One of the mostcontroversial figures in nineteenth-century American history, Thaddeus Stevensis best remembered for his role as congressional leader of the radicalRepublicans and as a chief architect of Reconstruction. Long painted byhistorians as a vindictive ?dictator of Congress,? out to punish the South atthe behest of big business and his own ego, Stevens receives a more balancedtreatment in Hans L. Trefousse?s biography, which portrays him as animpassioned orator and a leader in the struggle against slavery.
Trefousse traces Stevens? career through its majorphases, from his days in the Pennsylvania state legislature, when heantagonized Freemasons, slaveholders, and Jacksonian Democrats, to hispolitical involvement during Reconstruction, when he helped author theFourteenth Amendment and spurred on the passage of the Reconstruction Acts and theimpeachment of Andrew Johnson. Throughout, Trefousse explores the motivationsfor Stevens? lifelong commitment to racial equality, thus furnishing a fullerportrait of the man whose fervent opposition to slavery helped move his moremoderate congressional colleagues toward the implementation of egalitarianpolicies.