Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Thaddeus Stevens Chronicles 4

 The greatest unknown person in American history

April 1, 2021

By Ross Hetrick

In the new biography of Thaddeus Stevens, acclaimed historian Bruce Levine lets it be known on the first page that Stevens was recognized by both friend and foe as a Civil War giant. He quotes the famous black abolitionists Frederick Douglass as saying: "There was in him the power of conviction, the power of will, the power of knowledge, and the power of conscious ability [that] at last made him more potent in Congress and in the country than even the president and cabinet combined."

On the other side, Levine said Confederate General Jubal Early said he had Stevens's Caledonia iron works destroyed in the lead up to the Gettysburg battle because Stevens had done more damage to the Confederacy than any other U.S. congressman.

Levine's book, entitled: Thaddeus Stevens, Civil War Revolutionary, Fighter For Racial Justice, is the first significant biography of Stevens since the 2005 publication of Gettysburg author Bradley Hoch's Thaddeus Stevens In Gettysburg: The Making Of An Abolitionist. Levine gives unprecedented attention to Stevens's formation as a youth and young man and includes a great deal of detail and political analysis missing from previous biographies. He also says Stevens was one of the foremost leaders in what is increasingly being called the "Second American Revolution," where the government was fundamentally changed through the adoption of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution.

By all rights, Stevens should be nearly as famous as Abraham Lincoln, a man he worked closely with to win the war and end slavery. Yet, he is largely unknown, even in the Pennsylvania cities of Gettysburg and Lancaster, where he spent most of his life. Much of the reason lies with how popular history is told and  the way in which the story of the Civil War and Reconstruction was deliberately distorted.

Stevens's first problem is that the history that is taught is the story of presidents and generals. And while Stevens was master of the House of Representatives -- his critics called him the "dictator of the House" -- his achievements are usually lumped under the label of "Congress," as in "Congress impeached Andrew Johnson," or "Congress imposed military control on the South."

More importantly, Stevens was one of the victims of the incredibly successful southern propaganda effort know as the "Lost Cause," which downplayed slavery as a cause of the war and made heroes out of Confederate leaders. It also demonized Stevens as a man bent on inflicting vengeance on a prostrate south. Ironically, a chief promoter of this disinformation was Jubal Early.

But things have been turning around for Stevens's fame in the last few decades. A Stevens statue was erected in Lancaster in 2008 and in 2012, he was brought to the big screen in the Lincoln movie where Tommy Lee Jones portrayed him as a champion of equality. And next year, another Stevens statue is scheduled to be erected in Gettysburg, where he lived from 1816 to 1842.

If the trend continues, perhaps Stevens will be able to join the Mount Olympus of American history.

Ross Hetrick is president of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, which is dedicated to promoting Stevens's important legacy. More information about the Great Commoner can be found at the society's web page: thaddeusstevenssociety.com 


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Thaddeus Stevens Chronicles 3

Thaddeus Stevens tried for two impeachments in 1868

March 1, 2021

By Ross Hetrick

If Thaddeus Stevens had his way, President Andrew Johnson, the first president to be impeached, would have also been the first to have been impeached twice.

After Johnson narrowly escaped being removed from office by one vote in May 1868, congressman Stevens, one of the impeachment managers, introduced another measure for impeachment, claiming the first effort was marred by bribery and corruption. But with only several months left in Johnson's term, Stevens's second try got nowhere.

The Johnson impeachment seemed to have had a lead pipe cinch of succeeding. Johnson, a southern Democrat, faced overwhelming Republican majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate, which routinely overrode vetoes with two-third votes. And Johnson had managed to antagonize much of the country by siding with southern leaders, who had just finished leading a rebellion that killed hundreds of thousands of northern soldiers.

This peculiar situation resulted from the Republicans selecting Johnson as the party's vice president nominee in 1864. A Tennessee senator, Johnson had become a northern hero because he was a fierce foe of secession and refused to join other southerners who left the Senate. The Republicans hoped his inclusion would broaden the appeal of the ticket.

But after the war, Johnson had no problem with handing control of the south back to its aristocratic leaders who were intent on re-imposing slavery in another form and meting out bloody punishment to anyone who resisted them. Congress reacted by passing bill after bill -- overriding Johnson's vetoes -- that placed the south under martial law, sought to protect the newly freed slaves and gave the vote to black men.

But Johnson, who was supposed to implement these laws, did everything he could to sabotage Congress's efforts. He would appoint southern sympathizing generals to oversee the military occupation and he would relentlessly attack Congress, calling for the hanging of its leaders like Thaddeus Stevens.

