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Thaddeus Stevens in Reconstruction

Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868) was the most famous Radical Republican in the House of Representatives (1849-53, 1859-68). Together with Charles Sumner in the Senate, the Pennsylvania native opposed President Lincoln's Reconstruction plan as too lenient. He served as chairman of the joint committee on Reconstruction and determined to treat the defeated southern states as "conquered provinces."

After their congressional election victory in 1866, Stevens and the Republicans nullified Andrew Johnson's Presidential Reconstruction plan and passed groundbreaking Civil Rights legislation and the Fourteenth Amendment over his veto. Stevens was also instrumental in the Congressional Reconstruction plan to place the South under military occupation, and to grant black men the vote. He was genuinely committed to black social equality, but also admitted that enfranchising them would ensure the continued dominance of the Republican party. Near the end of his life, Stevens led the congressional movement to impeach Johnson, but the political battles of Reconstruction had taken their toll on him. He asked to be interred in a Lancaster, Pennsylvania cemetery with African-Americans, rather than in a burial ground from which blacks were forbidden, a testament to his firm belief in racial equality.

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