Clement Vallandingham, Famous Copperhead of Lincoln’s War

The Copperheads…I’m sure you’ve heard of them. They have been called “Southern sympathizers,” traitors…accused of aiding and abetting the Southern cause. But were they really Southern sympathizers?

No, they were not. They were a faction of the Democratic Party, in the north, that pushed for a peaceful solution to the war. They were led by New York Governor Horatio Seymour in the east and in the west, by Clement Vallandingham, Congressman from Ohio. Both were ardent Unionists.

Copperheads opposed secession, conscription, the destruction of civil rights by Lincoln through arrests without due process, and were proponents of states rights. They opposed the Emancipation Proclamation mainly because they feared an influx of freed blacks and escaped slaves into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, which bordered the slaveholding states. (Fred Balhut, “Copperheads and the War between the States” also Wood Gray, “The Hidden Civil War: The Story of the Copperheads”)

Vallandingham was probably the most famous of the Copperheads. He was a pain to Lincoln for about two years. From the floor in Congress, he criticized Lincoln’s war policies and even introduced a bill to put Lincoln in prison for making illegal arrests. His view were printed in several newspapers, however, Lincoln shut them down. This did not stop Vallandigham. He commenced a speaking tour.

Vallandigham’s problems with Lincoln began in earnest when he left Washington D.C. and came back to Ohio to run for governor. He criticized the war calling it a “bloody and costly failure”, and made reference to Fredericksburg, where the Union was soundly beaten. With speeches like this, enlistments to the Union decreased and desertions increased….so did the attacks on Vallandigham with effigies of him being hung, and burned.

Now, the military commander of that district was none other than General Ambrose Burnside, whose tactics were partially responsible for the Union defeat at Fredericksburg. He seems to have been sensitive about that subject, and Vallandigham’s reference, and apparently went after Vallandigham with his General Order 38, “All persons found within our lines who commit acts for the benefit of the enemies of our country will be tried as spies or traitors and, if convicted will suffer death.” Burnside followed up with the statement that, “the habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department.” Vallandingham, apparently unbothered by Burnside, tore up a copy of the order saying, “I have the most supreme contempt for General Order no. 38…I have the most supreme contempt for King Lincoln.”

This apparently did not sit well with General Burnside as shortly thereafter, Union soldiers battered down the door to Vallandigham’s home, took him into custody, transported him to Cincinnati for trial and where a military tribunal could quickly convene, convict him, and put an end to his anti-Lincoln and anti-war speeches.

On May 6th of that year, the military court was convened and Vallandigham was brought before the sham court. His defense was the 1st Amendment, his right to freedom of speech. He asserted his loyalty to the Union, the Constitution, and to liberty, but to no avail. The court quickly convicted him and he was sentenced to prison for the duration of the war.

We can never know for sure, but Vallandigham’s trial and subsequent conviction may have been in part due to US Secretary of State Seward’s ability to shut down newspapers, lock people up without due process, and silence any opposition to the Lincoln administration and its policies, all with Lincoln’s blessing. Once while speaking with the British ambassador, Seward bragged about being more powerful than the Queen, “My Lord, I can touch a bell on my right hand, and order the arrest of a citizen of Ohio (possibly Vallandigham); I can touch the bell again and order the imprisonment of a citizen of New York; and no power on earth, except that of the President, can release them. Can the Queen of England do so much?”

At the written order of Lincoln, Vallandigham was banished from the United States, not for treason, for being a Southern sympathizer, but for simply exercising his 1st Amendment rights, calling for peace and an end to the war. So….who committed the crime here? Vallandigham, or the United States?

As always, thank you for reading. I hope you share this and especially, share it with your children so that they may know the truth.

Rhode Island Federalizes Herself

The little state of Rhode Island was the lone holdout in ratification. She did not ratify until over two years after the first state did. She was independent and sovereign, and she knew she was. She would not accept this new government unless the people agreed to it.

