Thomas Corwin, an American statesman, born in Bourbon co., Ky., July 29, 1794, died in Washington, Dec. 18, 1865. His immediate ancestors went from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, from thence to Kentucky, and from thence to Ohio. His father, Matthias Corwin, for many years a member of the Ohio legislature, removed with his family to what was then the Northwestern territory in 1798, and settled near where the town of Lebanon, Warren co., Ohio, now is. Thomas Corwin was reared on a farm, where he was kept at hard labor except in the winter months, when he studied at school or at home, as opportunity offered. Though there were no good schools in the country, then almost a wilderness, he nevertheless acquired much solid information. In 1814 he entered the clerk's office of Warren co., then or soon after under the charge of an elder brother, Matthias Corwin, jr. The next year he commenced the study of the law, and in May, 1818, he was admitted to the bar. As a lawyer, besides his power as an advocate, he was distinguished for keenness of discrimination in the use of authorities and the management of evidence.
In 1822 he was elected to the house of representatives of the state legislature, and soon distinguished himself in a speech in opposition to a bill proposing to restore public whipping as a punishment for small crimes. After serving in the state legislature for seven years, he was elected to congress in 1830. He had supported Mr. Clay for president in 1824, when he received the electoral vote of Ohio; and in the presidential election of 1828 he had been the supporter of John Quincy Adams. During the administrations of Jackson and Van Buren he uniformly acted in concert with the whigs in regard to all controverted political questions. In 1836, and again in 1840, he supported Gen. Harrison. Having been selected in 1840 as the candidate of the whigs for governor of Ohio, he delivered a brilliant speech in defence of Gen. Harrison, in reply to an attack of Gen. Crary of Michigan; and during the presidential canvass of that year he made speeches in almost every county of the state, discussing the political topics of the day, and exercising an effective influence in favor of Gen. Harrison. He was elected governor, and in 1845 United States senator; and in 1846, when war with Mexico was affirmed to exist by the act of Mexico, he denounced the policy of the executive and the party in power as an attempt to possess themselves of Mexican territory which they had failed to purchase by treaty.
In 1848 he supported Gen. Taylor as a candidate for the presidency; and on the death of President Taylor in July, 1850, he received from Mr. Fillmore the office of secretary of the treasury, which he filled till March 4, 1853, when he returned to Lebanon, Ohio, where he again engaged in the practice of his profession. In 1858 he was again elected to the house of representatives in congress, where he served till 1861, when he was appointed minister to Mexico. He remained there until the arrival of Maximilian, when he returned to Washington and resumed the practice of law. He supported Abraham Lincoln for the presidency in 1860, but was conservative on the subject of slavery, and favored a compromise in order to avert a conflict.