Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Clement Vallandigham

The Internet is filled with dumb statements.  Someone affiliated with Code Pink or some left wing Blue State kind of organization posted this quote online obviously in an attempt to embarrass Republicans.  I'm no fan of the Republican Party on most days but this quote is unfair.

"If you want to find your currency in a ruined condition, your Greenbacks worth thirty cents on the dollar; If you want the price of everything you buy to go up and everything you sell to go down vote for the Republican Party."

Clement Vallandigham
Speech to U.S. House of Representatives, January 14, 1863

Very clever.  But I'm sure this poster and quoter never bothered to look up who Clement Vallandigham actually was.  They likely would be shocked to learn he was an unapologetic racist and supporter of slavery.

He is also one of the most bizarre characters in all of American history.

An Ohio politician, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representative in 1856.  He actually delivered the speech quoted above after being defeated for reelection in 1862.  In other words, he was on the House floor just days before they threw him out of the body.

Vallandigham was a bitter foe of President Lincoln, the war against the Confederacy, and pretty much everything to do with the liberation of slaves.

In the very same speech quoted above, Vallandigham goes on to call the United States under Lincoln "one of the worst despotisms on Earth."  Remember, it is Lincoln's Republican Party he is bashing.

He goes on this same speech to criticize the Emancipation Proclamation which had gone into effect on January 1, 1863---just two weeks before Vallandigham's spoke in the House chamber.  "War for the Union was abandoned; war for the Negro openly begun" he shouted.

Vallandigham was once considered a Presidential candidate but his vehement anti-war and pro-peace stance made him toxic for both parties.  He advocated an immediate ceasefire towards the Confederacy and a return to the status quo ante for slavery in the winter of 1863 when nearly all the country realized it was far too late for that solution.

When he returned to Ohio after losing reelection, Vallandigham immediately gave a speech denouncing "King Lincoln" and was ultimately jailed for his provocations by Union troops in the state.  The entire Civil War history of President Lincoln suspending the Federal right of habeus corpus was to keep Vallandigham in jail.  Others were imprisoned, but keeping Vallandigham confined was personal for Lincoln.

The U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed the right of the U.S. President to suspend the constitutionally guaranteed right of habeus corpus is Ex parte Vallandigham, 68 U.S. 243 (1863).

By May 1863, President Lincoln was so sick of Vallandigham and took the highly unusual step of having the jailed Copperhead supporter DEPORTED to the Confederacy against his will.

On May 19, 1863, Lincoln had Federal troops escort Vallandigham to Confederate military lines where he famously declared "I am a citizen of Ohio, and of the United States.  I am here within your lines by force, and against my will.  I therefore surrender myself to you as a prisoner of war."

The notion of a "Man Without a Country" inspired author Edward Everett Hale to write his famous short story about Vallandigham and his strange fate.  Published in December 1863, this tale of the exiled man with no national home to call his own is still a staple of high school English classes.  I read it in 10th grade.

But the resourceful and always wily Vallandigham was not finished fighting Lincoln.  After traveling to Richmond, the capitol of the Confederacy, to explain his personal circumstances, he made his way to Canada (via Bermuda!) where he declared himself a candidate for Governor of Ohio!  Believe it or not, he won the Ohio Democratic nomination for Governor in July 1863---just two months after being deported from the USA.

Vallandigham lost the general election in a landslide.  After all, he was running his entire campaign out of a hotel room in Ontario, Canada and was threatened with arrest if he campaigned or even set foot in the state of Ohio.

After the Civil War, Vallandgham continued his racist tirades against the newly freed black slaves, although his views did moderate since he made two more attempts to reenter Ohio politics.  For a time he was involved with the Klu Klux Klan in a senior capacity but quickly found them too extreme and violent for a young man with political ambitions.

In 1871, Vallandigham was practicing law in Ohio and representing a man in a murder case.  While attempting a courtroom demonstration to show how the victim accidentally shot himself and was not a homicide, Vallandigham went the actual mile for his client and indeed did prove an accidental shooting was possible.  During his demonstration to the jury with a LOADED gun, Vallandigham accidentally shot himself and died of his wound.  His client was immediately acquitted and released from custody.

Clement Vallandigham died at the age of 50.

The whole point of this story is simple.

Don't always believe what you read online, even if the quotation is 100% accurate.

Context is key.

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