Clement L. Vallandigham’s name is probably not well-known to most Pennsylvanians, but in the 1850s and 1860s, he was a celebrity-politician with close ties to the state. Elected to represent Ohio in Congress, Vallandigham was a Confederate sympathizer who empathized with Southern slave owners. In an 1855 speech, he called abolitionists “zealots” and “traitors.” He led raucous rallies in Northern cities demanding peace with the South, denouncing the U.S. government as a tyrant, and mobilizing what he termed to be patriotic resistance to President Lincoln’s unconstitutional actions. Vallandigham was a son of the North: His father was born in Pennsylvania, and Vallandigham attended Jefferson College — today Washington & Jefferson College in Western Pennsylvania.
With Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Quaker traditions, it is an attractive narrative that Pennsylvania has always been on the “right side of history.” But a fuller accounting of the past always paints a more complicated picture.
Quakers participated in the slave trade. William Penn owned slaves throughout his life. Early Pennsylvania Assemblies rejected the idea of freeing enslaved laborers. Benjamin Franklin disparaged German immigrants, and worried they would degrade the Anglican character of the colony. Anti-Catholic rioters in Philadelphia beat, shot, and stabbed Irish immigrants in 1844......
Mathew Brady - Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection.
Clement Laird Vallandigham, a Confederate son of the North.
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