Rhode Island, by a direct vote of her people, rejected the new constitution in March of 1788. She would not reconsider until the proper guarantee of rights that she would maintain her independence and sovereignty. Rhode Island, like her sister states, intended and expected to have, in this union, her rights. She made that plain, not by a vote of representatives, but by a direct vote of her people. Rhode Island made sure that what was not delegated to the central government, was reserved to the state. She would not consent to this new government until the Bill of Rights was added and it was confirmed that those rights would not be “abridged or violated.”

Her ratification document reads as such, “We, the delegates of the people of the state of Rhode Island…duly elected and met in Convention having maturely considered the Constitution for the United States of America, agreed to on the seventeenth day of September, in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, by the Convention then assembled at Philadelphia, in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania…do declare and make known, etc, etc. Under these impressions, and declaring that the rights aforesaid, cannot be abridged or violated and that the explanations aforesaid are consistent with the said Constitution, and in evidence that the amendments hereafter mentioned will receive an early and mature consideration…We, the said delegates, in the name and in the behalf of the people of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, do, by these presents, assent to and ratify the said Constitution. Done in Convention, at Newport, in the county of Newport, in the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety, and in the fourteenth year of the independence of the United States of America.”

Rhode Island’s first vote, a vote directly of the people, was against the constitution…2708 to 232. The second vote, a vote of representatives, was very close, a vote of 34 to 32…very divided, and almost a tie, but by a small majority, Rhode Island federalized herself.

I hope you have enjoyed and learned from these little tidbits. I barely scraped the surface on these posts. I highly recommend you read “Republic of Republics” for a more in-depth explanation of these ratifications. I’ll provide the link. You may need to copy/paste to your browser.

North Carolina Federalizes Herself

North Carolina was the twelfth state to ratify the new constitution. NC, my home state, rejected the constitution at first, and would not accept it until being satisfactorily assured that the states would maintain their sovereignty.

James Iredell, representative, statesman, and later a Supreme Court justice, said that “a government is a compact between the rulers and the people.”

William R. Davie, another representative and a member of both federal and state conventions said this, “If there were any seeds in this constitution which might one day produce consolidation, it would, sir, with me, be an insuperable objection, I am so perfectly convinced that so extensive a country as this, can never be managed by one consolidated government.” Clearly, this was an affirmation of not a national government, but actually a republic of independent and sovereign governments.

North Carolina, acting like the sovereign that she was, rejected the new constitution until it met with her approval…in her own time and on her own terms. Her ratification statement reads, ‘…that this convention, in behalf of the freemen, citizens and inhabitants of the state of North Carolina, do adopt, and ratify the said constitution and form of government. Done in convention this 21st day of November, 1789..” almost a full two years after the first state ratified.

After a rejection vote in Aug of 1788, in November of 1789, with a vote of 193 to 75, the sovereign state of North Carolina federalized herself.

New York Federalizes Herself

The eleventh state to ratify the new constitution was New York. This one took some doing as there were hard arguments for the Constitution (The Federalist Papers) and hard arguments against it (The Anti-Federalists Essays). Indeed, two of NY’s constitutional representatives left the convention in opposition to any change in the current government. The main hiccup was the preservation of states rights and state sovereignty.

One of the main pro-constitutionalists was John Jay. He argued that the new government was “to be a government of the people all its officers are to be then officers, and to exercise no rights but that such as the people commit to them.”

Robert Livingston, the chancellor of New York, was also a proponent of the new constitution. He argued that “A republic may very properly be formed by a league of states, but the laws of the general legislature must act and be enforced upon individuals. I am contending for this species of government.”

Alexander Hamilton characterized the new political system as a “confederacy of states, in which the supreme legislature has only general powers, and the civil and domestic concerns of the people are regulated by the laws of the several states…The destruction of the states must be at once a political suicide.” It is obvious that Hamilton believed that central government to have limited power and that the state’s government was to control the state’s issues.

As I said, there was much opposition brought forth, such as the unchecked powers of the Supreme Court, but even with that opposition, New Yorkers voted to ratify the new constitution. And really, the opposition wasn’t so much opposition to the new government, but a desire for amendments to clarify that states powers, and to clarify their sovereignty.

