Clement Vallandigham

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-cwpbh-01193.

Behind the slogan “to maintain the Constitution as it is, and to restore the Union as it was,” the Ohio Democratic congressman Clement Vallandigham (1820–1871) organized Peace Democrats against President Abraham Lincoln’s war policies. Labeled Copperheads by Republicans who likened them to venomous snakes, Peace Democrats called for immediate armistice negotiations with the South and an end to the military draft in the North. After a Union army military order was issued in Ohio forbidding speech sympathetic to the Confederacy, Vallandigham spoke against the war and was arrested in May 1863. Denied a writ of habeas corpus, tried and convicted by a military tribunal, and sentenced to military prison, Vallandigham was spared that fate by President Lincoln. Concerned that the Ohio politician would become a martyr, Lincoln bargained with Ohio Peace Democrats and arranged for Vallandigham’s exile to the Confederacy. From the South, Vallandigham traveled to Canada where he ran a failed campaign for the governorship of Ohio. After the war, he attempted to regain his position in Congress, but lost, giving up on politics.