The Limits of Dissent: Clement L. Vallandigham and the Civil War

The Limits of Dissent: Clement L. Vallandigham and the Civil War

The Limits of Dissent: Clement L. Vallandigham and the Civil War

The Limits of Dissent: Clement L. Vallandigham and the Civil War

Excerpt

Frank L. Klement once jokingly told an audience that there were only two important central figures in the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was number one. Clement L. Vallandigham, Lincoln’s most notable critic, was number two—“mainly because I did a book about him,” Klement chuckled. Although he could occasionally intersperse a bit of humor into his lectures about the Copperheads, Klement saw it as no laughing matter the way Vallandigham and other outspoken northern critics of the Lincoln administration were treated by the Northern government during the conflict, and by historians afterward.

The Marquette University professor was recognized in historical circles for almost four decades as the champion of the Copperheads through his historical investigations, which often focused on Lincoln’s Northern adversaries and subversive organizations active during the Civil War. Nearly 62 percent of the 221 items listed in his bibliography (minus book reviews) address anti-Lincoln themes. Four of his seven books discuss Lincoln’s Northern carpers, and the thirty essays he wrote about a variety of Copperhead activities comprise over half the total number of articles he composed in fifty years as an author. His last essay, “Catholics as Copperheads During the Civil War,” appeared in print mere months before he died on July 29, 1994, at age eighty-six.

To the very end of his career, Klement remained firmly entrenched in his belief that the alleged Copperhead threat in the North during the Civil War was little more than a Republican smear campaign, a smoke screen that the Northern government used to discredit harmless civilians who strongly opposed the Lincoln administration’s seemingly blatant disregard for civil liberties. He took aim at those

Frank L. Klement, “Vallandigham and the Civil War,” address before the Civil War Round Table of Chicago, Dec. 8, 1966.

The author has compiled Klement’s complete bibliography in Frank L. Klement, Lincoln’s Critics: The Copperheads of the North (Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane Books, 1999).

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