"How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson" reveals the story behind the remarkable ideas that made modern life possible; the unsung heroes that brought them into the world – and the unexpected and bizarre consequences each of these innovations has triggered. It's a journey that takes Steven to meet penguins in the middle of the desert, deep down into the sewers of San Francisco and to the frozen wastes of the Arctic to fish with the Inuit.
Runtime: 60 minutes
How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson - Thaddeus Stevens - Netflix
Thaddeus Stevens (April 4, 1792 – August 11, 1868) was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania and one of the leaders 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. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee during the American Civil War, he played a leading role, focusing his attention on defeating the Confederacy, financing the war with new taxes and borrowing, crushing the power of slave owners, ending slavery, and securing equal rights for the Freedmen. 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, and 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. Stevens argued that slavery should not survive the war; he was frustrated by the slowness of President Abraham Lincoln to support his position. He guided the government's financial legislation through the House as Ways and Means chairman. As the war progressed towards a northern victory, Stevens came to believe that not only should slavery be abolished, but that African-Americans should be given a stake in the South's future through the confiscation of land from planters to be distributed to the freedmen. His plans went too far for the Moderate Republicans and were not enacted. 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.
How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson - First tenure in Congress - Netflix
In 1848, Stevens ran for election to Congress from Pennsylvania's 8th congressional district. There was opposition to him at the Whig convention. Some delegates felt that because Stevens had been late to join the party, he should not receive the nomination; others disliked his stance on slavery. He narrowly won the nomination. In a strong year for Whigs nationally, Taylor was chosen as president and Stevens was elected to Congress.
When Congress convened in December 1849, Stevens took his seat, joining other newly elected slavery opponents such as Salmon P. Chase. Stevens spoke out against the Compromise of 1850, crafted by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, that gave victories to both North and South, but would allow for some of the territories recently gained from Mexico to become slave states. In June, as the debates continued, he stated, “This word 'compromise' when applied to human rights and constitutional rights I abhor”. Nevertheless, the pieces of legislation that made up the Compromise passed, including the Fugitive Slave Act, which Stevens found particularly offensive. Although many Americans hoped that the Compromise would bring sectional peace, Stevens warned that it would be “the fruitful mother of future rebellion, disunion, and civil war”. Stevens was easily renominated and reelected in 1850, even though his stance caused him problems among pro-Compromise Whigs. In 1851, Stevens was one of the defense lawyers in the trial of 38 African-Americans and three others in federal court in Philadelphia on treason charges. The defendants had been implicated in the so-called Christiana Riot, in which an attempt to enforce a Fugitive Slave Act warrant had resulted in the killing of the slaveowner. Justice Robert Grier of the U.S. Supreme Court, as circuit justice, tried the case, and instructed the jury to acquit on the grounds that though the defendants might be guilty of murder or riot, they were not charged with that, and were not guilty of treason. The well-publicized incident (and others like it) increased polarization over the issue of slavery and made Stevens a prominent face of Northern abolitionism. Despite this trend, Stevens suffered political problems. He left the Whig caucus in December 1851, when his colleagues would not join him in seeking the repeal of the offensive elements of the Compromise, though he supported its unsuccessful 1852 candidate for president, General Winfield Scott. His political opposition, and local dislike of his stance on slavery and participation in the treason trial, made him unlikely to win renomination, and he sought only to pick his successor. His choice was defeated for the Whig nomination.
How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson - References - Netflix