The Limits of Dissent : Clement Laird Vallandigham and the Civil War by Frank L. Klement
The Limits of Dissent : Clement Laird Vallandigham and the Civil War by Frank L. Klement

The Limits of Dissent : Clement Laird Vallandigham and the Civil War by Frank L. Klement

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Lexington, Kentucky : University Press of Kentucky, 1970. Inscribed/Signed by Frank L. Klement. Hardcover. 351 pages. In original dust jacket with unmarked pages and firm binding.


Every American war has brought a heated debate over the extent to which national security will permit protesters to exercise their constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression. The most famous Civil War case was that of Clement L. Vallandigham, the passionate critic of Lincoln's policies. No more controversial figure ever walked than Vallandigham. In the great crisis of his time, he insisted that no circumstance, even war, could deprive a citizen of his right to oppose governmental policy freely and openly. The consequence was a furor which shook the nation's legislative halls and filled the press with violent vituperation. The ultimate fate for Vallandigham was arrest, imprisonment, and exile. The burning issues raised by his case remain largely unresolved today.

In this book, the first full-length study of Vallandigham's Civil War career, Frank L. Element reassesses the man and history's judgment of him. Adored by the Democratic "Butternuts" of Ohio and abhorred by his Republican opponents, Vallandigham epitomized the midwestern conservative. He neglected a promising career in law to follow the call of politics, emerging as a driving force in the peace movement of the early war years. He opposed the revolution taking place within the war— the emergence of "a new nation," the ascendancy of the industry over agriculture, the emancipation measures, and the restriction of rights and freedoms—and popularized the slogan "The Constitution as it is, the Union as it was."

Mr. Element follows here the tragic irony of Vallandigham's life. A brilliant thinker, an eloquent orator, and a hard campaigner, Vallandigham nevertheless met with little success in politics—he lost more campaigns than he won. The moves toward peaceful compromise of which he was a part died an early death, even though it is now believed that the majority, North and South, wanted to avoid war. His forthright views did not please even the peace-at-any-price men of his own Democratic party, and political arrest, which he invited and which had won political victory for another Ohio dissenter, failed to bring him the coveted governorship of Ohio. At the Philadelphia convention of 1866, the symbolic reunion of North and South, Vallandigham alone was unwelcome. And history, which he always believed would vindicate him, has judged him harshly. After his death (itself an ironic twist of fate), "Valiant Val" became a symbol of the dissenter in wartime whose case continues to have relevance in American democracy.

About the Author

FRANK L. ELEMENT, professor of history at Marquette University, received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He is the author, of The Copperheads in the Middle West, Wisconsin and the Civil War, and numerous articles dealing mainly with the Civil War in a variety of historical journals.

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