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Limits of Dissent, 1861-1865

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 4 years, 4 months ago


The Limits of Dissent  - Free Speech and the Civil War  [1861-1866]

The First Amendment and other civil liberties have been compromised in America during wartime -

from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terror 




Clement Vallandigham. Wikipedia/Public Domain


Clement Vallandigham - Since he was of Southern ancestry, Vallandigham idealized the Southern way of life, and he assumed leadership of the faction of Midwest Democrats, called Copperheads, who opposed the prosecution of the war against the South — a war they viewed as beneficial only to Eastern interests.


Vallandigham was a diehard Copperhead and a vigorous defender of state rights. Though personally opposed slavery, he felt the national government could not constitutionally compel the states to end what was called the “peculiar institution.”


On May 1, 1863, Vallandigham gave a speech in which he labeled the Union war as “wicked, cruel, and unnecessary.” This conflict, waged by “King Lincoln,” was a “war for the purpose of crushing out liberty and erecting a despotism.” He then called for Lincoln’s removal from office. Enraged by his words, Vallandigham’s supporters burned the offices of a Republican newspaper, the Dayton Journal. Burnside then had Vallandigham arrested and charged him with uttering “disloyal sentiments and opinions, with the object and purpose of weakening the power of the Government in its efforts to suppress unlawful rebellion.”




Wartime Constitutional Issues – Cases of Note

A Latin phrase meaning "from one party," ex parte is a legal term that most often refers to instances where a judge makes a legal decision without all parties to the case being present.


Ex Parte Merryman, 1861 

Charles Merryman a Southern sympathizer in Maryland tried to raise troops for the South. Arrested after Lincoln suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus.


Ex Parte Vallandingham, 1864 

Copperhead Clement Vallandingham criticized the war as a war “the enslave whites” in an 1863 speech. Arrested for treasonable speech. Military court finds him guilty and banishes him to the south.


Ex Parte Milligan, 1866 

As a citizen from Indiana, Milligan was found guilty in a military court for helping the south. Sentenced to die Appealed verdict on the grounds that civilian courts were still working Supreme Court rules in favor of Milligan and that the President violated his Constitutional rights. 





In times of crisis, government can expand it’s

powers to meet the needs of the present emergency.










Notes on Clement Vallandingham




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