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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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