January 10, 2013
The movie “Lincoln” has shined a spotlight on the real-life Thaddeus Stevens, the Vermont native and steadfast abolitionist who helped push through the 13th Amendment to end slavery. Stevens, as a congressman from Pennsylvania, also is credited with shepherding the 14th and 15th Amendments through Congress after the Civil War. Tommy Lee Jones, the actor who played Stevens in the movie, on Thursday was nominated for an Academy Award.
In Vermont, a portrait of Thaddeus Stevens hangs in the Statehouse in Montpelier and a historical marker honors his birthplace in Danville, Vt. The Danville Historical Society is working to further boost Stevens’ profile by creating a historic trail throughout Vermont marking about a half-dozen spots of significance in the famous Vermonter’s life.
Stevens, who was a firm advocate for free public education, was born in Danville, Vt., and attended the Caledonia Grammar School in Peacham, Vt. Stevens attended the University of Vermont, but graduated from Dartmouth College in 1814. After which, he moved to Pennsylvania, where he ultimately secured a seat in Congress.
In 1868, Sen. Justin Morrill of Vermont eulogized Stevens on the Senate floor. “Beneath a rugged exterior, Mr. Stevens had a heart that loved children, the downtrodden and the poor,” Morrill said. Likewise, a biography written by Hans L. Trefousse, titled “Thaddeus Stevens,” describes Stevens as “hating aristocracy, he exhibited throughout his life a concern for the poor and disadvantaged.”