About William Allen
William Allen (December 18 or 27, 1803– July 11, 1879) was an Democratic Representative, Senator and 31st Governor of Ohio. He moved to the U.S. state of Ohio after his parents died, residing in Chillicothe, Ohio.
He was of Quaker ancestry, was admitted to the bar at 21, and began his career as politician in the Democratic Party at a young age. Allen supported "popular sovereignty" and the presidential candidacy of Lewis Cass, identifying himself as a "Peace Democrat" and opposing the U.S. Civil War. In 2010, the Ohio General Assembly decided to replace a statue of Allen in the National Statuary Hall in part because "Allen’s pro-slavery position and outspoken criticism of President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War make him a poor representative for Ohio in the U.S. Capitol."
Allen was born in Edenton, North Carolina. His sister, Mary Granberry Allen, married Pleasant Thurman, and their son, Allen G. Thurman, followed in his uncle's footsteps, becoming a lawyer and politician. Allen moved to Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1819 and he and his sister lived there together.
Allen studied law with Colonel Edward King and was admitted to the bar at age 21.
He served as a Representative from Ohio from 1832 to 1834, when he lost a bid for re-election, and Senator from Ohio from 1837 to 1849, losing a bid for a third term in 1848. Allen then retired to his farm, "Fruit Hill", which had belonged to his father-in-law, and fellow Ohio Governor, Duncan McArthur, near Chillicothe, Ohio, and did not return to public service for nearly a quarter century. He served as Governor of Ohio from 1874 to 1876. He unsuccessfully sought a second two-year term in an 1875 election. At the close of his administration, he retired to private life at Fruit Hill, where he died in 1879.
While in the Senate, Allen was one of a group of Western Democrat expansionists who asserted that the U.S. had a valid claim to the entire Oregon Country, which was an issue during the 1844 U.S. presidential election. He suggested that the United States should be prepared to go to war with the United Kingdom in order to annex the entire Oregon Country up to Russian-owned Alaska at latitude 54°40′N. This position ultimately produced the famous line "54 40 or fight!", coined in 1846 by opponents of such a policy (not, as popularly believed, a slogan in the Presidential campaign).
Allen was noted for his loud voice. A friend asked Senator Benjamin Tappan if a fellow Ohioan was still in Washington. Tappan replied "No, he left yesterday and is probably by this time in Cumberland, Maryland, but if you will go to Bill Allen and tell him to raise that window and call him he will come back."
William Allen was one of Ohio's two statues donated to the National Statuary Collection and stood in National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol until, after a statewide poll run by the Ohio Historical Society, the Ohio National Statuary Committee voted August 26, 2010 to replace him with the statute of inventor Thomas A. Edison.
Allen is buried in Grandview Cemetery, Chillicothe.