Thaddeus Stevens Making a Difference
Can one person make a difference? Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania lived and died a crusader for equality. For seven years (1861–1868), his determined opposition to slavery helped shape the character of the House. Stevens later was buried in an integrated cemetery with the epitaph "Equality of Man before his Creator."
As Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and a member of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, Stevens used his skill as a wily parliamentarian and fearless debater to press for military victory. After the war, he opposed President Andrew Johnson's lenient policies toward the defeated Confederacy. Stevens’ ill health prevented him from playing an active role in Johnson’s 1868 Senate trial. He died just weeks after it ended.
"... [E]very man, no matter what his race or color; every earthly being who has an immortal soul, has an equal right to justice, honesty, and fair play with every other man; and the law should secure him those rights."
— Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, 1867
The Last Speech on Impeachment, by T. R. Davis, Harper’s Weekly, March 21, 1868
Thaddeus Stevens closes the debate before the House impeaches President Andrew Johnson.
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
John Covode’s Resolution to Impeach Andrew Johnson, 1868
Representative John Covode’s (PA) Resolution to Impeach President Andrew Johnson, February 21, 1868
Representative Covode’s scribbled motion to impeach President Johnson brought to a climax the president’s clashes with Congress over Reconstruction and executive authority. Covode’s motion passed three days later.
Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.