Clement Vallandigham Banished

May 19, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln directed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to banish former Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham to the South for voicing opposition to the war.

Former U.S. Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Former U.S. Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

On May 1, Vallandigham, prominent leader of the “Peace” Democrats, or “Copperheads,” delivered a speech to thousands of spectators at a party rally in Mount Vernon, Ohio. He asserted that negotiations could end the war, but Lincoln and his Republican Party refused to negotiate because they no longer sought to preserve the Union but rather to liberate slaves and enslave whites by destroying civil liberties.[1]

Vallandigham declared that the war would only end if soldiers began deserting en masse and the people hurled “King Lincoln from his throne.” He warned pro-war New Englanders that if they continued supporting the conflict, the western states might rejoin the South. Among the audience members listening to Vallandigham’s speech were two staff members of Major General Ambrose Burnside, commanding the Department of the Ohio.[2]

At 2:30 on the morning of the 5th, a full company of Federal soldiers broke down Vallandigham’s door and arrested him in his bedroom for violating Burnside’s General Order No. 38, which declared that “the habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department,” and anyone committing such “treason, expressed or implied,” would be seized and brought before a military tribunal.[3]

Burnside claimed he had the authority to enforce this order based on Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus last September, under which anyone expressing “disloyalty” or discouraging support for the war effort could be subject to military trial, regardless of constitutional rights to free speech and expression. A mob outraged by Vallandigham’s arrest burned the office of the Dayton Journal, the city’s Republican newspaper.[4]

Military authorities tried Vallandigham on May 6 for “Publicly expressing, in violation of General Orders No. 38, from Head-quarters Department of the Ohio, sympathy for those in arms against the Government of the United States, and declaring disloyal sentiments and opinions, with the object and purpose of weakening the power of the Government in its efforts to suppress an unlawful rebellion.”[5]

Federal agents who had heard Vallandigham’s speech testified that he had called the president “King Lincoln.” Vallandigham refused to plead, arguing that a military tribunal had no authority over a civilian where civilian courts functioned. Vallandigham was convicted the next day and sentenced to Fort Warren military prison in Boston Harbor “during the continuance of the war.”[6]

Vallandigham’s conviction sparked protests throughout the North. Democrats and even some Republicans expressed outrage that someone could be thrown in prison for simply delivering a speech, and nearly every member of Lincoln’s cabinet opposed the action. Nevertheless, Lincoln gave Burnside his “kind assurance of support” after learning of Vallandigham’s conviction.[7]

That same day, the Democratic New York Atlas declared that “the tyranny of military despotism” displayed by Vallandigham’s conviction proved “the weakness, folly, oppression, mismanagement, and general wickedness of the (administration).” New York Governor Horatio Seymour said, “(This arrest) is cowardly, brutal, infamous. It is not merely a step toward Revolution, it is revolution… our liberties are overthrown.” The New York Herald feared this was only the first of “a series of fatal steps which must terminate at last in bloody anarchy.”[8]

A Federal judge denied an application for a writ of habeas corpus for Vallandigham, declaring that the military trial was a valid use of presidential war powers based on a law passed in March 1863 suspending habeas corpus throughout the U.S. When the Chicago Times backed Vallandigham and attacked the Lincoln administration, Burnside closed the newspaper down. Meanwhile, a protest group in Albany, New York sent resolutions to Lincoln condemning Vallandigham’s conviction.[9]

Recognizing the political problem of such a harsh punishment, President Lincoln sought a compromise by publicly supporting Vallandigham’s arrest but commuting his sentence. Lincoln ordered the former congressman banished to the Confederacy, and he also directed Stanton to reopen the Chicago Times. Federal cavalry soon escorted Vallandigham to Tennessee, and, wanting nothing to do with him, Confederate officials quickly shipped him to Canada.[10]

Meanwhile, protests continued throughout the month. Petitions to free Vallandigham circulated in Ohio, and New Jersey Governor Joel Parker told an audience in Newark that the conviction and deportation “were arbitrary and illegal acts. The whole proceeding was wrong in principle and dangerous in its tendency.” Republican Governor and Lincoln ally Oliver P. Morton of Indiana criticized Lincoln’s actions for harming the war effort in Indiana and neighboring states. Despite such mass indignation, Lincoln refused Burnside’s offer to resign.[11]

—–

[1] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 632

[2] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 632; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 522-24; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 188-89

[3] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 632-33; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 522-24; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 349; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 188-89

[4] Lincoln, Abraham, Abraham Lincoln Complete Works, Vol. Two (New York, NY: The Century Co., 1920), edited by John G. Nicolay and John Hay, p. 239; Vallandigham, Clement Laird, The Trial Hon. Clement L. Vallandigham by a Military Commission: and the Proceedings Under His Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati, OH: Rickey and Carroll, 1863), p. 11

[5] Vallandigham, Clement Laird, The Trial Hon. Clement L. Vallandigham by a Military Commission: and the Proceedings Under His Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati, OH: Rickey and Carroll, 1863), p. 11| 23| 33; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 188-89

[6] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 633; Vallandigham, Clement Laird, The Trial Hon. Clement L. Vallandigham by a Military Commission: and the Proceedings Under His Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati, OH: Rickey and Carroll, 1863), p. 11| 23| 33

[7] Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 522-24; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 349; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 188-89; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Loc 50665-68

[8] Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 188-89; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Loc 50665-68

[9] Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 522-24; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 353-54; Pittman, Benn, The Trials for Treason at Indianapolis, Disclosing the Plans for Establishing a North-Western Confederacy (Cincinnati, OH: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1865), p. 253; Vallandigham, Clement Laird, The Trial Hon. Clement L. Vallandigham by a Military Commission: and the Proceedings Under His Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati, OH: Rickey and Carroll, 1863), p. 40 | 259-72; Vallandigham, James L., A Life of Clement L. Vallandigham (Baltimore, MD: Turnbull Brothers, 1872), p. 288-93

[10] Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 522-24; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 355, 358; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 188-89; Vallandigham, Clement Laird, The Trial Hon. Clement L. Vallandigham by a Military Commission: and the Proceedings Under His Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati, OH: Rickey and Carroll, 1863), p. 34

[11] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 357, 359-60; “Vallandigham Meeting in Newark,” The New York Times, 31 May 1863; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Kindle Locations 50665-68

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One thought on “Clement Vallandigham Banished

  1. […] order outraged many northerners, especially since it came so soon after his controversial arrest of Vallandigham for speaking out against the war. Chicago Mayor F.C. Sherman presided over a meeting held by city […]

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