Thaddeus Stevens Quotes:
Our object should be not only to end this terrible war now, but to prevent its recurrence. All must admit that slavery is the cause of it. Without slavery we should this day
be a united and happy people. . . . The principles of our Republic are wholly incompatible with slavery. -- "Subduing the Rebellion" speech in Congress, January 22, 1862.
From the Public School speech of April 11, 1835, which turned back an attempt to repeal public education in Pennsylvania:
“Such a law should be entitled ‘An act for branding and marking the poor, so that they may be known from the rich and the proud.”
“He cheerfully pays the tax which is necessary to support and punish convicts, but loudly complains of that which goes to prevent this fellow from becoming criminals, and to obviate the necessity of the humiliating institutions.”
“Sir, when I reflect how apt hereditary wealth, hereditary influence, and, perhaps, as a consequence, hereditary pride are to close the avenues and steel the heart against the wants and the rights of the poor, I am induced to thank my
Creator for having, from early life, bestowed upon me the blessing of poverty. Sir, it is a blessing – for if there be any human sensation more ethereal and divine than all others, it is that feelingly sympathizes with misfortune.”
"I shall feel myself abundantly rewarded for all my efforts in behalf of universal education if a single child, educated by the commonwealth, shall drop a tear of gratitude on my grave." -- Memorial Addresses On The Life And
Character of Thaddeus Stevens, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., December 17, 1868, printed 1869
"Let demagogues note it for future use, and send it on the wings of the wind to the ears of every one of my constituents, in matters of this kind, I would rather hear the approving voice of one judicious, intelligent, and enlightened
mind, than to be greeted by the loud huzzas of the whole host of ignorance." January 31, 1834 -- page 54 of A Salutary Influence: Gettysburg College, 1832-1985, by Charles H. Glatfelter
“There can be no fanatics in the cause of genuine liberty. Fanaticism is excessive zeal. There may be, and have been fanatics in false religion – in the bloody religions of the heathen. There are fanatics in superstition. But there can be
no fanatic, however warm their zeal, in the true religion, even although you sell your goods and bestow your money on the poor, and go on and follow your Master. There may, and every hour shows around me, fanatics in the cause
of false liberty – that infamous liberty which justifies human bondage, that liberty whose ‘corner-stone is slavery.’ But there can be no fanaticism however high the enthusiasm, in the cause of rational, universal liberty – the liberty of
the Declaration of Independence.” – June 10, 1850.
“I wish the Indians had newspapers of their own. If they had, you would have horrible pictures of the cold-blooded murders of inoffensive Indians. You would have more terrible pictures than we have now revealed to us [of white
people], and, I have no doubt, we would have the real reasons for these Indian troubles. I suppose they would be as accurate as those you have in the letters which have just been read, and which have come in here so opportunely.”
– April 19, 1860
“Every humane and patriotic heart must grieve to see a bloody and causeless rebellion, costing thousands of human lives and millions of treasure. But as it was predetermined and inevitable, it was long enough delayed. Now is the
appropriate time to solve the greatest problem ever submitted to civilized man.” – January 22, 1862
“What opportunity is presented to this Republic to vindicate her consistency and become immortal. The occasion is forced upon us, and the invitation presented to strike the chains from four million of human beings, and create them
MEN; to extinguish slavery on this whole continent; to wipe out, so far as we are concerned, the most hateful and infernal blot that has ever disgraced the escutcheon of man; to write a page in the history of the world whose
brightness shall eclipse all the records of heroes and of sages.” – January 22, 1862.
“I care not whether the soldiers are of Milesian, Teutonic, African or Angelo-Saxon descent. I despise the principle that make a difference between them in the hour of battle and of death. The idea the we are to keep up that
distinction is abhorrent to the feeling of the age, is abhorrent to the feeling of humanity, is shocking to every decent instinct of our nature.” – In a speech to give black soldiers equal pay. April 30, 1864.
“The whole fabric of southern society must be changed, and never can it be done if this opportunity is lost. Without this, this government can never be, as it never has been, a true republic.” –September 6, 1865
“I will be satisfied if my epitaph shall be written thus: ‘Here lies one who never rose to any eminence, who only courted the low ambition to have it said that he striven to ameliorate the condition of the poor, the lowly, the
downtrodden of every race and language and color.’” – January 13, 1865
“I wished that I were the owner of every southern slave, that I might cast off the shackles from their limbs, and witness the rapture which would excite them in the first dance of their freedom.” July 1837 at Pennsylvania
“I can never acknowledge the right of slavery. I will bow down to no deity however worshipped by professing Christians – however dignified by the name of the Goddess of Liberty, whose footstool is the crushed necks of the
groaning millions, and who rejoices in the resoundings of the tyrant’s lash, and the cries of his tortured victims.” May 4, 1838.
