The Final Struggles: September 1864 to April 1865

To Make Men Free

How accurate is the portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens in the 2012 film Lincoln?

As far as his character and attitudes go, actor Tommy Lee Jones achieves a remarkably good portrayal. Stevens was, indeed, an irascible and tyrannical person who ran his section of the Republican Party—the Radicals—very much like a dictator. He was also one of the few congressmen who had a virulent, almost violent, repulsion to slavery.

As is shown at the very end of Lincoln, Stevens had a mistress, or perhaps what we would call a common-law wife. She was a black woman, a seamstress in Washington, D.C. They lived together for many years, but did so quietly. How many of Stevens’ congressional colleagues knew about this is not certain, but the subject was never brought up or used on the House floor.


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