IT IS BEYOND IMAGINING what old Thaddeus Stevens might have said as he lay dying in August 1868 had he foreseen that, within little more than a century, the daughter of a Georgia-born president would attend a Washington, D. C., elementary school named in his honor. Something sarcastic, perhaps. An appreciation of the small ironies of history was not among his virtues, and even less so, probably, if a small irony would link him with the descendents of "proud traitors."
The civil rights revolution in our time--the "second reconstruction," as our greatest southern historian, C. Vann Woodward, has called it--has revived an appreciation of Stevens's virtues. For earlier students of American history, southerners anyway, his faults were such as to rank him only slightly below John Wilkes Booth as a spoiler of national reconciliation after the Civil War. In designing revenge upon the defeated South, he made his name as the extremist of extremists. He was the foremost exponent of the view that in seceding, the Confederate states had committed suicide and for-