“In my youth, in my manhood, in my old age, I had fondly dreamed that when any fortunate chance should have broken up for a while the foundation of our institutions, and released us from obligations the most tyrannical that ever
man imposed in the name of freedom, that the intelligent pure and just men of this Republic, true to their professions and their consciences, would have so remodeled all our institutions as to have rid them from every vestige of
human oppression, of inequity of rights, of the recognized degradation of the poor, and the superior caste of the rich. In short, that no distinction would be tolerated in this purified Republic but what arose from merit and conduct.
This bright dream has vanished ‘like the baseless fabric of a vision.’ I find that we shall be obliged to be content with patching up the worst portions of the ancient edifice, and leaving it, in many of its parts, to be swept through by
the tempests, the frosts, and the storms of despotism.
Do you inquire why, holding these views and possessing some will of my own, I accept so imperfect a proposition? I answer, because I live among men and not among angels; among men as intelligent, as determined, and as
independent as myself, who not agreeing with me, do not choose to yield their opinions to mine. Mutual concession, therefore, is our only resort, or mutual hostilities.” – June 13, 1866, on the alteration of his original proposal for the
“I have done what I deemed best for humanity. It is easy to protect the interests of the rich and powerful. But it is a great labor to protect the interests of the poor and downtrodden. It is the eternal labor of Sisyphus, forever to be
renewed. I know how unprofitable is all such toil. But he who is earnest heeds not such things. It has not been popular. But if there be anything for which I have entire indifference; perhaps I might say contempt, it is the public
opinion which is founded on popular clamor.” – From a holograph writing of Stevens found among his preparatory notes of a speech delivered in Congress on the 14th Amendment.
“Let demagogues note it for future use, and send it on the wings of the wind to the ears of every one of my constituents, in matters of this kind, I would rather hear the approving voice of one judicious intelligent, and enlightened
mind, than be greeted by the loud huzzas of the whole host of ignorance.” February 1834 when he supported granting $18,000 to Pennsylvania College, which is now Gettysburg College.
“It is my purpose nowhere in these remarks to make personal reproaches; I entertain no ill-will toward any human being, nor any brute, that I know of, not even the skunk across the way to which I referred. Least of all would I
reproach the South. I honor her courage and fidelity. Even in a bad, a wicked cause, she shows a united front. All her sons are faithful to the cause of human bondage, because it is their cause. But the North -- the poor, timid,
mercenary, driveling North -- has no such united defenders of her cause, although it is the cause of human liberty. None of the bright lights of the nation shine upon her section. Even her own great men have turned her accusers. She
is the victim of low ambition -- an ambition which prefers self to country, personal aggrandizement to the high cause of human liberty. She is offered up a sacrifice to propitiate southern tyranny -- to conciliate southern treason.” --
June 10, 1850 in a speech before Congress on the Fugitive Slave Act. Page 123, Vol. 1, Palmer.
Believing then, that this is the best proposition that can be made effectual, I accept it. I shall not be driven by clamor or denunciation to throw away a great good because it is not perfect. I will take all I can get in the cause of
humanity and leave it to be perfected by better men in better times. It may be that time will not come while I am here to enjoy the glorious triumph; but that it will come is as certain as that there is a just God. -- May 8, 1866 in
speech about the 14th Amendment.
"My sands are nearly run, and I can only see with the eye of faith. I am fast descending the downhill of life, at the foot of which stands an open grave. But you, sir, are promised length of days and a brilliant career. If you and your
compeers can fling away ambition and realize that every human being, however lowly-born or degraded, by fortune is your equal, that every inalienable right which belongs to you belongs also to him, truth and righteousness will
spread over the land, and you will look down from the top of the Rocky mountains upon an empire of one hundred millions of happy people." -- July 7, 1868, as part of presentation on impeachment resolution after Johnson had been
"The greatest measure of the nineteenth century was passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America." -- page 159, Thaddeus Stevens and the Fight For Negro Rights by Milton Meltzer