Famous Exile Clement L. Vallandigham Part 1

About "The Man without a Country" exile Clement L. Vallandigham and his place in United States history.


(1820-1871). Politician, dissenter, exile.

Everybody who goes to school reads "The Man without a Country," a short story written in 1863 by Edward Everett Hale, a Boston Unitarian minister and member of a famous New England family. Millions of copies have been sold of the moving account of the life and death of a prisoner condemned to lonely exile aboard ship because he cursed the U.S. and said he wished never again to hear the name of his country.

Forgotten is the fact that the story's central fictional figure was based on an original person and the story grew out of actual events. "No court-martial can ever have had the right to fix such a penalty," wrote Carl Van Doren. But President Lincoln gave a troublesome Civil War politician a similar sentence.

He was Clement Laird Vallandigham, a handsome, eloquent, enigmatic, vain lawyer. On the eve of the Civil War, he was 40 years old and represented the 3rd Ohio District in Congress. He had been born there but his family was from Virginia. His wife was the daughter of a Maryland planter and he had many ties with the South. He was a Peace Democrat. He believed that States had a right to secede.

Vallandigham called Lincoln "a despot" and became the spokesman in Congress for the Copperheads, a derogatory team applied to Northerners who opposed the war. Resolutions demanding Vallandigham's explulsion from Congress failed, but in 1862 the Ohio Legislature added strongly Republican Warren County to Vallandigham's district and he was defeated for reelection.

He returned to Ohio in the spring of 1863 and sought the Democratic nomination for governor. "The war is a bloody and costly failure," the bearded man argued sonorously. "The dead, the dead, the numerous dead; think of Fredericksburg. Let us make peace. Let the armies fraternize and go home." With this sort of talk, Union enlistments declined.

To combat it, the commander of the Dept. of Ohio, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Everett Burnside, who had been defeated at Fredericksburg, issued General Order No. 38. This said "all persons . . . who commit acts for the benefit of the enemies of our country will be tired as spies or traitors, and, if convicted, will suffer death." It also warned: "The habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department. Persons committing such offenses will be arrested, with a view to being tried as above stated, or sent beyond our lines into the lines of their friends."

Vallandigham defied the order and publicly tore up a copy. "I have the most supreme contempt for General Order No. 38," he shouted at a May 1 meeting at Mount Vernon, O. "I have the most supreme contempt for King Lincoln. Come up, united and hurl the tyrant from his throne. The men in power are attempting to establish a despotism." And in answering a question, he may have said: "Hang the U.S., I hope the day will come when I will never hear the name."

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