Clement Vallandigham (1820-71) was born in New, Lisbon, Ohio, and was home educated by his father, a Presbyterian minister. He had a strong commitment to justice, and the confidence to stand by his beliefs, as evidenced by a dispute with the president of Jefferson College which saw him honorably dismissed, without a degree. He then became a lawyer at his own practice in Dayton, Ohio, and almost immediately entered politics as a Democrat. His beliefs, however strong, were not always right: he was fervently anti-abolitionist, and voted against the repeal of laws restricting the civil rights of African-Americans.
After becoming a Congressman in 1858, Vallandigham was one of the government officials who interrogated the radical abolitionist, John Brown, after Harper’s Ferry. Vallandigham was also an outspoken supporter of state rights, and became one of the loudest dissenting voices in the Democrat party against Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. His rampant anti-war stance led to his many critics accusing him of wanting The Confederacy to win the war and his being voted out of Congress by a huge margin in 1862. Lincoln finally tired of Vallandigham’s rabble-rousing, and sent him to The Confederacy as a POW.
After the Civil War ended, Vallandigham returned to law full time, whilst maintaining his stance against African-American suffrage and equality. In 1871, Vallandigham was representing a client accused of fatally shooting someone in a barroom brawl. Taking the line that the deceased had accidentally shot himself, Vallandigham decided to give a practical demonstration of how this was possible. Unfortunately, Vallandigham did not realize that the gun was loaded, and shot himself in the abdomen, which killed him. Though the demonstration was far more practical than even Vallandigham had anticipated, it did succeed in getting his client acquitted of murder.
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