Clement Laird Vallandigham: Resounding Silence
The Civil War divided the country. The war spurred division not only between the states, but also between families, friends and neighbors. Clement Laird Vallandigham—the wily agitator—as Lincoln once referred to him, was an advocate for states’ rights and publicly opposed both the Lincoln administration and the Civil War. He argued adamantly for peaceable disunion over military conquest. This lesson explores the actions of Clement Vallandigham’s and the act of self-sacrifice.
In this lesson, students will examine the actions of Clement Laird Vallandigham and his decision to deliver a controversial speech. They will discuss how his actions defended the role of the states and their role in protecting individual liberties. Students will also reflect on the importance of the first amendment and the role of self-sacrifice in civil society.
- Students will evaluate the relationship between the national government and the states.
- Students will analyze the actions of Clement Laird Vallandigham and how he sacrificed his personal liberty for a cause he believed in.
- Students will examine the purpose of the first amendment
- Students will explain the virtue of self-sacrifice and understand how they can apply their knowledge of self-sacrifice in their own lives.
- Handout A: Why do We Have a National Government?
- Handout B: The First Amendment
- Handout: Narrative Clement Laird Vallandigham: Resounding Silence
- Answer Key
Homework before class [20 minutes]
Distribute Handout A: Why do We Have a National Government? Students should brainstorm a list of five key functions of the national government — students should be able to defend their answers.
Have students read the narrative to learn about Clement Laird Vallandigham and his actions that led to his eventual arrest. Have students answer the following questions:
As you read, imagine you are Clement Laird Vallandigham:
- What challenges are you facing when deciding on whether or not to deliver a controversial speech?
- What may prevent you from delivering a controversial speech during war time? What fears or concerns might you have?
- How did Vallandigham exhibit self-sacrifice in facing and overcoming his arrest?
- What was Vallandigham’s role in the debate over the Civil War?
- Why did Vallandigham give the speech in Columbus, Ohio?
Lesson [20 minutes]
Ask students to share the 5 key functions of the national government they wrote down on Handout A. Discuss these responses as a class. See the Answer Key for suggested responses. Also have your students consider the following questions:
- What is the purpose of having states?
- Why might citizens and the government disagree over the role of states and the national government?
- Does Vallandingham make a compelling argument?
- Why might his speech be consider dangerous?
- Should the government have prosecuted him as they did?
Distribute Handout B: The First Amendment. Have a student read the amendment aloud and then as a class, review the following questions.
Then have students answer these questions and discuss as a class:
- What is the purpose of the first amendment?
- Why do you think the First congress saw passing this amendment as necessary?
- Were the constitutional rights of Vallandigham violated by Ohio? By the national government?
- Did Vallandigham’s choice to deliver his speech rallying support against the civil war benefit civil society? Why or why not?
- Is it important to allow free speech, even when it possibly goes against the national interest? Why or why not?
- Why is it important in civil society for people to take a stand for what they believe in?
- Imagine making a difficult decision that will result in a personal loss for you but ultimately results in a positive outcome for your school or community. How did you make this difficult decision? What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?
- How can you better stand up for the rights of your community, school, or friends within you own life?
For more narratives from American History Checkout our other 138 American Portraits!