New York’s convention declaration reads, “We the delegates of the people of the state of New York, duly elected and met in convention, having maturely considered the constitution of the united states of America,…in the name and behalf of the people of the state of New York, do, by these presents assent to, and ratify the said constitution.” New York ratified this new constitution of her own free will. It was the will of New York, and of none other. Her ratification document was the longest of the 13 colonies with a proposed 25 items in a Bill of Rights, and a proposed 31 amendments.

With a vote of 30 to 27, New York federalized herself.

Virginia Federalizes Herself

Virginia, perhaps the greatest colony, the one that produced such notables as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, and in later years, another patriot named Robert E. Lee, was the 10th state to ratify the constitution.

You can read, in The Federalist Papers, the ideas of Madison and others about the new constitution, but let me quote Madison, “The Federal and State governments are, in fact, but different agents and trustees of the people, instituted with different powers. The ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone…each state, in ratifying the constitution, is considered as a sovereign body…no state is bound by it without its own consent.” By “the people,” he did not mean the aggregate or the people as a whole. He alludes to the power of the people of each state, there again enforcing the idea of state sovereignty.

Virginia’s ratification document…”We, the delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected, and now met in convention…in the name and behalf of the people of Virginia do, by these presents, assent to, and ratify the constitution recommended on the 17th day of September 1787, by the federal convention, for the government of the united states, hereby announcing to all those whom it may concern, that the said constitution is binding upon the said people, according to an authentic copy hereto annexed Done in convention this 26th day of June 1788.

And with that, at the will of the people, with a vote of 89 to 79, Virginia federalized herself.

South Carolina Federalizes HerselfThis

South Carolina became the eighth state to ratify the new constitution.

This state, as some of the others, had opposition to the new constitution. But neither the defenders nor the opposers wanted to give up their sovereignty.

Perhaps South Carolina’s most ardent supporter of the new constitution was, in my opinion, Charles Pickney, a member of both the federal and state conventions. These are his words, “…all power of right belongs to the people, that it flows immediately from them, and is delegated to their officers for the public good, that our rulers are the servants of the people…” He made statements such as “the sovereign or supreme power of the states,” and that the “the states” were “the pillars upon which the general constitution must ever rest…” Pinkney also characterized the new union as a “federal republic.”

The South Carolina ratification document reads as such, “In the convention of the people of the state of South Carolina, by then representatives, held in the city of Charleston…The convention having maturely considered the constitution or form of government reported to congress by the convention of delegates,…and submitted to them by a resolution of the legislature, …in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, …do, in the name and behalf of the people of this state, hereby assent to and ratify the said constitution. Done in convention, the 23rd day of may, AD 1788”

With a vote of 149 to 73, South Carolina ratified the constitution, giving it no more power than is necessary, and retaining her freedom, independence, and sovereignty.

With this vote, South Carolina federalized herself.

New Hampshire Federalizes Herself

New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the Constitution and per Amendment VII, at this time the new Union was formed.

New Hampshire, like all the other states, recognized herself as a sovereign, a community with the right to self-govern, with no power above her. The record shows that she acted solely on her own. New Hampshire’s own declaration reads, “The people of this state have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign and independent state, and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power which is not, and may not hereafter be, by them, expressly delegated to the united states in congress assembled.” Notice that they made clear retained all power except that, which they loaned to the new central government.

With a vote of 57 to 46, on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire federalized herself.

Maryland Federalizes Herself

Maryland was the seventh state to ratify the new constitution.

When Maryland’s state convention met, the new constitution had been under discussion, under close inspection and investigation, for six months. The advocates of this new constitution explained that the new government would be a confederation of states. They made sure that she was to be a part of a compact of other states, independent, sovereign and free, and only giving up the powers necessary for the running of the central government, and with the understanding that the “given” powers were on loan to the new government.

