Vallandigham, Clement Laird

Clement Vallandigham, a lawyer and politician, was a leading “Copperhead” critic of the Lincoln administration and its prosecution of the Civil War. Born in New Lisbon, Ohio, on July 29, 1820, he attended Jefferson College in Pennsylvania before electing to study law. In 1842 he established his legal practice in Dayton, Ohio. He served one term in the Ohio legislature in the 1840s, won election to the 34th Congress in 1858 and served until 1863. Leader of the Peace Democrats on Capitol Hill, Vallandigham was a strong proponent of state rights and an outspoken opponent of Lincoln’s emancipation policies. Republicans helped engineer his defeat in November 1862 by redrawing the congressional district lines in Ohio. Vallandigham then returned to Ohio to run for governor, where an inflammatory speech in the spring of 1863 led to his arrest and conviction for treason by a military commission. President Lincoln commuted his sentence, exiling him instead to the Confederacy. An unwelcome guest in the South, he made his way to Canada. Vallandigham then reportedly became involved with an ambitious plot to create a Northwestern Confederacy, but it went nowhere. Frustrated, he returned to Ohio in June 1864 and attended the Democratic National Convention in August, though Lincoln chose to ignore his presence. After the war, Vallandigham resumed his law practice and died in 1871 from a accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound when demonstrating his upcoming defense of an accused murderer. (By Rick Beard)
Life Span
    Full name
    Clement Laird Vallandigham
    Place of Birth
    Burial Place
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Free State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    Clement Vallandigham (father), Rebecca Laird (mother), Louisa A. McMahon (wife)
    Other Education
    Jefferson College, PA ; Union Academy, MD
    Attorney or Judge
    Church or Religious Denomination
    Political Parties
    US House of Representatives
    State legislature

    Clement Laird Vallandigham (Congressional Biographical Directory)

    VALLANDIGHAM, Clement Laird, (uncle of John A. McMahon), a Representative from Ohio; born in New Lisbon, Columbiana County, Ohio, July 29, 1820; attended a classical school conducted by his father and Jefferson College, Canonsburg, Pa.; moved to Maryland and for two years was a preceptor in Union Academy at Snow Hill; moved to New Lisbon, Ohio, in 1840; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1842 and commenced practice in Dayton, Ohio; member of the State house of representatives in 1845 and 1846; edited the Western Empire 1847-1849; was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1852 to the Thirty-third Congress and in 1854 to the Thirty-fourth Congress; delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1856, 1864, and 1868; successfully contested as a Democrat the election of Lewis D. Campbell to the Thirty-fifth Congress; reelected to the Thirty-sixth and Thirty-seventh Congresses and served from May 25, 1858, to March 3, 1863; unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1862 to the Thirty-eighth Congress; arrested by the Union military authorities in 1863 for treasonable utterance and banished to the Confederate States; went from Wilmington, N.C., to Bermuda and thence to Canada, where he remained until June 1864; during his exile was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Governor of Ohio in 1863; unsuccessful candidate for election to the United States Senate in 1869; died in Lebanon, Ohio, June 17, 1871; interment in Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio.
    "Vallandigham, Clement Laird," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present,

    Clement Laird Vallandigham (American National Biography)

    Though he served only two terms in Congress, his evident political talents and ambition attracted national attention early. He was a delegate to four successive Democratic National Conventions and in 1860 was secretary of the Democratic National Committee and chair of its campaign committee. He frequently had important influence on the party's campaign platforms. During the Civil War, he was the most prominent leader of the "Peace Democrats," who were disparagingly nicknamed "Copperheads." That leadership made him the center of great controversy. His criticism of Lincoln and his administration was relentless and sometimes intemperate. Vallandigham was a fiery orator whose arguments often found very receptive audiences during the early years of the war when the Union army was suffering defeat after defeat and the casualty lists seemed endless.
    William G. Andrews, "Vallandigham, Clement Laird," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    Weber, Jennifer L. Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "Vallandigham, Clement Laird," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,