Handbill advertising a “Freedom of Speech,” anti-Lincoln, pro-McClellan, campaign rally featuring a balloon ascension and speech by the exiled Ohio politician Clement Vallandigham

Unidentified: Unidentified, [1864]. Unbound. Unidentified place, publisher, and year, but probably somewhere in Ohio between June and August of 1864. The small broadside measures 6.5” x 9” and features a large image of a balloon ascension. The thin, fragile paper has been expertly backed with silk tissue. It is lightly soiled with a chip at the bottom margin affecting a few words of the text.

The text reads in part: “You are respectfully invited to accompany the Peace Makers in their Ariel Flight to the Land of Rest. / Where there well be Freedom of Speech [and] Freedom of the Press, to print what we Please, — Lawful, Immoral, Treasonable or any other species of Information. / Our nightly dreams will not be haunted by the Spectre Ghost of Old Abe nor our day dreams, by the Fear of Tyranny. . . . / The Mourners will provide Crape and Grey Butternut Clothing, at their own expense. . . . / The McClellan Campaign Song, will be Sung immediately after starting. / Vallandigham will address the Audience, supported by Pendleton, and letters from prominent men, such as Jeff Davis, Breckenridge and others will be read.”. Very good. Item #009212

Clement Vallandigham was a member of the House of Representatives from Ohio who lead the anti-war Copperhead faction of the Democratic Party during the Civil War. A major thorn in the President’s side, he was arrested in May, 1863 for giving a speech at Mount Vernon, Ohio in which he referred to “King Lincoln” while expressing “sympathy for those in arms against the Government of the United States, and declaring disloyal sentiments and opinions, with the object and purpose of weakening the power of the Government in its efforts to suppress an unlawful rebellion.”

When he was sentenced by a military tribunal to imprisonment for the duration of the war, his numerous supporters became enraged. Not wishing to create a martyr in Northern territory, President Lincoln, released Vallandigham from prison and exiled him to the Confederacy. Vallandigham soon escaped by a blockade runner and set up a headquarters in Windsor, Ontario, where he campaigned for the governorship of Ohio. Although he won the Democratic nomination in a landslide, he lost the general election.

In June of 1864, Vallandigham returned incognito to Ohio and gave a speech at a campaign rally (perhaps the event noted in this handbill). When President Lincoln took no action, he then openly attended the Democratic Convention in Chicago as a delegate from Ohio. Although initially enamored by General McClellan’s candidacy, after McClellan rejected Vallandigham’s “peace plank” in the party platform, Vallandigham withdrew his support and stopped campaigning on McClellan’s behalf.

This hand bill, therefore, must have been for a campaign rally held sometime in the short period between Vallandigham’s disguised return to the United States in June, 1864 and the Democratic Convention held later that August.

Quite scarce. As of 2018, there are no other examples for sale in the trade. The Rare Book Hub shows no auction results for this handbill, and OCLC locates only two institutional holdings, one at the Lincoln Presidential Library and one at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Price: $1,500.00

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