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Francis Thomas (February 3, 1799 – January 22, 1876) was a Maryland politician who served as the 26th Governor of Maryland from 1842 to 1845. He also served as a United States Representative from Maryland, representing at separate times the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh districts.

Francis Thomas
Francis Thomas of Maryland - photo portrait seated.jpg
United States Minister to Peru
In office
July 10, 1872 – July 5, 1875
PresidentUlysses S. Grant
Preceded byThomas Settle
Succeeded byRichard Gibbs
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1869
Preceded byHenry May
Succeeded byPatrick Hamill
In office
March 4, 1831 – March 3, 1833
Preceded byMichael Sprigg
Succeeded byJames P. Heath
26th Governor of Maryland
In office
January 3, 1842 – January 6, 1845
Preceded byWilliam Grason
Succeeded byThomas Pratt
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1861 – March 3, 1863
Preceded byJacob Michael Kunkel
Succeeded byBenjamin Gwinn Harris
Chair of the House Judiciary Committee
In office
1836–1839
Preceded bySamuel Beardsley
Succeeded byJohn Sergeant
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 6th district
In office
March 4, 1835 – March 3, 1841
Preceded byWilliam Cost Johnson
Succeeded byJohn Thomson Mason, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1833 – March 3, 1835
Preceded byJohn Leeds Kerr
Succeeded byDaniel Jenifer
Member of the Maryland House of Delegates
In office
1822
1827
1829
Personal details
BornFebruary 3, 1799
Frederick County, Maryland
DiedJanuary 22, 1876 (age 76)
Frankville, Maryland
Political partyDemocrat
Unconditional Unionist
Republican

Early life and careerEdit

Thomas was born in Frederick County, Maryland, close to South Mountain, known as "Merryland tract", and attended St. John's College of Annapolis, Maryland. He later studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1820, commencing practice in Frankville, Maryland. He entered politics after becoming a member of the Maryland House of Delegates in 1822, 1827, and 1829, and served the last year as 34th Speaker of the House.

Thomas was elected as a Jacksonian to the Twenty-second through Twenty-fourth Congresses and as a Democrat to the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Congresses, serving from March 4, 1831 until March 3, 1841). In Congress, he served as chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary (Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Congresses), and as a member of the Committee on Naval Affairs (Twenty-sixth Congress). He also served as president of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company in 1839 and 1840.

Governor of MarylandEdit

In 1841, Thomas was elected Governor of Maryland, defeating challenger William Cost Johnson by a margin of 600 votes. During his tenure as governor, he is perhaps best known for his highly publicized and violent divorce with his wife, Sally Campbell Preston McDowell. McDowell had left the marriage over claims of "violent jealous rages [that] made her fear for her life" and that prompted her father, Virginia Governor James McDowell, to seek out a bill of divorce from the Virginia General Assembly.[1][2] Until that event, he had been a leading candidate for Democratic nomination for President of the United States, but the divorce seriously disrupted his chances in succeeding in the nomination, and thus he did not pursue it.

 
Francis Thomas

As governor, Thomas inherited a major state deficit that he would not resolve in his tenure. He proposed a direct tax upon the people, which was widely unpopular, and did not raise adequate funds to allow repudiation of the debt. He was also a staunch opponent of slavery, a unique position in a border-state like Maryland, decrying it as "altogether unworthy of enlightened statesmen, and should be by all patriots repudiated". He served as governor from 1842 until 1845, narrowly beating William Cost Johnson,[3] who he succeeded as Maryland's 6th district congressman, in 1841 for a three-year term. Thomas was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1844.

Return to Congress and later lifeEdit

After his term as governor, Thomas served as a member of the Maryland State Constitutional convention in 1850. He was again elected to the Thirty-seventh Congress as a Unionist, as an Unconditional Unionist to the Thirty-eighth and Thirty-ninth Congresses, and as a Republican to the Fortieth Congress, serving from March 4, 1861 until March 3, 1869. After leaving the House in 1869, he had served nine terms over almost four decades. He served as a delegate to the National Union Convention at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1866, and as collector of internal revenue for Maryland from 1870 until 1872.

Thomas was selected to serve as the United States Minister to Peru by President Grant, and did so from March 25, 1872 to July 9, 1875. Afterwards, he retired from public and professional life and devoted his time to agricultural pursuits.

On January 22, 1876, while overseeing improvements on his estate near Frankville, Maryland, a community that once existed along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Garrett County, Thomas was killed instantly when he was struck by a locomotive.[citation needed] He is interred in a vault in Rose Hill Cemetery of Cumberland, Maryland.

ReferencesEdit

  • United States Congress. "Francis Thomas (id: T000166)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved on 2009-04-14
  • White, Frank F., Jr.; Heinrich Ewald Buchholz (1970). The Governors of Maryland 1777–1970. Annapolis: The Hall of Records Commission. pp. 123–126. OCLC 144620.
  • Our Campaigns profile
  1. ^ "Working Out Her Destiny - Where are the Women: Examples from the LVA Collections". Library of Virginia. Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  2. ^ S.J, Thomas E. Buckley (2003-11-03). The Great Catastrophe of My Life: Divorce in the Old Dominion. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807861486.
  3. ^ "Our Campaigns - MD Governor Race - Oct 06, 1841". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
Political offices
Preceded by
William Grason
Governor of Maryland
1842–1845
Succeeded by
Thomas Pratt
Maryland House of Delegates
Preceded by
John Grant Chapman
Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates
1829
Succeeded by
Richard Thomas
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Michael C. Sprigg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th congressional district

1831–1833
Succeeded by
James P. Heath
Preceded by
John Leeds Kerr
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 7th congressional district

1833–1835
Succeeded by
Daniel Jenifer
Preceded by
William Cost Johnson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 6th congressional district

1835–1841
Succeeded by
John T. Mason
Preceded by
Jacob Michael Kunkel
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 5th congressional district

1861–1863
Succeeded by
Benjamin G. Harris
Preceded by
Henry May
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th congressional district

1863–1869
Succeeded by
Patrick Hamill
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Thomas Settle
United States Minister to Peru
July 10, 1872 – July 5, 1875
Succeeded by
Richard Gibbs