Congress tried to circumvent this situation by working through members of Johnson's cabinet, who were holdovers from the Lincoln administration. To aid in this effort, Congress passed the Tenure of Office act that prohibited Johnson from removing these cabinet members without Senate approval.

But Johnson would not be bound by the law and tried to fire Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War, who had been trying to implement Congress's program. Stevens, who was the most powerful House member at the time, sprang into action and pushed through an impeachment resolution and became one of the impeachment managers. 

But Stevens was gravely ill during the Senate trial and the case was handled by Rep. Benjamin Butler. Some historians believe that Johnson would have been removed if the effort had been led by Stevens, who was legendary for his abilities as a lawyer and politician. Johnson was also saved by questions about the legality of the Tenure of Office Act and qualms about Sen. Ben Wade, the person who would have become President.

And even as he tried a second time, with only a few months to live, Stevens doubted that he would be successful and his words were prophetic considering the outcomes of impeachments since then. 

"I have come to the fixed conclusion that neither in Europe nor America will the Chief Executive of a nation be again removed by peaceful means," he said in a July 7, 1868, speech in Congress. "If he retains the money and patronage of the Government it will be found, as it has been found, stronger than the law and impenetrable to the spear of justice. If tyranny becomes intolerable, the only resource will be found in the dagger of Brutus," Stevens said referring to the assassination of Julius Caesar. 

Ross Hetrick is president of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, which is dedicated to promoting Stevens's important legacy. More information about the Great Commoner can be found at the society's web page: thaddeusstevenssociety.com 



The Great Commoner, Spring 2021, Number 42, wwww.thaddeusstevenssociety.com

Bruce Levine, Stevens biographer, talks on Zoom on April 2

Bruce Levine, the author of the newest Thaddeus Stevens biography, will be featured on an April 2 Zoom meeting at 4 p.m. To attend the meeting, please send a request to info@thaddeusstevenssociety.com and you will receive an invitation closer to the event. A limited number of books with signed bookplates are available at this link:   https://www.aaronsbooks.com/book/9781476793375  After Levine's talk, there will be a Q&A session followed by a brief Society business meeting.

Abolitionists Day on Zoom April 10

    Like many other events, Abolitionists Day is moving on to Zoom on April 10 at 4 p.m. Abolitionist Day has been held since 2017 to celebrate the social movement that helped destroy slavery. This year’s event will be a video review of past years with commentary followed by a group discussion. To get an invitation to the event, email info@thaddeusstevenssociety.com Please designate that you want to be on the Abolitionists Day list.

Big plans for 2022

Plans are being made for two big events in 2022 and we could use your help. The Society will dedicate the Thaddeus Stevens statue in Gettysburg and celebrate Stevens’s 230th birthday on April 1, 2 and 3. Then on the last weekend of July, we hope to inaugurate the first Second Founding Day History Festival in Gettysburg. 

The three-day birthday event will feature seminars, banquets, and fireworks in Lancaster and Gettysburg, PA. We hope it will be the biggest and most exciting event in the Society’s 23-year history. The Second Founding History Festival in July will be a block party in the first block of Stevens Street in Gettysburg, PA, where historic and social activism groups will celebrate the ratifications of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that historians say transformed the American government.

These events are still in the planning phase and we need your help to make them possible. If you are interested, please email info@thaddeusstevenssociety.com or call 717-253-0099 and leave a message. We will get back to you. 

What needs to be done

    We have done a lot over the last 22 years, but there is so much more to do. Below is a list of endangered Stevens sites and unfinished projects that need our attention. If you would like to get involved in one or more, please contact us at info@thaddeusstevenssociety.com or call 717-253-0099.

Thaddeus Stevens's Lancaster House


    The restoration of Thaddeus Stevens’s house in Lancaster is the most important project in the effort to educate the public about Stevens’s legacy. While the outside looks great, the interior remains a shell waiting for work to start. When it is completed in the fall of 2022, it will be the first and biggest public museum about Thaddeus Stevens’s life. The Society has raised nearly $12,000 to support the effort headed by the Lancaster Historical Society. We hope to raise a lot more in the coming year to support this very important project.

