The Wily Agitator

In the aftermath of defeat at Fredericksburg… One of Lincoln’s chief Congressional critics, Copperhead from Ohio,  Clement Vallandigham gave a fiery speech before the House:

“The war for the Union is, in your hands, a most bloody and costly failure. The President confessed it on the 22d of September…. War for the Union was abandoned; war for the negro openly begun, and with stronger battalions than before. With what success? Let the dead at Fredericksburg and Vicksburg answer….”

Most wily agitator

Most wily agitator

No soldiers were waiting to arrest him… Vallandigham left Congress with little fanfare and was able to travel to Ohio to seek the Governor’s office without interference.  Yet, revisionists argue that Vallandigham was the victim of Lincoln’s systematic assault on civil rights.  Similar to the absurd argument of Lincoln’s belief in white supremacy, desperate historians seeking to leave their mark on his legacy attack his record on civil liberties while comparing him to Stalin.


Clement Vallandigham was arrested… but not for criticizing the Lincoln administration.  Vallandigham did that on a daily basis on  public record.  Denouncing the war effort while encouraging recruits to desert in a  hostile region (Cincinnati area)  clearly violated government edicts handed down by a military Governor.   Leave it to Lincoln to sum it up nicely:

“Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wiley agitator who induces him to desert?  I think that in such a case, to silence the agitator, and save the boy, is not only constitutional, but, withal, a great mercy.”  

"I think the time not unlikely to come when I shall be blamed for having made too few arrests rather than too many."

“I think the time not unlikely to come when I shall be blamed for having made too few arrests rather than too many.”


1 Comment

Filed under Ephemera, News

One response to “The Wily Agitator

  1. Very good post. I would like to add to the discussion…Lincoln wanted to do what was right for the WHOLE country. He took into consideration everyone in his decision making. That can be backed up with facts. The book cited by McPherson is a good example of what poor historical research and writing can do. It distorts the truth. It may make for an interesting story but it is harmful because it causes folks to believe untruths about what happened in the past. Lincoln, put in the historical context of his time, can explain his decisions and why he made them. For example, as McPherson alluded to and its true that Lincoln lagged on the emancipation issue because it was as much a political decision for him and his party as it was for the reunification goal for the country. Lincoln will always be judged on his decisions and will be questioned for generations to come. This is good. No one can be faulted for asking the question was he a white supremacist? Did he like peanut butter or jelly? However, without placing him in his historical context it will be very hard to come to any logical or even believable conclusions.

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