Francis Thomas (February 3, 1799 – January 22, 1876) was a Maryland politician who served as the 26th Governor of Maryland from 1842–1844. He also served as a United States Representative from Maryland, representing at separate times the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh districts.
Early life and career
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 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 Maryland
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. 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.
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, decrying it as "altogether unworthy of enlightened statesmen, and should be by all patriots repudiated". He served as governor from 1842 until 1844, but was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1844.
Return to Congress and later life
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. 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, 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, Thomas was killed instantly when he was struck by a locomotive. He is interred in a vault in Rose Hill Cemetery of Cumberland, Maryland, above which reads: "The author of the measure which gave to Maryland the Constitution of 1864 and thereby gave freedom to 90,000 human beings". The statement is believed to have been written by Thomas before his death, and refers to the Maryland Constitution of 1864, which emancipated the slaves in Maryland.
- Francis Thomas at the 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.