Thaddeus Stevens Stamp

    For 20 years the Society, under the leadership of Donald Gallagher, has been campaigning for a commemorative stamp for Thaddeus Stevens. So far it has not been successful. But the effort continues on and Don could use your help in distributing postcards to be sent into the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. For more information on the campaign, click on this link: https://www.thaddeusstevenssociety.com/stamp


Shreiner-Concord Cemetery

Steven’s grave with its epitaph about equality is perhaps the most inspirational grave in America. The cemetery, which also includes other historic graves,  is overseen by a dedicated group of volunteers who work to protect and maintain it. But much needs to put the cemetery on a solid long-term basis. This includes funding an endowment, clarifying the cemetery’s ownership and establishing a permanent maintenance program.


Vermont houses

Stevens's childhood home

House Stevens bought for mother

The house where Thaddeus Stevens lived when he was going to Peacham, VT, academy still exists nearly in it’s 19th century condition. Unfortunately, the structure has stood vacant for the last few years after its most recent occupant died. It is crucial that action be taken to prevent this historic house from continuing to decay.

The house that Thaddeus Stevens bought his mother still exists in Peacham, VT and is occupied. While the outside is still the same as it was in Sarah Stevens day, the inside has been remodeled into a modern home. 

Both houses need to be protected by historic easements or other means that would prevent those properties from being destroyed and used for other purposes.


McPherson house in Gettysburg, PA

        At the corner of Carlisle and Stevens Streets in Gettysburg, PA, is the ancestral home of the McPherson family, one of the most important families in Gettysburg in the 19th century. A member of this family was Edward McPherson, an associate of Thaddeus Stevens and the long-time clerk of the House of Representatives. Edward was instrumental in Stevens’s parliamentary maneuver that barred ex-Confederates from Congress on December 4, 1865. 

The house, which is now owned by Gettysburg College, is in pristine condition and would be a perfect place for an exhibit about Thaddeus Stevens, the McPhersons, the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism and the Second Founding of the U.S. The fate of the house is now in limbo. Hopefully, the Society and other historic organizations can encourage the college to have an exhibit that would be unlike any in Gettysburg.


Maria iron furnace stack and Tapeworm Railroad remains


Remains of Maria Furnace Stack

Tapeworm Railroad viaduct

        Along Iron Springs Road in Fairfield, PA, are the remains of two endeavors of Thaddeus Stevens -- his Maria Iron works and the so-called Tapeworm Railroad. Next to the railroad that runs alongside the road are the vegetation covered remains of the furnace stack of Stevens’s Maria Furnace that operated from 1826 to 1837. Further down the road is a stone viaduct, which was part of a railroad that Stevens tried to have the state build in the 1830s. The railroad, which  would have connected Gettysburg to western Maryland, was abandoned after Stevens lost political power in 1838. 

The furnace stack is badly in need of a clean up and perhaps signage telling visitors what it is. It also needs a historic easement to protect it from future development. The massive viaduct is no danger of being eliminated, but  it could use some signage. Fortunately, the owner of the property in front of the viaduct is willing to work with us. 








Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Thaddeus Stevens Chronicles 2

 Thaddeus Stevens and Abraham Lincoln: partners in liberation

February 1, 2021

By Ross Hetrick

One of the great ironies of history is that Thaddeus Stevens is often portrayed as an adversary of Abraham Lincoln, but actually Stevens laid the groundwork for Lincoln's greatest achievements and then protected them after he was assassinated.

When Lincoln took office in 1861, he did not intend to free the slaves, even though he was against its further spread into the U.S. territories -- a position that was still  unacceptable to southern leaders. But a group of congressmen, led by Thaddeus Stevens, from the beginning of the war insisted that Lincoln use his war powers to free the slaves to weaken the Confederacy's ability to fight.  Lincoln  resisted this action until September 1862 and then issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Confederacy, but left others in bondage in the four slave states that remained in the Union.

Thaddeus Stevens then took the next step in 1864 and introduced a Constitutional Amendment that would outlaw slavery throughout the United States. This effort got a major boost when Lincoln supported it in early 1865 and the amendment was approved as the Civil War was ending.

This was a pattern that would repeat itself on a number of issues such as the use of black soldiers and giving the vote to freed slaves. Stevens would take an early position, public opinion would warm up to it and then Lincoln would push it to completion.

The interaction of Stevens and Lincoln was best summed up by Alexander K. McClure, a Pennsylvania newspaper editor and politician during and after the Civil War.

"Strange as it may seem, these two great characters, ever in conflict and yet ever battling for the same great cause, rendered invaluable service to each other, and unitedly rendered incalculable service in saving the Republic," McClure wrote. "Had Stevens not declared for the abolition of slavery as soon as the war began and pressed it in and out of season, Lincoln could not have issued his Emancipation Proclamation as early as September 1862. Stevens was ever clearing the underbrush and preparing the soil. While Lincoln followed to sow the seeds that were to ripen in a regenerated union."

