We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Bordewich's other book, The First Congress, is another page-turner and an eye-opener. For example, the so-called First Amendment was not given pride of place because it was viewed as the most important. Instead, the First Amendment, as originally drafted, failed to pass so this one was swapped in at the last minute.
I also am a member of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, which I heartily recommend. It sponsors very interesting periodic ZOOM lectures and is raising money to save Stevens' house in Lancaster, PA.
Stevens reminds me of the "omnipotent moral busybodies" that C.S. Lewis referenced. In wanting to do a good thing and being so sure that he was right and everyone else was wrong, he used the power of his position to help unleash a tragic war that killed 600,000 men and would not come close to achieving the desired equality for another 100 years. We should learn from the North's failings just as we learn from the South's.
Stevens, throughout his life and at great personal cost, opposed slavery. That is true. He did not start the Civil War or any other war. Reconstruction failed after he died in 1876.
What is wrong with principled, pragmatic idealism in politics? That is something we sorely lack today.
I do not want to sound grumpy or dismissive, but I suggest you read Bordewich's Congress at War. It is a real eye-opener, not just to learn more about Stevens' accomplishments but also about the sacrifices of Senator Benjamin Franklin Wade and Senator William P. Fessenden and many others in Congress who helped to maintain the Union under extremely tough conditions.
I knew nothing about Thaddeus Stevens before watching the movie "Lincoln" the other night, in which Tommie Lee Jones plays the character. A fine movie, by the way, with an incredible performance by Daniel Day Lewis. War or no war, I'll never find it in my heart to criticize reformers like Stevens. There are some things you have to stand up for.