Clement Laird Vallandigham - Facts

July 29, 1820 – June 17, 1871

Key facts about Peace Democrat leader Clement Laird Vallandigham.

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Birth Date:

  • July 29, 1820

Birth Location:

  • New Lisbon (now Lisbon) in eastern Ohio

Parents:

  • Clement and Rebecca (Laird) Vallandigham

Education:

  • Jefferson College at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (did not graduate)

Occupation:

  • Lawyer, politician

Career Summary:

  • Ohio congressman

Spouse:

  • Louisa Anna McMahon (1846)

Place of Death:

  • Lebanon, Ohio

Date of Death:

  • June 17, 1871

Place of Burial:

  • Dayton, Ohio

Significance:

  • Clement Vallandigham was the fifth of seven children born to Clement and Rebecca (Laird) Vallandigham.
  • Clement Vallandigham received his primary education in a private academy founded and run by his father.
  • At the age of seventeen, Clement Vallandigham entered Jefferson College at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, as a junior, however, he never graduated.
  • Clement Vallandigham studied law under the tutelage of his eldest brother, James.
  • After being admitted to the Ohio bar on December 5, 1842, Vallandigham joined his brother’s law practice in New Lisbon.
  • Clement Vallandigham was an active member of the Democratic Party.
  • In October 1845, Columbiana County voters elected twenty-five-year-old Vallandigham to the Ohio General Assembly where he served for two years.
  • While serving in the Ohio General Assembly, Clement Vallandigham supported the growing nationalistic agitation for war with Mexico, opposed the Wilmot Proviso (excluding slavery from the territories), and resisted efforts to repeal Ohio’s “Black Laws,” which suppressed the rights of citizens of African descent.
  • On August 27, 1846, Vallandigham married Louisa Anna McMahon, the daughter of a Maryland slaveholder. The couple remained married until Vallandigham’s death in 1871 and they produced five children.
  • In 1847, Clement Vallandigham moved his law practice to Dayton, Ohio, where he also purchased a share of the Dayton Western Empire newspaper in 1847.
  • In 1852 and 1854, Clement Vallandigham made unsuccessful bids for the U.S congressional seat from Ohio’s third district, losing to Lewis D. Campbell, the candidate of the Whig and Know-Nothing Parties.
  • In 1856, Clement Vallandigham won a seat in Congress after successfully challenging the apparent victory of his Republican opponent Lewis D. Campbell.
  • Clement Vallandigham represented Ohio’s third district from May 25, 1858, to March 3, 1863, in the 35th into the 37th Congresses.
  • During his tenure in Congress, Clement Vallandigham was an ardent supporter of states’ rights and a relentless opponent of abolitionists.
  • As the Union began to unravel following Abraham Lincoln’s victory in the 1860 presidential election, Clement Vallandigham supported the Crittenden Compromise, an unsuccessful attempt to avoid disunion.
  • After the Civil War began, Clement Vallandigham consistently voted against measures to fund the Union war effort.
  • Clement Vallandigham harshly criticized what he considered to be President Lincoln’s abuse of power during the Civil War.
  • Clement Vallandigham was the preeminent spokesperson for the Peace Democrats – or Copperheads as they were derisively called by their opponents.
  • At 2:40 a.m. on May 5, 1863, 150 Union soldiers surrounded Clement Vallandigham’s Dayton home to arrest him. When Vallandigham refused to surrender, the soldiers forcibly entered his house and seized Vallandigham in his upstairs bedroom.
  • On May 6-7, 1863, Clement Vallandigham was tried before a military tribunal for sympathizing with the enemy, in violation of Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s General Orders, No. 38.
  • When Clement Vallandigham was brought before a military tribunal on May 6-7, 1863, he refused to enter a plea. Instead, he insisted that because he was not a member of the military, nor did he reside in a state in rebellion against the United States or where martial law had been declared, he was not subject to military justice.
  • On May 16, 1863, Judge Humphrey H. Leavitt denied the request for a writ of habeas corpus.
  • On February 15, 1864, in the case of ex parte Vallandigham, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant Clement Vallandigham a writ of habeas corpus, ruling that it had no constitutional authority over appeals from military court.
  • On May 16, 1863, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s military tribunal found Vallandigham guilty as charged and sentenced him to prison at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor for the remainder of the Civil War.
  • Clement Vallandigham’s arrest, trial, conviction, and sentence spawned a firestorm of criticism and protest in the North.
  • On May 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln announced that Clement Vallandigham would be banished to the Confederacy rather than being imprisoned.
  • On 26 May, 1863, federal soldiers escorted Clement Vallandigham to Tennessee and sent him beyond Union lines.
  • On June 11, 1863, Democrats overwhelmingly nominated Clement Vallandigham for the office of Governor of Ohio by a vote of 411-11.
  • During the summer of 1863, Clement Vallandigham traveled from North Carolina to Bermuda to Canada where he conducted his campaign for governor in absentia.
  • By the time voters went to the polls on October 13, 1863, Union forces were riding the crest of definitive victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July. The turn of fortunes removed much of the wind from the sails of Peace Democrats.
  • Republican candidate John A. Brough (pronounce bruff) swamped Clement Vallandigham during the 1863 Ohio gubernatorial election 288,856 (60.61%)-187,728 (39.39%)).
  • During the summer of 1864, President Lincoln chose to ignore Vallandigham’s surreptitious return to the United States under heavy disguise.
  • Clement Vallandigham was an Ohio delegate to the 1864 Democratic National Convention.
  • In 1868, Clement Vallandigham lost a closely contested bid to regain his congressional seat to incumbent Republican Robert C. Schenck (16,293 (50.74%) – 15,818 (49.26%)).
  • After the Civil War, Clement Vallandigham attempted to distance himself from his Copperhead past by embracing the Democratic Party’s “New Departure” strategy, but he was never again a formidable political player.
  • On evening of June 16, 1871, at the Lebanon House Hotel in Lebanon, Ohio, Vallandigham fell victim to an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound.
  • Clement Vallandigham died on June 17, 1871, at the Lebanon House Hotel in Lebanon, Ohio, from an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound.
  • Following a large funeral on June 20, 1863, Vallandigham was interred at Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Clement Laird Vallandigham - Facts
  • Coverage July 29, 1820 – June 17, 1871
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 31, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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