Stevens played an even more critical role after Lincoln's assassination. His successor, President Andrew Johnson, was very willing to leave the freed slaves to the tender mercies of their former masters, who sought to re-enslave them with the Black Codes that would have made them convict labor. 

But Stevens was able to prevent this by barring ex-Confederates from entering Congress. He was then able to have military control imposed on the south to protect the freed slaves. This was followed by his greatest achievement: the 14th Amendment, which codified that all persons are to be treated equally under the law.

Gettysburg is unique in having close historic relations with both Stevens and Lincoln. The town is known worldwide for being the location of Lincoln's famous address that summed up American ideals. And while Stevens's connection is less well known, it is actually deeper.

Stevens lived in Gettysburg from 1816 to 1842 and during that time he was a prominent attorney, served on borough council, represented Adams County in the Pennsylvania legislature and participated in the Underground Railroad. Before he moved to Lancaster in 1842, he helped to establish Gettysburg College, saved the state's public education system and started Caledonia iron works, which is now Caledonia state park close to Chambersburg.

Over the years, Lincoln's presence in Gettysburg grew and grew while Stevens's faded nearly to nonexistence. But Stevens has been making a come back in recent decades and the time has come to celebrate the remarkable partnership between Lincoln and Stevens that crushed slavery and began the struggle towards an equal society. 

Ross Hetrick is president of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, which is dedicated to promoting Stevens's important legacy. More information about the Great Commoner can be found at the society's web page: thaddeusstevenssociety.com 





    

 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Thaddeus Stevens Chronicles 1

 Kicking traitors out of Congress

December 21, 2020

By Ross Hetrick

A few weeks ago the nation held its breath as the Supreme Court considered whether to take a case brought by the Texas state attorney that would have invalidated the votes of tens of millions of people in four states and likely hand the Presidency to Donald Trump. Fortunately, the case was thrown out, but not before 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives, including seven from Pennsylvania, signed on to this very undemocratic effort.

Now there are calls to expel these congressmen from the halls of power, citing the third section of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that bars those who "engaged in insurrection or rebellion." While this action would be highly unusual, it is not unprecedented. In fact, it was done 155 years ago when Thaddeus Stevens orchestrated the exclusion of ex-Confederates from the House of Representatives. Stevens, who lived in both Gettysburg and Lancaster, PA, was the most powerful congressman at the time. And his actions, aided by Gettysburg resident Edward McPherson, kept the United States from losing the war after the war.

The crisis facing the country was caused by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the installation of  Vice President Andrew Johnson as president. Johnson was a southern slave owner from Tennessee who was sympathetic to the southern elite. He became president in April 1865 while Congress was out of session until December. During that time, Johnson allowed the southern states to hold elections and they chose ex-Confederate military officers and politicians. In fact, Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, was elected to the Senate from Georgia.

These elected representatives intended to join with northern congressional allies and take over Congress. They let it be known that they would reject the federal war debt and embrace the Confederate debt, thus making the union pay for the war against itself. The ex-Confederates also would protect the newly enacted southern state laws, called the Black Codes, which reinstated slavery by making criminals of freed slaves and putting them back on plantations as convict labor. But Thaddeus Stevens was not going to let this happen and he came up with an ingenious plan.

When Congress convened on December 4, 1865, House Clerk Edward McPherson, a Stevens ally, began calling the roll of the new Congress. But he skipped the names of the ex-Confederates, which sparked a hail of objections. But Stevens, who had the backing of a majority in the House, was able to counter the protests by raising a point of order that barred any debate until after the roll was called, thus barring the southerners from Congress.

It proved to be a critical turning point in American history. With ex-Confederates excluded, Congress in the coming years was able to eliminate the Black Codes, enact measures to create a more equal southern society and approve the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, fundamentally changing the workings of the federal government.

But Congress was not content with just barring traitors on that one occasion.  They went on to include the prohibition in the third section of the 14th Amendment to take care of future threats to the country. Now the question arises as to whether what the 126 Republican congressmen did in the Texas case rises to the definition of "insurrection or rebellion" and who will decide if it does. Perhaps it should at least be debated as a warning to politicians who would consider such undemocratic tactics in the future.


