Thomas Corwin (1850 - 1853)

President Taylor's death brought Millard Fillmore to the Presidency and Thomas Corwin (1794 - 1865) to the Office of Secretary of the Treasury. Corwin had established himself as "the most captivating and effective political orator the country had ever produced" during his years as a Whig senator from Ohio (1845 - 1850). Like his immediate predecessor, William M. Meredith, Corwin believed in a protective tariff, but he did not want to make sudden or drastic changes in the free-trade tariff law of 1846.

Portrait of Thomas Corwin.

Sec. Thomas Corwin
John Harrison Witt
Oil on canvas
64 1/2 x 54 x 4 1/2"

He objected to that law's provisions, which taxed some imported raw materials at a higher rate than the imported manufactured goods made from those materials. Corwin stated in a report to Congress that, "such provisions certainly take from the manufacturer and artisan that encouragement which the present law was intended to afford." As a longtime Whig, however, Corwin was unsuccessful in passing any tariff legislation in a Congress controlled by Democrats. He retired as Secretary at the end of Fillmore's Administration.

About the Artist

Born in 1840, John Harrison Witt (1840 - 1901) began his career in Dublin, Indiana as a wagon painter in a small agricultural implement factory owned by his uncle. At the age of eighteen, Witt went to Cincinnati to study art with Joseph 0. Eaton, a renowned portrait and figure painter. By 1860, Witt had embarked on portrait painting as a profession and had opened a studio in Columbus, Ohio where he painted a number of early Ohio governors for the State House as well as many other prominent citizens. Moving to Washington, D.C. in 1873 in search of portrait commissions, Witt painted several notable figures, including General William T. Sherman. His portrait of Thomas Corwin, painted in 1880, was most likely copied from a photograph.