Vallandigham Case: Review Background Information

My military commanders are determined to stop interference with the draft and so am I, but where do you draw the line? On April 13, 1863, General Ambrose Burnside issues an order in Ohio stating that anyone who commits “acts for the benefit of the enemies of our country,” including declaring sympathies for them, will be arrested and tried as a spy or traitor.

On May 5, Clement Vallandigham, a former Ohio Congressman who is seeking the state’s Democratic nomination for governor, is arrested for a speech he gave a few days earlier denouncing the war as “wicked, cruel and unnecessary.”

A military commission soon finds Vallandigham guilty of “declaring disloyal sentiments and opinions,” and sentences him to prison for the duration of the war.

I’ve read about this controversy in the newspapers and discussed it with my cabinet. We are facing widespread complaints. Critics are calling me a tyrant for suppressing free speech. Even friends are bemoaning the heavy-handed tactics. What should I do? Support General Burnside, or repudiate his actions in the Vallandigham affair?

Name of Person 1

Gideon Welles (1802-1878)

Congressman, newspaper publisher, member of Lincoln’s cabinet. He left the Democratic party in 1854 because of his opposition to slavery. He led the Connecticut delegation at the 1860 Republican convention, and served as Secretary of the Navy from 1861 to 1869. His naval blockade strategy was an important factor in the Union’s victory, while his diary remains one of the most important sources on the Lincoln Administration.

Name of Person 1

Erastus Corning (1794-1872)

Businessman, Democratic Congressman from New York. Although he supported Lincoln’s efforts to preserve the Union, he openly opposed military arrests of civilians.

Support General Burnside

The arrest of Vallandigham was “arbitrary and injudicious,” but the Administration cannot disavow it or call Burnside to account.

Repudiate General Burnside

”We denounce the recent assumption of a military commander to seize and try a citizen of Ohio...for no other reason than words addressed to a public meeting, in criticism of the course of the Administration, and in condemnation of the military orders of that general.”

So those are my choices: Support my general and uphold Vallandigham’s arrest as interference with the war effort, or bow to the avalanche of criticism and demonstrate that my administration supports free speech. What should I do?