Thaddeus Stevens: Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian

Synopsis

One of the most controversial figures in nineteenth-century American history, Thaddeus Stevens is best remembered for his role as congressional leader of the radical Republicans and as a chief architect of Reconstruction. Long painted by historians as a vindictive "dictator of Congress", out to punish the South at the behest of big business and his own ego, Stevens receives a more balanced treatment in Hans L. Trefousse's biography, which portrays him as an impassioned orator, an indefatigable advocate of racial equality, and a leader in the struggle against slavery. Trefousse addresses the riddle of Stevens's personality - his seeming harshness toward his foes, his kindness toward the poor and powerless, his stern manner and biting sarcasm - and explores the motivations for this leader's lifelong commitment to racial equality. He offers a fascinating portrait of the man whose impassioned opposition to slavery helped move his more moderate congressional colleagues toward the implementation of egalitarianism.