Thomas, Philip Francis

Life Span
Dickinson Connection
Class of 1830
    Full name
    Philip Francis Thomas
    Place of Birth
    Burial Place
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Slave State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    Sarah Maria Kerr (first wife, 1835), Clintonia (Wright) May (second wife, 1870)
    Dickinson (Carlisle College)
    Attorney or Judge
    Political Parties
    Fillmore Administration (1850-53)
    Pierce Administration (1853-57)
    Buchanan Administration (1857-61)
    US House of Representatives
    State legislature

    Philip Francis Thomas (Dickinson Chronicles)

    Philip Thomas was born the son of a prominent physician in Talbot County, Maryland on September 12, 1810.  He attended his home academy in Easton and then went on to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, entering with the class of 1830.  He attended during two of the most chaotic years in the history of the College concerning student discipline.  Thomas was involved with the November 24, 1828 incident in which the college janitor was ejected from his apartments in the dead of night and damage was caused to the rooms.  In December, Thomas and several others were suspended for a month when the faculty discovered their role in this incident.  Thomas served his suspension but then was dismissed for refusing to sign the pledge of good behavior that the faculty was requiring of students, after a late January "riot" caused by the mandatory attendance of daily chapel resulted in the suspension of the entire student body.  He returned to Maryland and took to studying the law privately.  He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1831.

    Thomas entered politics as a Democrat, but he ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature in 1834 and 1836 since his environs were strongly pro-Whig.  He was elected, however, to the United States Congress in 1838 and served until 1840 when he declined re-nomination.  He returned to the state house in 1843 and four years later secured the Democratic nomination for governor and was subsequently elected, serving until 1851.  After this he served in a variety of posts in Maryland, including the collector of the port of Baltimore, until he was named first as United States Commissioner of Patents and then in December 1860 as James Buchanan's Secretary of the Treasury.  He remained in this post for only a matter of weeks and resigned with other southern members of the Cabinet as the hostilities between North and South escalated.  His son enlisted in the Confederate Army.

    By 1863, he was again in the Maryland House and became a United States senator in 1867.  He was, however, barred by the Senate as a person "who had given aid and comfort" to the Confederate cause.  He was accepted as a United States representative on his election in 1874, serving a single term before returning to the Maryland House.  He never achieved the seat in the Senate he desired and returned to his law practice in Easton.

    He married Sarah Maria Kerr in 1835 and then, when widowed in 1870, married Clintonia (Wright) May, the daughter of Maryland Governor and U.S. Senator Robert Wright.  In all, he had thirteen children, though only three daughters survived him.  On October 2, 1890, Philip Francis Thomas died in Baltimore and was buried in Easton. He was eighty years old.
    John Osborne and James W. Gerencser, eds., “Philip Francis Thomas,” Dickinson Chronicles,

    Philip Francis Thomas (Congressional Biographical Dictionary)

    THOMAS, Philip Francis, a Representative and Senator-elect from Maryland; born in Easton, Talbot County, Md., September 12, 1810; attended the academy in Easton, and was graduated from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., in 1830; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1831 and commenced practice in Easton, Md.; delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1836; member of the State house of delegates in 1838, 1843, and 1845; elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-sixth Congress (March 4, 1839-March 3, 1841); declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1840; resumed the practice of law; Governor of Maryland 1848-1851; judge of the land office court of eastern Maryland; Comptroller of the United States Treasury 1851-1853; collector of the port of Baltimore, Md., 1853-1860; United States Commissioner of Patents from February 16 to December 10, 1860; appointed Secretary of the Treasury in the Cabinet of President Buchanan and served from December 10, 1860, to January 11, 1861; again a member of the State house of delegates in 1863; presented credentials as a Senator-elect to the United States Senate for the term beginning March 4, 1867, but was not seated; elected as a Democrat to the Forty-fourth Congress (March 4, 1875-March 3, 1877); declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1876; unsuccessful candidate for election to the United States Senate in 1878; again elected a member of the State house of delegates in 1878 and 1883; delegate to the Democratic State convention in 1883; resumed the practice of law in Easton, Md.; died in Baltimore, Md., October 2, 1890; interment in Spring Hill Cemetery, Easton, Md.
    “Thomas, Philip Francis,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present,
    How to Cite This Page: "Thomas, Philip Francis," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,