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Thaddeus Stevens was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania and a leader of the Radical Republican faction of the Republican Party during the 1860s. A fierce opponent of slavery and discrimination against African-Americans, Stevens sought to secure their rights during Reconstruction, in opposition to President Andrew Johnson. Stevens was born in rural Vermont, in poverty, and with a club foot, giving him a limp he kept his entire life. He moved to Pennsylvania as a young man, where he quickly became a successful lawyer in Gettysburg. He interested himself in municipal affairs, and then in politics. He was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where he became a strong advocate of free public education. Financial setbacks in 1842 caused him to move his home and practice to the larger city of Lancaster. There, he joined the Whig Party, and was elected to Congress in 1848. His activities as a lawyer and politician in opposition to slavery cost him votes and he did not seek reelection in 1852. After a brief flirtation with the Know-Nothing Party, Stevens joined the newly formed Republican Party, and was elected to Congress again in 1858. There, with fellow radicals such as Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, he opposed the expansion of slavery and concessions to the South as war came.
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