Ross Hetrick is president of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, which is dedicated to promoting Stevens's important legacy. More information about the Great Commoner can be found at the society's web page: thaddeusstevenssociety.com 




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Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Great Commoner, Fall 2020, Number 41, www.thaddeusstevenssociety.com

 

Bordewich to speak at Dec. 4 Zoom meeting

Fergus M. Bordewich, author of Congress At War, will speak at the next meeting of the Thaddeus Stevens Society on Friday, December 4 at 4 p.m. Because of the continuing pandemic, the meeting will be held remotely by Zoom. Besides Bordewich's talk, there will also be a 15-minute video about how Thaddeus Stevens kept ex-Confederates out of Congress and a short business meeting. To attend the meeting, please send a request by email to info@thaddeusstevenssociety.com

Bordewich is the author of seven nonfiction books, including The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government; America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union; and Washington: The Making of the American Capital. The subtitle of his new book about Congress during the Civil War is “How Republican Reformers Fought the Civil War, Defied Lincoln, Ended Slavery and Remade America.” In his speech, Bordewich will highlight Thaddeus Stevens’s crucial role during the war.  You can find out more about Congress At War at this web page: http://www.fergusbordewich.com/



Fergus M. Bordewich, author of Congress At War: How Republican Reformers Fought, the Civil War, Defied Lincoln, Ended Slavery, and Remade America




December 4, 1865: a date that will live with great honor

     December 4 will mark the 155th anniversary of the day that Thaddeus Stevens and Edward McPherson saved the country. On that day in 1865, ex-Confederates were barred from Congress preventing the loss of the war after the war.

      After Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, Andrew Johnson, a southern Democrat from Tennessee, became president. With Congress out of session, Johnson issued pardons wholesale to Confederate officials and allowed them to hold elections for Congress despite warnings not to do so by people like Thaddeus Stevens. Predictably, the southerners elected Confederate officials, including generals and colonels. Even the vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens was elected to the Senate.

     If they had been allowed to take their seats, it would have been a disaster for the country. They would have joined with their northern Democratic allies and taken over the government. They intended to reject the Federal war debt and embrace the Confederate debt, making the U.S. pay for the war against it. Even worse, they could have kept slavery alive. Despite the approval of the 13th Amendment prohibiting slavery, the southerners used a loophole to bring it back.  Under the 13th Amendment, involuntary servitude is prohibited, except for convicts. So the southern states after the war passed the so-called Black Codes, which said any black person without a job was a vagrant and could be put back on a plantation as prison labor.  To make sure they didn't have jobs, blacks had to get work permits from local sheriffs.

     But Thaddeus Stevens was not going to let this happen. He came up with a plan with the Republican caucus and Edward McPherson, the Clerk of the House and a long-time Stevens associate. On December 4, 1865, the house convened and McPherson started to call the roll of Congressmen.  When he got to the southern members, he skipped them -- didn't call them out. Southerners and their northern allies strenuously objected, but Stevens and other Republicans shut them down citing a point of order that nothing could be discussed until the roll call was finished. As a result, the ex-Confederates were excluded and Stevens introduced a resolution to create the Joint Committee on Reconstruction and Congress started down the road to the 14th and 15th Amendments and changing the nation forever.  


Thaddeus Stevens before the Joint Committee on Reconstruction. Frank Leslie's Illustrated News, March 14, 1868


The need to contribute to the Society's 
Thaddeus Stevens house fund
     The Thaddeus Stevens Society has collected more than $3,000 to help fund the refurbishing of Stevens's house in Lancaster, PA, but we have a long way to go. We should be able to raise at least $10,000 and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars if we have enough enthusiasm. 
      A consultant for the Lancaster Historical Society in May issued a request for proposals to establish a museum in the house, with the expectation that the project will be completed by  fall of 2022. There has been no update since then and it is not known how the pandemic has affected the effort. 
     It is absolutely essential that the Thaddeus Stevens Society vigorously support the historical society's multi-million effort.  It is an incredible national disgrace that sites associated with one of country's greatest champion for humanity have been neglected for 150 years while there are thousands of monuments and museums to the racist traitors of the Confederacy. 
     Beyond the restoration of his house, there are other sites associated with Stevens that are in need of protection such as houses in Vermont, his grave in Lancaster and the remains of his iron mill in Fairfield, PA.  So we will need continuous support from our loyal membership and perhaps some people might consider leaving a legacy to the Thaddeus Stevens Society in their wills.
Thaddeus Stevens's house on Queen Street in Lancaster, PA. The exterior has been restored to its 1860's appearance, but its interior is waiting to be completed.

