2013-10-03 / Local & State

FCHS Fall Meeting Oct. 12

Features historical interpreter of Thaddeus Stevens

Thaddeus Stevens, portrayed by Gettysburg resident Ross Hetrick. Thaddeus Stevens, portrayed by Gettysburg resident Ross Hetrick. The Fulton County Historical Society’s fall membership meeting will be held Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. in the courtroom of the Fulton County Courthouse. Featured speaker is Ross Hetrick, a historical interpreter of Thaddeus Stevens. Viewed to be the most powerful congressman during and after the Civil War, Thaddeus Stevens was a fearless champion of freedom and equality. He is also attributed with being the savior of public education in Pennsylvania. During his lifetime, his fame rivaled Abraham Lincoln’s, and when he died in 1868, his body lay in state in the Captiol Rotunda – an honor previously given only to President Lincoln and Sen. Henry Clay. His funeral in Lancaster, Pa., was attended by 20,000 people.

Born in Vermont in 1792, he moved to Pennsylvania in 1814, and to Gettysburg in 1816. He was a large property owner, started two iron mills (including the one in Caledonia, near Chambersburg) and helped establish Gettysburg College. In 1842, he was so far in debt that he was forced to move to Lancaster, where he could make more money as an attorney. In 1849, Stevens, was elected to Congress and served there until his death in 1868. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, he guided efforts essential to financing the Civil War. He was unrelenting in his pressure on President Lincoln to free the slaves and use them as soldiers and was a key mover of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. He was the father of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which requires equal treatment under the law (due process and equal protection) and extends civil liberties to the state level. He was unsuccessful in his most ambitious plan to confiscate land from rich Confederates and redistribute it to freed slaves, called the “forty-acres and a mule” plan. Even in death, his commitment to equality continued, refusing to be buried in a segregated cemetery.

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