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02.07.08 Klement, Frank L., The Limits of Dissent: Clement L. Vallandigham and the Civil War, published in 1970.

Notes Concerning the Author

Frank Klement was Professor (and later Professor Emeritus) of History at Marquette University. He was noted for chronicling the histories of antiwar “Copperheads” and their pro-war Republican opponents. In fact, Klement authored four books and thirty essays on related topics. Two of the works are “The Copper-heads in the Midwest” and “Dark Lanterns.” Klement passed away, at the age of eighty-six, on July 29, 1994.

Our Review

Steven K. Rogstod states in the preface to Fordham University Press’ publication of “The Limits of Dissent” that author Frank Klement believed the two most important public figures of the Civil War were Abraham Lincoln and Clement Laird Vallandigham. Although Klement is sometimes implicitly critical of Vallandigham his work is detailed and informative. Readers will realize that many of the divisive issues of the middle 19th century remain unresolved and are essentially the root causes of political discord and divisiveness within contemporary American society.

Clement Vallandigham (July 29, 1820 – June 17, 1871) was a practicing attorney in Dayton, Ohio. After serving a term in the Ohio Legislature, Clement was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served from May 25, 1858, to March 3, 1863. Vallandigham was labeled a “Copperhead” by Republicans and their sympathetic and supportive allies in the media because the popular former Congressman and critic was an outspoken proponent of the rule of law and a defender of the Constitution and liberty. As a result of “treasonable utterance,” as his Congressional biography terms the charges, Vallandigham was targeted by U.S. Army General Ambrose Burnside.

The “Arrest and Trial” chapter is particularly noteworthy. Frank Klement recounts in detail the U.S. Army’s May 5, 1863, raid on Dayton, Ohio. Additionally significant are the ensuing sagas of the Federal troops’ seizure of Clement Vallandigham, the arrest of an opposition newspaper editor, the intimidation of other newspapermen and the imposition of martial law within Montgomery County. Also found in this section are discussions of the de facto suspension of writs of habeas corpus in Ohio and Vallandigham’s trial before a military commission.

Other sections of the book chronicle the exile of Vallandigham, his efforts to seek asylum in Canada, Clement’s eventual return to Ohio, his resumption of public life and the man’s accidental postwar death. A retrospective follows that presents the author’s subjective evaluations and opinions concerning Clement Vallandigham’s psyche, life and legacy. Frank Klement concludes with a biographical essay that cites the primary resources available and utilized during preparation of his manuscript.  

Availablity of this Book

The 1970 University Press of Kentucky edition is no longer widely available. New and used hardcover and paperback printings of Fordham University’s 1998 version are available through Internet retailers.