Statue Update
      Sculptor Alex Paul Loza is continuing to work in Chattanooga, TN, on the Thaddeus Stevens statue and it is on track to be completed by early 2022 in time for Stevens's 230th birthday celebration in April 2022. The recent controversies about statues has slowed the search for a home in Gettysburg, PA. But we remain hopeful of finding a location long before the end of 2021.
Model of Thaddeus Stevens statue being made by sculptor Alex Paul Loza. To be located in the Gettysburg area, the statue will be completed by early 2022.

New Web Page
     The Society has a new web page that is cheaper and easier to use. The page has the same url of thaddeusstevenssociety.com but the email has changed to info@thaddeusstevenssociety.com The simple, easy to use design provides a variety of links to Stevens videos, photos, quotes, sights, along with contact and membership information. There is also a link to Stevens swag like caps, mugs, shirts, key chains and even face masks. Check it out.
             The new Thaddeus Stevens Society web page.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thaddeus Stevens Quotes

Thaddeus Stevens Quotes:
Our object should be not only to end this terrible war now, but to prevent its recurrence. All must admit that slavery is the cause of it. Without slavery we should this day be a united and 
happy people. . . . The principles of our Republic are wholly incompatible with slavery. -- "Subduing the Rebellion" speech in Congress, January 22, 1862.

From the Public School speech of April 11, 1835, which turned back an attempt to repeal public education in Pennsylvania:
“Such a law should be entitled ‘An act for branding and marking the poor, so that they may be known from the rich and the proud.”

“He cheerfully pays the tax which is necessary to support and punish convicts, but loudly complains of that which goes to prevent this fellow from becoming criminals, and to obviate the necessity of the humiliating institutions.”

“Sir, when I reflect how apt hereditary wealth, hereditary influence, and, perhaps, as a consequence, hereditary pride are to close the avenues and steel the heart against the wants and the rights of the poor, I am induced to thank my Creator for having, from 
early life, bestowed upon me the blessing of poverty. Sir, it is a blessing – for if there be any human sensation more ethereal and divine than all others, it is that feelingly sympathizes with misfortune.”

"I shall feel myself abundantly rewarded for all my efforts in behalf of universal education if a single child, educated by the commonwealth, shall drop a tear of gratitude on my grave." -- Memorial Addresses On The Life And Character of Thaddeus Stevens, 
House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., December 17, 1868, printed 1869


"Let demagogues note it for future use, and send it on the wings of the wind to the ears of every one of my constituents, in matters of this kind, I would rather hear the approving voice of one judicious, intelligent, and enlightened mind, than to be greeted by 
the loud huzzas of the whole host of ignorance." January 31, 1834 -- page 54 of A Salutary Influence: Gettysburg College, 1832-1985, by Charles H. Glatfelter



“There can be no fanatics in the cause of genuine liberty. Fanaticism is excessive zeal. There may be, and have been fanatics in false religion – in the bloody religions of the heathen. There are fanatics in superstition. But there can be no fanatic, however warm 
their zeal, in the true religion, even although you sell your goods and bestow your money on the poor, and go on and follow your Master. There may, and every hour shows around me, fanatics in the cause of false liberty – that infamous liberty which justifies 
human bondage, that liberty whose ‘corner-stone is slavery.’ But there can be no fanaticism however high the enthusiasm, in the cause of rational, universal liberty – the liberty of the Declaration of Independence.” – June 10, 1850.


“I wish the Indians had newspapers of their own. If they had, you would have horrible pictures of the cold-blooded murders of inoffensive Indians. You would have more terrible pictures than we have now revealed to us [of white people], and, I have no 
doubt, we would have the real reasons for these Indian troubles. I suppose they would be as accurate as those you have in the letters which have just been read, and which have come in here so opportunely.” – April 19, 1860

“Every humane and patriotic heart must grieve to see a bloody and causeless rebellion, costing thousands of human lives and millions of treasure. But as it was predetermined and inevitable, it was long enough delayed. Now is the appropriate time to solve the 
greatest problem ever submitted to civilized man.” – January 22, 1862

“What an opportunity is presented to this Republic to vindicate her consistency and become immortal. The occasion is forced upon us, and the invitation presented to strike the chains from four million of human beings, and create them MEN; to extinguish 
slavery on this whole continent; to wipe out, so far as we are concerned, the most hateful and infernal blot that has ever disgraced the escutcheon of man; to write a page in the history of the world whose brightness shall eclipse all the records of heroes and of 
sages.” – January 22, 1862.

