I had never even heard of this guy, but a post over at the White nationalist site Occidental Dissent condemning him as one of the worst Americans of all time stirred my interest. I expected a fanatic. Not that I mind, after all, I’m a big fan of John Brown (even though he was a nut) and even Nat Turner (though he’s kind of gruesome). Desallines of Haiti, leader of the rebellion that killed almost all of the 25,000 Whites in Haiti, has always been one of my biggest heroes.
Over at Wikipedia’s Thaddeus Stevens page, there’s little if anything to dislike. He went beyond mere liberalism to all-out radicalism, championing the Underground Railroad and even running a waystation in Pennsylvania. He lived with a mixed-race (mulatto) female servant, and they may have had illegitimate children together.
Almost all graveyards were segregated back then, and he demanded to be buried in one of the only integrated graveyards around. His headstone even showcases this demand. He set up a university that was one of the first with an explicit non-discrimination clause, even for Muslims!
As the leader of the Radical Republicans, sure the Southerners hate him. Southerners need to get over it. You lost, we won.* It’s over. Time to move on. Not only did you get your asses kicked, but you weren’t even fighting for a legitimate cause. Southerners are just flat out nuts. They were nuts during the Civil War and they still are nuts to this day. They’re basically a bunch of fanatics. Fanatical mostly because they are still mad over losing the stupid war they started, and still angry at “the Nawth” for handing their great grandfather’s asses to them.
Towards the end of the war, Southern fanatics experimented with poison gas in an attempt to gas a room full of top US government officials. Experiments were carried out on cats in an enclosed glass case. With the war almost over, Southern fanatics still would not give up. There were many fanatical plots, including assassination plots, at the end of the war. I believe that all these nuts were caught. After the war, in a typical show of Yankee magnanimity, I believe all were released.
Southerners rant about General Sherman burning down Atlanta and other cities, but he was actually pretty civilized about it. History has not served Sherman well.
Typically he was surround a city and not let anyone out. Then his men would go door to door and try to clear out all the Southerners. Most able-bodied men would be gone, and there were just women, kids, old men, and maybe some Blacks. Union soldiers went house to house trying to evacuate the place. I’m not sure if they gave people a chance to gather up belongings.
A lot of Southerners knew what was up and insisted on going up in flames in their homes. Typically these clowns were dragged out of their homes kicking and screaming. There were a few deaths, but considering the scope of the scorched Earth operation, it is incredibly humane. I believe that only White homes were burned, and Negro homes were spared. I also believe that mansions of the slaveowners were targeted.
Anyway, Sherman’s campaign was sheer genius. There were hardly any deaths, but a lot of Southern property was up in flames. The opposite of a neutron bomb. Sherman was driven to this rage because the South, though beaten, would not say uncle. His March was the last straw.
Radical Republicanism has come in for a lot of criticism, but much of it is undeserved. The South deliberately tried to throw a monkey wrench in Reconstruction after the War and tried to bring back slavery in all but name only. Black rights were restricted in every possible way, necessitating the passage of the 13th–15th Amendments, also despised by White nationalists. They hate the 14th Amendment most of all. What’s it about? Equal protection under the law. Horror of horrors.
In some ways, Reconstruction was idiotic. Blacks were put in charge of law enforcement, courts and local governments. They were well-meaning but often illiterate, had no education and were worse than incompetent. As a result, local government on most levels was a comedy of errors.
Freed Black slaves, illiterate and never having worked a day of paid labor in their lives, wandered the roads aimlessly. Many drifted back to the plantations where they had been enslaved and set up camp there. They weren’t exactly asking to be enslaved again, but it was almost something like that.
Slavery had been torn down, and nothing had been erected in its place. Within a few years, the KKK was a huge force raging across the South and sowing terror. This was a response of a beaten White South to its burned mansions, destroyed, crippled and wounded manhood, widowed womanhood, newly empowered and sometimes vengeful Blacks, the idiocy and incompetence of Black rule and Federal military occupation.
It was all too humiliating to Southerners raised on super-masculinity and the pride that grew from that. The North had little stomach for the long-term military occupation that Stevens rightly proposed and didn’t want to take on armed and outraged White Southerners. The War was over.
Andrew Johnson practically rescinded Reconstruction, pulled most US troops out, and basically threw in the towel on the South. The North had fought a bloody war with the South and had no stomach for more fighting. The Feds basically said the Hell with the South, we’re out of here, and went home.
After 1868, things got much worse for Blacks as the KKK ruled the South and Jim Crow began to be cemented, but the US government was tired of fighting Southern White men and adopted a see no evil, hear no evil attitude.
Nevertheless, Reconstruction was right and proper and did not go on for long enough. The South’s defiance of the terms of surrender after defeat was outrageous and violated the basic human rights of Blacks.
By 1868, Stevens was dead, and Reconstruction was headed out.
The name of Thaddeus Stevens, American hero, is one more US schoolkids ought to know.
Good summary on Stevens at the link.
*I had relatives who fought on both sides of the Civil War. Some owned slaves too. One relative freed his slaves in the 1830’s. Another relative nearly joined the KKK in the 1920’s until his wife heard about it and said, “No you won’t!” I’m supposedly related to Stonewall Jackson, great Confederate general. My anti-Southernism and pro-Yankeeism in terms of the Civil War is typical of Californians. I’ve never met a Californian who supported the Confederacy in the Civil War, and you will never see a Confederate flag in this state.