Stevens, Thaddeus

Stevens, Thaddeus,

1792–1868, U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania (1849–53, 1859–68), b. Danville, Vt. He taught in an academy at York, Pa., studied law, and was admitted to the bar in Maryland. He practiced law in Gettysburg (1816–42) and then in Lancaster, Pa. He also entered the iron business. Stevens first achieved political prominence as an Anti-Mason, and from 1833 to 1841 he served in the Pennsylvania legislature. An aggressive, uncompromising man possessing a formidable, sardonic wit, he helped defeat a bill abolishing the state's public-school system and was a vigorous proponent of a protective tariff. In his first two terms in Congress, Stevens was a Whig but also a forthright abolitionist, and he quit in disgust at his party's moderate stand on the slavery issue. A leading organizer of the Republican party in Pennsylvania, he returned to Congress in 1859. As chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, he was a powerful figure throughout the Civil War. Stevens secured huge appropriations for the Union forces and succeeded in having paper money authorized as legal tender. His hatred of the South seems to have been based on principle. After Henry W. DavisDavis, Henry Winter,
1817–65, American political leader, b. Annapolis, Md. He was elected (1854) to the House of Representatives on the Know-Nothing ticket and was twice reelected (1856, 1858) with the aid of the Republican party.
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 was defeated for reelection in 1864, Stevens in the House and Charles SumnerSumner, Charles,
1811–74, U.S. senator from Massachusetts (1851–74), b. Boston. He attended (1831–33) and was later a lecturer at Harvard law school, was admitted (1834) to the bar, and practiced in Boston. He spent the years 1837 to 1840 in Europe.
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 in the Senate were the leaders of the radical Republicans in Congress who opposed President Lincoln's moderate plan of ReconstructionReconstruction,
1865–77, in U.S. history, the period of readjustment following the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War, the defeated South was a ruined land. The physical destruction wrought by the invading Union forces was enormous, and the old social and economic
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. In Stevens's view, the Southern states defeated in the Civil War were "conquered provinces" and as chairman of the joint committee on Reconstruction he intended that they be treated as such. Victorious in the congressional elections of 1866, the radicals nullified the Reconstruction program of President Andrew JohnsonJohnson, Andrew,
1808–75, 17th President of the United States (1865–69), b. Raleigh, N.C. Early Life

His father died when Johnson was 3, and at 14 he was apprenticed to a tailor.
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, placed the South under military occupation, proscribed most ex-Confederates, and enfranchised African Americans. Stevens himself proposed the Fourteenth AmendmentFourteenth Amendment,
addition to the U.S. Constitution, adopted 1868. The amendment comprises five sections. Section 1

Section 1 of the amendment declares that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are American citizens and citizens of their state
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. Sincere in his devotion to the betterment of African Americans, Stevens nevertheless frankly admitted that the legislation guaranteeing them suffrage was designed to keep the Republican party in power. He dominated the committee that drew up the impeachment charges against Johnson and was one of the House managers in the subsequent trial before the Senate. Stevens requested that he be interred in a cemetery with African Americans rather than in a burial ground closed to them.

Bibliography

See biographies by S. W. McCall (1899, repr. 1972), J. A. Woodburn (1913), T. F. Woodley (rev. ed. 1937, repr. 1969), A. B. Miller (1939), R. N. Current (1941), R. Korngold (1955), F. M. Brodie (1959, repr. 1966), and H. L. Trefousse (1997, repr. 2005); T. H. Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals (1942, repr. 1960).

Stevens, Thaddeus

 

Born Apr. 4, 1792, in Danville, Vt.; died Aug. 11, 1868, in Washington, D.C. US political figure; lawyer.

Stevens began his political career by supporting the Whigs and later joined the Republican Party. He was a member of the House of Representatives in 1849–53 and from 1859 until his death. He was a leader of the Republican Party’s left wing. During the American Civil War (1861–65), Stevens was a strong advocate of decisive measures in the conduct of the war. After the war, as de facto head of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, he defended the bourgeois-democratic program of Reconstruction, which provided for total liquidation of slavery, the establishment of equal civil and political rights for Negroes, and the confiscation of the land of plantation owners and its distribution among Negroes and poor whites.

Stevens, Thaddeus

(1792–1868) U.S. representative; born in Danville, Vt. Congenitally lame, he grew up with an intense empathy for society's poor and disenfranchised. He graduated from Dartmouth College, then studied law, setting up practice in Gettysburg, Pa. (1816). He served in the state's house of representatives (1833–41) but the formative experience of his years in Gettysburg inspired his passionate antipathy to slavery. He went to the U.S. House of Representatives (1849–53) as a Whig but left in impatience over the party's stand on slavery. After helping to form the new Republican Party in Pennsylvania, he returned to the House (1859–68); as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he exerted major influence on the conduct of the war, often differing with Lincoln. Almost fanatical in advocating harsh policies against the Confederate states, he emerged as the leader of the Radical Republicans and got himself appointed to the joint committee on reconstruction. His idea of treating the South as what he called "a conquered province" brought him into open conflict with President Andrew Johnson. Stevens led the move to impeach Johnson, then died soon after Johnson's acquittal. He remains one of the most problematic of American politicians—his espousal of the rights of African-Americans spoiled by his intolerance of those who disagreed with his approach.
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