“I care not whether the soldiers are of Milesian, Teutonic, African or Angelo-Saxon descent. I despise the principle that make a difference between them in the hour of battle and of death. The idea the we are to keep up that distinction is abhorrent to the feeling 
of the age, is abhorrent to the feeling of humanity, is shocking to every decent instinct of our nature.” – In a speech to give black soldiers equal pay. April 30, 1864.

"Prejudice may be shocked, weak minds startled, weak nerves may tremble, but they must hear and adopt it. Those who now furnish the means of war [slaves], but who are natural enemies of slaveholders, must be made our allies. Universal emancipation 
must be proclaimed to all. If slaves no longer raised cotton and rice, tobacco and grain for the rebels, this war would cease in six months. It could not be maintained even if the liberated slaves should not lift a hand against their masters." January 22, 
1862, Palmer 246

"Our object should be not only to end this terrible war now, but to prevent its recurrence. All must admit that slavery is the cause of it. Without slavery, we should this day be a united and happy people." January 22, 1862, Palmer 248.

“The whole fabric of southern society must be changed, and never can it be done if this opportunity is lost. Without this, this government can never be, as it never has been, a true republic.” –September 6, 1865

“I will be satisfied if my epitaph shall be written thus: ‘Here lies one who never rose to any eminence, who only courted the low ambition to have it said that he striven to ameliorate the condition of the poor, the lowly, the downtrodden of every race and 
language and color.’” – January 13, 1865

“I wished that I were the owner of every southern slave, that I might cast off the shackles from their limbs, and witness the rapture which would excite them in the first dance of their freedom.” July 1837 at Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention.

“I can never acknowledge the right of slavery. I will bow down to no deity however worshipped by professing Christians – however dignified by the name of the Goddess of Liberty, whose footstool is the crushed necks of the groaning millions, and who 
rejoices in the resoundings of the tyrant’s lash, and the cries of his tortured victims.” May 4, 1838.

“In my youth, in my manhood, in my old age, I had fondly dreamed that when any fortunate chance should have broken up for a while the foundation of our institutions, and released us from obligations the most tyrannical that ever man imposed in the name 
of freedom, that the intelligent pure and just men of this Republic, true to their professions and their consciences, would have so remodeled all our institutions as to have rid them from every vestige of human oppression, of the inequity of rights, of the 
recognized degradation of the poor, and the superior caste of the rich. In short, that no distinction would be tolerated in this purified Republic but what arose from merit and conduct. This bright dream has vanished ‘like the baseless fabric of a vision.’ I find 
that we shall be obliged to be content with patching up the worst portions of the ancient edifice, and leaving it, in many of its parts, to be swept through by the tempests, the frosts, and the storms of despotism.
Do you inquire why, holding these views and possessing some will of my own, I accept so imperfect a proposition? I answer, because I live among men and not among angels; among men as intelligent, as determined, and as independent as myself, who not 
agreeing with me, do not choose to yield their opinions to mine. Mutual concession, therefore, is our only resort, or mutual hostilities.” – June 13, 1866, on the alteration of his original proposal for the 14th Amendment.

“I have done what I deemed best for humanity. It is easy to protect the interests of the rich and powerful. But it is a great labor to protect the interests of the poor and downtrodden. It is the eternal labor of Sisyphus, forever to be renewed. I know how 
unprofitable is all such toil. But he who is earnest heeds not such things. It has not been popular. But if there be anything for which I have entire indifference; perhaps I might say contempt, it is the public opinion which is founded on popular clamor.” – From 
speech on readmission of states, July 28, 1866, Palmer --178, Vol. 2

“Let demagogues note it for future use, and send it on the wings of the wind to the ears of every one of my constituents, in matters of this kind, I would rather hear the approving voice of one judicious intelligent, and enlightened mind, than be greeted by the 
loud huzzas of the whole host of ignorance.” February 1834 when he supported granting $18,000 to Pennsylvania College, which is now Gettysburg College.

“It is my purpose nowhere in these remarks to make personal reproaches; I entertain no ill-will toward any human being, nor any brute, that I know of, not even the skunk across the way to which I referred. Least of all would I reproach the South. I honor 
her courage and fidelity. Even in a bad, a wicked cause, she shows a united front. All her sons are faithful to the cause of human bondage, because it is their cause. But the North -- the poor, timid, mercenary, driveling North -- has no such united defenders of 
her cause, although it is the cause of human liberty. None of the bright lights of the nation shine upon her section. Even her own great men have turned her accusers. She is the victim of low ambition -- an ambition which prefers self to country, personal  
aggrandizement to the high cause of human liberty. She is offered up a sacrifice to propitiate southern tyranny -- to conciliate southern treason.”  -- June 10, 1850 in a speech before Congress on the Fugitive Slave Act. Page 123, Vol. 1, Palmer.

