After losing his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Vallandigham decided to run for governor of Ohio. As he campaigned, he repeatedly denounced Lincoln's policies and leadership. He charged that during Lincoln's presidency, "Money [had been] expended [spent] without limits and blood poured out like water." Vallandigham also suggested that if he was elected governor, he might encourage the state to join the Confederacy. Union military leaders threatened him with arrest for making statements of sympathy for the enemy, but Vallandigham continued to speak out. In fact, the Copperhead leader began to hope for an arrest because he thought that it might energize his fading campaign.
In May 1863, Vallandigham's continued criticisms of Lincoln finally resulted in his arrest by General Ambrose Burnside (1824-1881; see entry), the commander of the Department of the Ohio. Charged with treason (betrayal of one's country), Vallandigham was tried by a military court even though he was a civilian. He was found guilty and sentenced to two years in a military prison.
Vallandigham's conviction, though, worried many people in the North, including some members of Lincoln's Republican Party. "The Vallandigham case did indeed raise troubling constitutional questions," wrote James M. McPher-son in Battle Cry of Freedom. "Could a speech be treason? Could a military court try a civilian? Did a general, or for that matter a president, have the power to impose martial law [temporary military rule over the civilian population] or suspend habeas corpus [a section of the Constitution meant to protect individuals from illegal imprisonment] in an area distant from military operations where the civil courts were functioning?"
As expressions of concern about Vallandigham's conviction increased, President Lincoln decided to commute (end) his jail sentence and banish him (send him away) from Union territory. On May 26, Vallandigham was transported to Confederate territory, where his Union escort released him. Upon arriving in the South, however, he discovered that the Confederate leaders did not trust him. Unwelcome in the Confederacy, Vallandigham moved to Canada. He settled in Ontario, where he began a strange "campaign-in-exile" to win the governorship of Ohio. Despite being forbidden from entering Ohio, he managed to gain the Democratic nomination for governor in June. In October 1863, though, his bid for the governorship ended in a landslide (overwhelming) defeat at the hands of Republican candidate John Brough (1811-1865).
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