During the first months of the Civil War, Val-landigham launched a series of harsh attacks on Lincoln and his war policies. Vallandigham wanted to see the Union restored, but he did not believe that the North could force the South to return. Instead, he thought that the North's best chance to restore the Union was to agree to let slavery contin ue in the South. "In considering terms of settlement we [should] look only to the welfare, peace, and safety of the white race, without reference to the effect that settlement may have on the African," he stated.
Vallandigham's views and his outspoken nature quickly made him a leader among a group of antiwar Northern Democrats known as "Copperheads." These politicians urged the North to either let the South depart in peace or convince it to return by guaranteeing states' rights.
As the war progressed, Vallandigham actively opposed virtually every aspect of Lincoln's war policies. He voted against conscription (a military draft), criticized Lincoln's efforts to silence unfriendly newspapers, and even encouraged Northern soldiers to desert from the army. Vallandigham's calls for desertion infuriated Lincoln, who viewed the Ohio congressman as a traitor (someone who betrays one's country). "Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator [clever troublemaker] who induces [persuades] him to desert?" asked Lincoln. "I think that in such a case to silence the agitator and save the boy is not only constitutional but withal [actually] a great mercy [kindness]."
Vallandigham's actions and statements also made him a target of Lincoln's Republican colleagues. As time passed, they became determined to neutralize the outspoken Ohio legislator. In 1862, they changed the shape of his congressional district to ensure his defeat in that year's elections. They did this through a process called gerrymandering, in which one political party divides a geographic area into voting districts that give an unfair advantage to its party in elections.
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