Historical Highlights

Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania

April 04, 1792
Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania was one of seven impeachment managers to serve during the trial of President Andrew Johnson.
On this date, Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, the fiery abolitionist, civil rights advocate, and leader of the Civil War-era Radical Republicans in the House, was born on the Vermont frontier in Danville. Afflicted with clubfoot, Stevens was a sickly child who immersed himself in study. He graduated from Dartmouth College, passed the Pennsylvania bar, and served in the state legislature before being elected as a Whig to the U.S. House in 1848. Stevens founded the Pennsylvania Republican Party and served as a House Republican from 1859 until his death in 1868. During the Civil War he chaired the Ways and Means Committee, making him the de facto Majority Leader. He also was an impeachment manager during the trial of President Andrew Johnson. Colleagues feared “Old Thad” as a parliamentarian who imperiously crushed opposition and enforced party discipline. Once provoked, Stevens would rise from his seat “by degrees, as a telescope is pulled out, until he stood in a most ungraceful attitude, his heavy black hair falling down over his cavernous brows, and his cold little eyes twinkling with anger . . . he would lecture the offender . . . sweeping at him . . . in uncouth gestures, as if he would clutch him and shake him.” Though pitiless toward his opponents, Stevens was widely admired by House Members for his unwavering devotion to the cause of freedom for formerly enslaved Black Americans in the South.

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