Thomas Corwin

"Union." (detail) Corwin is in the center.
Henry S. Sadd, after Tompkins H. Matteson

"Ladies in the Senate Chamber—Reading of the President's Message."
Unknown Artist
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
January 12, 1856


Thomas Corwin

With the exception of Henry Clay Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun, no other senator attracted the attention of the audience as did Senator Corwin. I speak of him as I saw him in the Senate, he was a remarkable man. As a speaker he stood among the finest he infused into his speeches by his looks and gestures a comic element that gave point to his argument and kept his hearers completely under his control he always abounded in anecdotes of the right kind if he spoke three or five hours, his speeches was always too short for his audience. In person he was straight and erect five feet eight inches high, well built, large round head, coal black hair and eyes, full face, broad chest, rather dark complexion. . . . [16C63]

Senator Corwin of Ohio made a speech on the three million bill. It being known that he was to address the Senate, long before it was time for the Senate to meet, the galleries were crowded with ladies and always outnumbering the gentlemen and just before the senator commenced his speech, permission of the Senate was given to the ladies to occupy the floor. There was a great rushing into the Chamber and filling it so that it was impossible for the page or senators to move, he was a very attractive speaker he was unlike any other senator in his extraordinary powers [of] pathos, irony, and sarcasm. He had a peculiar expression of face and of eye as no other senator had, he had quick perception of whatever was comic. I have often seen him throw the Senate into a fit of laughter. [16C69]

Editor's Note:

Thomas Corwin was elected as a Whig to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1831. He resigned in 1840, having become a candidate for governor, and held the position of governor of Ohio from 1840-1842. Later he served as a Whig to the U.S. Senate from 1845-1850. While in the Senate, Corwin was known for his sharp wit and debating skills. He resigned when appointed secretary of the treasury by President Millard Fillmore, then returned to the U.S. House of Representatives for three years. In 1861 he resigned to enter the diplomatic service and was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as minister to Mexico. Corwin was well regarded among the Mexican public for his opposition to the Mexican War while in the Senate. He helped keep relations with Mexico friendly throughout the course of the Civil War, despite Confederate efforts to sway their allegiances.

People, Places, & Things:

  • Henry Clay (Democratic Republican, National Republican, Whig - KY) U.S. senator 1806-1807, 1810-1811, 1831-1842, and 1849-1852.
  • Daniel Webster (Adams, Anti-Jacksonian, Whig - MA) U.S. senator 1827-1841 and 1845-1850.
  • John Caldwell Calhoun (Democratic Republican, Nullifier, Democrat - SC) U.S. senator 1832-1843 and 1845-1850.
  • Page - For more than 175 years, messengers known as pages have served the U.S. Senate. Page duties consist primarily of delivering correspondence and legislative material within the Capitol complex. Other duties include preparing the Senate Chamber for Senate sessions, and carrying bills and amendments to the presiding officer’s desk.