2017-18 AcademicCatalog - 6
the legacy of
Thaddeus Stevens was born in Danville, Vermont, on April 4,
1792. He was the second of four boys whose parents were
Sarah and Joshua Stevens. Thaddeus' older brother, Joshua,
was born with two clubfeet that made it very difficult for him
to walk. In the late 1700s, any physical deformity was seen
as a sign from God that the family had committed some
Sarah Stevens was a kind woman with great energy, a
strong will, and a devout faith in God. She held the family
together by working day and night. In addition to the farm
work, she cleaned and performed other domestic chores for
her neighbors. Thaddeus loved his mother and was devoted
to her throughout his life.
Sarah realized that the best hope for her eldest sons was
education. She scraped together enough money to enroll
them in the nearby one-room Peacham School. Thaddeus
was frail, poor, disabled, and not particularly attractive.
Consequently, he was teased mercilessly by other children
throughout his childhood.
Extremely sensitive, he became very shy; however, he
excelled in school. It became obvious that he possessed a
great intellect and had a special aptitude for debating. Upon
completion of his education at Peacham, Thaddeus was
accepted at Dartmouth College. He was the poorest student
at the College, never having enough money for books let
alone money to socialize with his rich classmates. As a
result, he was an outcast, just as he had been throughout
his childhood. Even though he was more qualified than most
of his peers, he was not nominated for Phi Beta Kappa, an
honors fraternity. This insult left him hurt and bitter.
serious sin. Such a deformity was called the mark of the
devil, and as a consequence, the family was ridiculed and
shunned. The family's status worsened when Thaddeus
was also born with a clubfoot.
Thaddeus' father, Joshua Stevens, was an alcoholic and
an abusive man with a special talent for staying poor. The
family lived in abject poverty on a small farm. By the time
Thaddeus was 12, his father had abandoned the family and
was later killed in the War of 1812.
6 * Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
Thaddeus Stevens graduated from Dartmouth and
accepted a teaching position at a one-room school in York,
Pennsylvania. He studied law in the evenings and passed
the bar exam in a year. He set up practice in Gettysburg and
later moved to Lancaster. He became an instant success. In
his first year, he successfully argued nine out of ten cases
before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, an unprecedented
feat. Word of his ability and success spread throughout the
region, and he was inundated with clients. After five years,
he owned a house and lot, several other properties, and was
able to purchase for his mother a 250-acre farm with 14
cows. He said that buying her the farm was the "greatest
satisfaction of his life." During the next 21 years, he would
become very wealthy and became known as an excellent
attorney, renegade politician, and philanthropist.
In 1833, Thaddeus Stevens was elected to the Pennsylvania
House of Representatives. He did not run as a Democrat,
the party that dominated Pennsylvania politics, but rather
as an Anti-Mason. This was a political party that opposed
Freemasons or Masonry.
Freemasons were an organization that included many of the
most influential and prestigious men of the time, including