Thaddeus Stevens

Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian

By Hans L. Trefousse

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 11 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5666-6
    Published: April 2005
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6499-9
    Published: November 2000

Civil War America

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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 and a leader in the struggle against slavery.

Trefousse traces Stevens's career through its major phases: from his days in the Pennsylvania state legislature, when he antagonized Freemasons, slaveholders, and Jacksonian Democrats, to his political involvement during Reconstruction, when he helped author the Fourteenth Amendment and spurred on the passage of the Reconstruction Acts and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Throughout, Trefousse explores the motivations for Stevens's lifelong commitment to racial equality, thus furnishing a fuller portrait of the man whose fervent opposition to slavery helped move his more moderate congressional colleagues toward the implementation of egalitarian policies.

About the Author

Hans L. Trefousse (1921-2010), whose many books include a biography of Andrew Johnson and a study of the radical Republicans, was Distinguished Professor of History at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
For more information about Hans L. Trefousse, visit the Author Page.


“An outstanding political biography of Thaddeus Stevens that is rich in detail and based on an impressive array of original and secondary sources. . . . A compelling interpretation of Stevens’ long life and career.”--Labor History

“[A] sterling biography of one of the leading men in America’s middle period. . . . A masterful biography. Trefousse’s research is most impressive. He shows a command of countless sources.”--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“A model biography of a most controversial figure. . . . A balanced and insightful study.”--Illinois Historical Journal

"The 'Great Commoner' has at last found his proper biographer, one who explains his political greatness with knowledge and insight."--American Historical Review

"An especially valuable addition to Civil War literature. This is now the definitive work on Stevens."--Library Journal

"This book is well researched and engagingly written, and is likely to become the standard biography."--Choice