The new tribute to Thaddeus Stevens is a bronze statue called Men in Pursuit of Justice Must Never Despair. It is a quote of Stevens. The statue shows 6-ft. tall Stevens’ clutching a copy of the 14th Amendment, one of his greatest achievements. The base of the statue is shaped like Pennsylvania. A celebration is slated for April 1, 2, and 3.
The Thaddeus Stevens Society launched a fundraising effort in 2015 to raise $55,000 for the statue. By 2018 the Society had amassed pledges of $15,500. A lifetime member and lifelong admirer of Stevens, Michael Charney, offered to pay the remaining $39,500, making the statue possible.
The Celebration at Caledonia State Park
Sunday, April 3, Events atCaledonia State Park, at Rt. 30 and Rt. 233, near Chambersburg, PA in the main office conference room.
10 a.m. to noon — Economist William A. Darity of Duke University, author of From Here to Equality, Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, will talk about Stevens and reparations. A. Kirsten Mullen, co-author of From Here to Equality and a folklorist and founder of Artefactual, an arts-consulting practice, will also present “Finishing the job, Thaddeus Stevens and the true Radical Republicans started,” examining the material basis for black Americans’ full citizen rights which he and Sen. Charles Sumner and abolitionist Wendel Phiillips recommended consistently from 1861 to 1866 — Free, light lunch will be served
1 p.m. — 3 p.m. — Thaddeus Stevens Society business meeting and tour of park’s blacksmith shop
“My lifelong regret is that I lived so long and so uselessly,” Thaddeus Stevens said shortly before he died on August 11, 1868 at the age of 76. It was an incredibly ironic false statement.
In his last eight years, Congressman Stevens had led the remaking of America. He had helped to end slavery, changed the Constitution to make equality the law of the land and enacted legislation to protect the recently freed slaves, not to mention changed the nation’s financial structure that enabled the Union to win the war.
But Stevens was a man intent on making the United States “a more perfect union,” during the brief period that the federal government was not dominated by the “slave power” of the southern states. But despite having this advantage, Stevens was unable to change the Constitution so that it would promote universal voting for both men and women, black and white. And he had failed to remove the chief obstacle to his revolution — President Andrew Johnson.
But his greatest failure — in Stevens’s eyes — was his inability to pass legislation that would have confiscated land from the super-rich southern aristocracy and redistribute it to the freed slaves on whose backs the wealth had been accumulated. Stevens was blunt and prophetic about what would happen if this was not done.
“If we do not furnish them with homesteads and hedge them around with protective laws,” Stevens said. “If we leave them to the legislation of their late masters, we had better have left them in bondage. Their condition would be worse than that of our prisoners at Andersonville.” — a notorious Confederate prison camp. And true to Stevens’s prediction, several decades of white supremacy repression were ushered in after a brief period of multiracial democracy.
But despite his despondency, Stevens retained his famous wit. A visitor commented on his good appearance despite his illness. “It is not my appearance, but my disappearance, that troubles me,” Stevens responded.
He also comforted himself by recalling his victory 33 years earlier when he gave a stirring speech in the Pennsylvania legislature that turned back a repeal effort of the state’s fledgling public school system. “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.” he said.
Stevens also took steps to ensure his grave would be a great inspiration for equality. Instead of being buried in Lancaster’s main cemetery where President James Buchanan laid, Stevens bought a plot in a small integrated graveyard. And his reason is explained in the epitaph on the grave.
“I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, not from any natural preference for solitude. But finding other cemeteries limited as to race by charter rules, I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death the principles which I advocated through a long life, Equality of man before his Creator.”
Ross Hetrick is president of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, which is dedicated to promoting Stevens’s important legacy. More information about the Great Commoner can be found at the society’s website:https://www.thaddeusstevenssociety.com/
The Cumberland Valley impressed Thaddeus Stevens, reminding him of the rural beauty of Danville, Vermont, where he was born in 1792. Later, when Stevens purchased land to begin an ironworks, he called it Caledonia because it reminded him of his boyhood home.
As a child, Stevens had a difficult life. His family struggled to make a living by farming. His father was an alcoholic and eventually left his family. His mother, Sarah, kept the family together and realized education was the way to give Thaddeus a better life.
Thaddeus and his brother were both born with club feet. For Thaddeus Stevens, his club foot gave him the experience of “being different.” Growing up poor gave him an understanding of struggle. Education raised him up and gave him a way to make his life better. Thaddeus Stevens never forgot this and became a proponent of giving people access to opportunity through education and through equality.
After graduating from Dartmouth College, Stevens began his career as a teacher in York, PA. He studied law in the evenings and became a lawyer. In 1833, Stevens was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. In 1848, he was elected to Congress. He did not run in 1852 but ran and was re-elected in 1858 to Congress.
Throughout his years of service, he advocated repeatedly for equality of all.
The Thaddeus Stevens Society has contracted with Alex Paul Loza of Chattanooga, TN to sculpt a statue of Thaddeus Stevens, one of the greatest statesmen in United States history.
Stevens, who lived from 1792 to 1868, was the most powerful congressman during and after the Civil War and was instrumental in freeing the slaves and then trying to protect them after the war. He is also the father of the 14th Amendment, the single most important Constitutional amendment requiring equal treatment under the law and extending civil liberties to the state level.
“This is a giant step in honoring a man who did so much for the state of Pennsylvania and the nation,” said Ross Hetrick, president of the Stevens Society. “The statue will be a magnificent work capturing the spirit of the Great Commoner.” he said.
The $55,000, 6-foot bronze statue is expected to be completed in late 2021 or early 2022, in time for its dedication in April 2022, which will also mark the 230th birthday of Stevens. When completed, the sculpture will be only the second Stevens statue in existence. The first statue is at the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster. The Stevens Society is currently investigating various locations for the statue in Gettysburg.
“My goal with the monument is to highlight Stevens’s determination and never-ending stance to fight for the less fortunate,” said sculptor Loza. “To visually and emotionally communicate this message I decided to place his body weight on his club foot and walking stick while his right foot is set to take another step forward. His left hand clings to his cane to reinforce his drive to always move onward, while the other hand is very close to his heart protecting and holding his legacy, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.” he said.
Loza, 41, is a native of Lima, Peru, and has lived in Tennessee since August 2010. A graduate of the American Academy of Art in Chicago, he has 20 years of experience in using clay and paint to immortalize people and their stories. His goal is to bring diverse communities together and reveal theprofound inter-connectedness of all people. He was selected as the sculptor after a nation-wide search that involved 20 submissions.
Franklin County connects to Thaddeus Stevens through the Caledonia Ironworks, now Caledonia State Park. The Franklin County Visitors Bureau worked with research historian Randy Harris on a successful application to the National Park Service to designated Caledonia as a NPS Network to Freedom site. More information on Thaddeus Stevens and the South Mountain Underground Railroad activity can be viewed here.