Thaddeus Stevens: Civil War Revolutionary, Fighter for Racial Justice

Bruce Levine. Simon & Schuster, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4767-9337-5
Historian Levine (The Fall of the House of Dixie) reassesses the life of abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens in this fascinating yet flawed biography. Levine traces Stevens’s rise from poverty in Vermont, where he was born with a club foot in 1792, to chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee during the Civil War and early supporter of the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 for violating the Tenure of Office Act and undermining Reconstruction measures passed by Congress. Levine is at his best documenting the evolution of Stevens’s views on slavery, from the seeds of abolitionist thinking planted as a student at Dartmouth to his rise in the tentatively anti-slavery faction of the Whig Party in the 1840s, brief alignment with the nativist Know-Nothings in the 1850s, and pivotal role as a leader of the radical Republicans pushing for the Emancipation Proclamation and a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. Though he provides valuable historical context and ably tracks the era’s landmark legislation through Congress and the White House, Levine falls short in explaining how Stevens accrued and exerted his outsized political power. Still, this is an accessible and well-researched introduction to one of the most consequential lawmakers in U.S. history. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 11/25/2020
Release date: 03/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-2480-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-7971-2482-7
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