On April 28, 1788, Maryland voted to ratify the new constitution by a vote of 63 to 11. Lets see what their convention document said.

“In Convention of the delegates of the people of the state of Maryland, April 28, 1788, We, the delegates of the people of Maryland, having fully considered the constitution of the united states of America, reported to congress by the convention of deputies had in Philadelphia, on the 17th day of September 1787, of which the annexed as a copy, and submitted to us by a resolution of the general assembly of Maryland, in November session, “1787, do, for ourselves, and in the name, and on the behalf of the people of this state, assent to, and ratify the said constitution.”

This sovereign act of Maryland was independent, absolute, and complete. It gave the new constitution full force and effect in Maryland, but only with the power that Maryland allowed the new constitution to have. No other power was given to this constitution.

And with that, Maryland federalized herself.

Massachusetts Federalizes Herself

Massachusetts was sixth to ratify the Constitution. Let’s see if this state ratified a national constitution of a federal one.

Quoting some of her most famous statesmen…

Fisher Ames speaks to the “sovereignty of the states.” Judge Parson said, in describing the senate, said that it was “to preserve the sovereignty of the states.” George Cabot, afterward one of Massachusetts federal senators said that “the senate is a representative of the sovereignty of the states. Samual Adams said that under the new constitution each “retains her sovereignty.” Sam Adams also said, ” I stumble at the threshold I meet with a national government, instead of a federal union of sovereign states. There are so many others, but for sake of brevity, I will leave it at these three men.

Massachusetts’ ratification document reads as follows, In the convention of the delegates of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1788. The convention, having impartially discussed and fully considered the constitution for the united states of America, reported to congress by the convention of delegates, …and submitted to us, by a resolution of the general court of the said commonwealth, passed the 25th of October, last, do, in the name and in behalf, of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, assent to and ratify the said constitution for the united states of America.”

Looking at the words of Massachusetts’ statesmen, in reference to her sovereignty, there can be no doubt that Massachusetts adopted the constitution as a free and independent political body, granting limited power to the central government, yet retaining her sovereignty.

On February 7th, 1788 with a vote of 168 to 187 in favor, Massachusetts federalized herself.

Connecticut Federalizes Herself

The state of Connecticut was next to approve the federal constitution. Like other states, Connecticut was leery of turning over any of her sovereignty to a central government. A federation of sovereignties was their goal. To show this, let us look at what some of her statesmen say.

Roger Sherman was a lawyer and a representative to the Constitution Convention. One of his well-known quotes is this, “The government of the united states being federal, and instituted by a number of sovereign states for the better security of their rights, and the advancement of their interest, they may be considered as so many pillars to support it.” He wrote in a 1789 letter to John Adams that “…it is optional with the people of a state, to establish any form of government tye please, to vest the powers in on, a few, or alter their frame of government when they please…”

Oliver Ellsworth, a representative of Connecticut and afterward, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court said this, “A union is necessary for the purposes of a national defense…” During the convention, Ellsworth, moved to have the word “national” removed from the wording of the Constitution. The phrase “government of the united states” was put in its place. He characterized the Constitution as a confederation, and said, “the constitution does not attempt to coerce sovereign bodies, states in their political capacity.”

Oliver Wolcott, another Connecticut man and later secretary of the treasury said this, “the constitution effectually secures the states in their several rights. It must secure them for its own sake, for they are the pillars which uphold the general system.”

These great men, and others, were selected by the people of Connecticut to represent them at the Constitution Convention. It is obvious, through the words of these men, that the people of Connecticut wanted a federal system of united sovereignties, rather than a national government, as well as limited powers by that federal government.”

In her ratification document we read these words, “In the name of the people of the state of Connecticut, we, the delegates of the people of said state, in general convention assembled, pursuant to an act of the legislature in October last, by these presents, do assent to ,ratify, and adopt the constitution, reported by the convention of delegates in Philadelphis, for the united states of American, Done in convention this 9th day of Janyary A.D. 1788.”

The vote was 168 to 88 and with that, Connectucut federalized herself.