Believing then, that this is the best proposition that can be made effectual, I accept it. I shall not be driven by clamor or denunciation to throw away a great good because it is not perfect. I will take all I can get in the cause of humanity and leave it to be 
perfected by better men in better times. It may be that time will not come while I am here to enjoy the glorious triumph; but that it will come is as certain as that there is a just God. -- May 8, 1866 in speech about the 14th Amendment.

"My sands are nearly run, and I can only see with the eye of faith. I am fast descending the downhill of life, at the foot of which stands an open grave. But you, sir, are promised length of days and a brilliant career. If you and your compeers can fling away 
ambition and realize that every human being, however lowly-born or degraded, by fortune is your equal, that every inalienable right which belongs to you belongs also to him, truth and righteousness will spread over the land, and you will look down from the 
top of the Rocky mountains upon an empire of one hundred millions of happy people." -- July 7, 1868, as part of presentation on impeachment resolution after Johnson had been acquitted.

"The greatest measure of the nineteenth century was passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America." -- page 159, Thaddeus Stevens and the Fight For Negro Rights by Milton Meltzer

"Mr. President, Andrew Johnson is a rank demagogue, and I suspect at heart a damned scoundrel." In a conversation with Abraham Lincoln in early 1864 about Johnson possibly being Lincoln's vice president. page 217, Thaddeus Stevens Scourge of the 
South by Fawn Brodie.

"Can't you get a candidate for vice-president without going down into a damned rebel province for one." In late 1864 when Thaddeus Stevens was told by Alexander McClure  that Lincoln wanted the Pennsylvania Republican delegation to support Johnson for 
vice president. page 220, Thaddeus Stevens, Scourge of the South by Fawn Brodie.

"Do not, I pray you, admit those who have slaughtered half a million of our countrymen until their clothes are dried, and until they are reclad. I do not wish to sit side by side with men whose garments smell of the blood of my kindred." May 10, 1866, in 
Congressional speech on the 14th Amendment. Page 139 Palmer, Vol. II

Asked during the May 10, 1866 speech if he wanted to build a jail to hold 8 million people in the south, Stevens replied: "Yes, sir, a penitentiary which is built at the point of the bayonet down below, and if they undertake to come here we will shoot them.
That is the way to take care of those people. They deserve it, at least for a time." page 140, Palmer Vol. II

Those who suppose that the [southern] leaders were actuated by a desire to redress grievances, either real or fancied, greatly mistake the real object of the traitors. They have rebelled for no redress of grievances, but to establish a slave oligarchy which would 
repudiate the odious doctrine of the Declaration of Independence, and justify the establishment of an empire admitting the principle of king, lord, and slaves. -- January 22, 1862 in a speech entitled:  "Subduing the Rebellion." Palmer vol. I page 241

But I have another objection to the amendment of my friend from Ohio. His proposition is to apportion representation according to the male citizens of the states. Why has he put in the word "male?" It was never in the Constitution of the United States before. 
Why make a crusade against women in the Constitution of the nation? Is my friend as much afraid of their rivalry as the gentlemen on the other side [Democrats] are afraid of the rivalry of the Negro? I do not think we ought to disfigure the Constitution with 
such a provision. I find that every unmarried man is opposed to the proposition. Whether married men have particular reason for dreading interference from that quarter I know not. I certainly shall never vote to insert the word "male" or the word "white" in 
the national Constitution. Let these things be attended to by the states. -- Congressional speech, January 31, 1866.
Quotes about Thaddeus Stevens:
Our enemy has a general now. This man is rich, therefore, we cannot buy him. He does not want higher office, therefore we cannot allure him. He is not vicious, therefore, we cannot seduce him. He is in earnest. He means what he says. He is bold. He cannot 
be flattered or frightened. -- Howell Cobb, Democratic speaker of House, June 1850.

He never flattered the people; he never attempted to deceive them; he never "paltered with them in a double sense;" he never courted and encouraged their errors. On the contrary, on all occasions he attacked their sins, he assailed their prejudices, he outraged 
all their bigotries; and when they turned upon him and attacked him he marched straight forward, like Gulliver wading through the fleets of the Lilliputians, dragging his enemies after him into the great harbor of truth. -- Minnesota Congress Ignatius Donnelly 
in Memorial Addresses on the Life and Character of Thaddeus Stevens, House of Representatives, December 1, 1868