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Collection Thaddeus Stevens Papers

About this Collection

The papers of lawyer and United States representative from Pennsylvania Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868) consist of 4,750 items (7,769 images) in eight containers and one oversize folder. The material spans the years 1811-1927, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1850 to 1868. The collection consists principally of correspondence supplemented by speeches, legal, business, and financial records, biographical material, printed matter, and other papers relating chiefly to Stevens's service in the U.S. Congress and to family and business affairs.

The collection materials document the involvement of Thaddeus Stevens in Pennsylvania state politics and national politics, the anti-Masonic movement, and the Whig and Republican Parties. The largest portion of the correspondence centers on issues surrounding the Civil War and its aftermath. Subjects discussed in the Civil War correspondence include Abraham Lincoln, slavery, secession, wartime finance, African American troops, and the army experience of Stevens's nephews A. J. (Alanson) Stevens and Thaddeus Stevens, Jr. Topics from the Reconstruction era include the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen's Bureau), the political situation in the South, complaints from loyal Union men at the election of former Confederates, the treatment of African Americans in the postwar South, suffrage, and Andrew Johnson's policies and impeachment. Other subjects addressed in the collection include education in Pennsylvania, mining of coal and iron ore in Pennsylvania, destruction of Stevens's Caledonia Iron Works operations by Confederate troops in 1863, railroads, and financial issues.

Family correspondence consists of letters from his mother Sarah Morrill Stevens and brothers in the earlier years, and then from his nephews, notably A. J. Stevens, Jr., and Thaddeus Stevens, and nieces. Other correspondents represented in the Thaddeus Stevens Papers include John Binney, James Buchanan, Salmon P. Chase, W. M. Dent, Oliver James Dickey, F. A. Dockray, John Charles Frémont, Henry Goddard, Horace Greeley, Alexander Hood, Reverdy Johnson, Alexander K. McClure, D. M'Conaughy, Edward McPherson, Lewis Merrill, William Nesbit, William B. Reed, Edward Reilly, Winfield Scott, Dudley Selden, Samuel Shoch, Charles S. Spencer, Simon Stevens, Charles Sumner, John Sweney, and David Wills.

For a more detailed description of the provenance of the collection and the scope and content of the papers, please consult the finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the Thaddeus Stevens Papers, available online with links to the digital content on this site.

The collection is arranged in five series:

Series 1: General Correspondence, 1829-1869
This series consists primarily of letters Stevens received from constituents in Pennsylvania and from residents elsewhere in the United States, the subjects of which reflect major issues that concerned Stevens throughout his political career. Also included are letters from political colleagues, friends, and family. Some letters written by Thaddeus Stevens can be found throughout this series. The materials are arranged chronologically.

Series 2: Speeches and Writings File, 1835-1868
Contains drafts and printed copies of speeches, including Stevens's 1835 speech to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives advocating for free public education, his 1860 address at Cooper Union Institute in New York, and his communications on subjects relating to the Civil War, Reconstruction, suffrage, and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Printed copies of speeches are filed first, in chronological order. Drafts and related notes of speeches, which are largely undated, are arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series 3: Legal File, 1825-1867
Consists of estate papers, contracts, wills, indentures, memoranda, notes, and other legal material. Subjects addressed in this series include the settlement of the estate of William E. Camp, of which Stevens was executor, and Stevens's ironwork operations. The series is arranged by type of material or the name of the legal case.

Series 4: Miscellany, 1811-1927
Includes financial, congressional, and biographical material, printed matter, and miscellaneous items, arranged by type of material.

Series 5: Oversize, 1830-1834
Contains issues dating from the 1830s of the Anti-Masonic Star, and Republican Banner and The Comet, both newspapers published in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The items are arranged and described according to the series, container, and folder from which they were removed.