamarker (now West Virginiamarker). After studying at Ohio Universitymarker and reading law under Philemon Beecher, Ewing commenced the practice of law in Lancaster, Ohiomarker, 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. As 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 Corwin, 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 Johnson to a third post as Secretary of War in 1868 following the firing of Edwin M. Stanton 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, a Roman Catholic, and raised their children in her faith. His foster son was the famous general William Tecumseh Sherman. 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, Jr., was an American Civil War Union army general and two-term U.S. Congressman from Ohiomarker. Two of Ewing's other sons – Hugh Boyle Ewing and Charles Ewing – also became generals in the Union army during the Civil War.

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.


  1. 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 Life."
  2. Lewis, 33-34, 609-10.


  • Memorial of Thomas Ewing, of Ohio (New York: Catholic Publication Society, 1873), compiled by his daughter, Ellen Ewing Sherman.
  • 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.

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