Letter #26 – JANUARY 2, 1866  


We were reminded of the differences between the elegant vocabulary of Thomas Jackson's letters and the more pointed expressions of today's computer generation when our Web Designer remarked about all photos of Stevens "that is one freaky dude!"
Reinforcing a fellow abolitionist on reconstruction. This letter shows that Thomas Jackson not only wrote about American Affairs to his relatives back in England but that he also contacted leaders in America in an effort to influence the outcome of national events. Here he is writing to Thaddeus Stevens, a senior congressman and natural ally whose views are similar to those held by TJ. His objective here is to show support for Stevens' stand of keeping faith with the African Americans by giving them access to confiscated property and also punishing the rebels in the south by taxing them to pay for the debt that was incurred as a result of the rebellion.


Note: Thaddeus Stevens had scribbled his notes on the top left hand side of page one of this letter. He appears to say "Eight hour of Labor and Reconstruction", possibly a reference to TJ's note about the eight hour day to help his staff in filing.

Office of Reading Steam Cordage Manufactory,

Reading, Pa., Jany.. 2 -1866

Hon. Thadeus Stevens

Dear Sir,
I have read your remarks on reconstruction and fully endorse every word of them. I think the policy adopted by Andrew Johnson very unjust to the loyal citizens of our country if he could succeed in it. But as it is morally certain that he cannot persue his present course without inflicting serious, perhaps fatal injury upon his country, I think all who oppose his policy should be endorsed encouraged and sustained by every lover of liberty and the inalienable rights of man. Therefore, although a stranger to you, I take the liberty of adding of addressing you on this subject & requesting you to look over the inclosed extracts. They embody an idea that I think may help our cause

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if made the most of. They are headed "The eight hour system" and begin with some remarks on that subject. But the drift of them is to show the working men that Andrew Johnsons reconstruction policy precludes every possibility of ameliorating their condition because pardoning the rebels and giving them all their property back again leaves the enormous national debt to be paid by the labor of the nation entirely. And that being the case, the hours of labor cannot be lessened untill the debt is paid. You know that the working men are the main strength of the copperhead party, with which Andrew Johnson is now negotiating & which he will join the moment he sees it can coalesce with his reconstructed south and get into power. Then if these working men can be convinced that his policy & that of lenity to rich rebels is so injurious to them as it really is, a very great advantage would be gained. I know

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that the mass of working men are politically ignorant or they never could have been mislead & befooled as they are and have been. I know that they are utterly unprincipled, politically dishonest & false to freedom or they never could have been made members of the proslavery party. For nearly 40 years I have been a sharp spectator of politics and seen them sacrifice almost every thing to party. But can they be induced to endorse a policy that gives the rich rebel his property back & leaves their hard labor to pay the almost overwhelming debt that rich rebels treason has put upon us?. If they can we may as well give it up. For it will be the extreme of folly ever to hope for anything depending upon the commonest kind of common sense in the mass of the people. Brute instinct would pressure itself from such a gross imposition as that. I was born and bred a democrat. I am in my 60th year. But I never voted the democratic ticket yet, and most assuredly shall never vote it while I live. And if the republican party

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endorse Andrew Johnson's reconstruction policy, most assuredly I shall never again vote that ticket either. It is plain that Johnson cares no more about keeping the national faith within the poor negro then the rankest copperhead does, or with Carl Shurz's report in his possession he would never dream of so villanously remanding the blacks back to their oppressors by turning the whole south over to the entire keeping of the bloody minded slave driver in the manner he is doing it. He knows that in their hands the constitutional amendment must become a sham, a shameless lie, a thimberig cheat, a devil's deception, and the tories of Europe will laugh at it as a cute "Yankee trick" the dazzled of the poor darky with the promise of liberty, used him in the hour of need and then diddled out of it back into bondage worse than before. Please excuse the liberty a stranger takes in thus addressing you & allow me to remain Yours very respectfully Thomas Jackson


We were reminded of the differences between the elegant vocabulary of Thomas Jackson's letters and the more pointed expressions of today's computer generation when our Web Designer remarked about all photos of Stevens "that is one freaky dude!"

A copy of his letter was kindly provided to us by Michelle Krowl, Civil War and Reconstruction Specialist of the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress. It was found in Box 3 of the papers of Pensylvanian Congressman Thaddeus Stevens.

Notice that Thomas Jackson misspelt the first name of the Senator. It is tempting to suggest that Thaddeus noticed this and, as a result, he twice underlined the error! However it is more likely that the double underlining was added just to indicate how Stevens wanted to letter to be filed.

Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868) sounds to have been as much a firebrand as Thomas Jackson and vehemently opposed giving the defeated south their lands back, indeed he felt they should be prosecuted for rebelling.

Here are some quotes that give an insight into his beliefs .
"The Southerners should be treated as a conquered alien enemy and appropriated to the payment of the national debt".

"I wish that I were the owner of every Southern slave, that I might cast oft shackles from this limbs and witness the rapture which would excite them in the first dance of their freedom."

Extract from Wikipedia (accessed Jan 17 2015)

After Lincoln's assassination in April 1865, Stevens came into conflict with the new president, Johnson, who sought rapid restoration of the seceded states without guarantees for freedmen. The difference in views caused an ongoing battle between Johnson and Congress, with Stevens leading the Radical Republicans. After gains in the 1866 election the radicals took control of Reconstruction away from Johnson. Stevens's last great battle was to secure articles of impeachment in the House against Johnson, though the Senate did not convict the President. Historiographical views of Stevens have dramatically shifted over the years, from the early 20th-century view of Stevens as reckless and motivated by hatred of the white South, to the perspective of the neoabolitionists of the 1950s and afterwards, who applauded him for his egalitarian views.

Unusual Words

Thimblerig (page 4) : Definitions
a swindling trick in which a small ball or pea is quickly shifted from under one to another of three small cups to fool the spectator guessing its location
to cheat by trickery (Miriam Webster)

Carl Schurz (Name misspelt by Thomas Jackson) 1829-1906
From Wikipedia (accessed Jan 17 2015)
Schurz was a German revolutionary, American statesman and reformer, U.S. Minister to Spain, Union Army General in the American Civil War, U. S. Senator, and Secretary of the Interior. He was also an accomplished journalist, newspaper editor and orator, who in 1869 became the first German-born American elected to the United States Senate.[1]

During Reconstruction, Schurz was opposed to federal military enforcement and protection of African American civil rights, and held nineteenth century ideals of European superiority and fears of miscegenation.

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