Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Thomas Ewing (1841–1841): Secretary of the Treasury

Thomas Ewing was born in 1789 in Ohio County, Virginia (now in West Virginia). He graduated from Ohio University in 1816 and, after studying law and being admitted to the state bar, opened a law practice in Lancaster, Ohio.

From 1818 to 1829, Ewing served as the prosecuting attorney for Fairfield County. Although he lost an 1821 election for the state legislature, he secured his 1830 bid for a seat in the United States Senate, serving as a Whig until 1836, when he failed to garner reelection. Ewing returned to his law practice but headed back to Washington, D.C., in 1841 as President William Henry Harrison's secretary of the treasury. Following Harrison's death, Ewing resigned his position shortly after the advent of the Tyler administration and returned to his law practice in Ohio.

In 1848, however, after supporting General Taylor for the presidency and losing his own bid for the United States Senate, newly inaugurated President Zachary Taylor nominated Ewing for secretary of the new "Home Department," later known as the Department of the Interior, in 1849. Ewing served in this post until President Taylor died in 1850. Shortly after Millard Fillmore was sworn in as President, Ewing left the Interior but remained in the nation's capital, filling a vacancy in the United States Senate, where he served from 1850 to 1851. He failed a second time to secure reelection and returned once again to his law practice in Ohio.

After supporting the presidency of Abraham Lincoln in both 1860 and 1864, and becoming friendly with vice president Andrew Johnson, Ewing was poised to assume yet another cabinet position in 1868, this time as President Johnson's secretary of war. Yet due to Johnson's impeachment proceedings, the Senate never confirmed Ewing's nomination. Thomas Ewing died in 1871.