Proposed Vallandigham memorial draws fire
LISBON – For a guy who has been dead for 142 years, Clement Vallandigham is causing quit a stir in town.
Village Council President Roger Gallo reported at this week’s meeting he received an email from an aide to state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, saying his office has received calls about their decision to allow a statue of the controversial Civil War figure to placed in the town square.
“Mainly, people are concerned that the statue does not embody the thoughts and opinions of Lisbon citizens, and that there are other Civil War figures of historical importance that are better representations of the values of Lisbon County (sic),” wrote Jessica DiCerbo, who concluded her letter by asking Gallo to call the office.
Council voted at an April meeting to allow a bronze statue of Vallandigham to be placed in the village square near the Civil War-era cannon. The statue, which has yet to be cast, is a project of the Lisbon Landmark Foundation, a committee of the Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce devoted to preserving local history.
Born in 1820 in New Lisbon – as Lisbon was known then – Vallandigham practiced law in the village and served in the state legislature before moving to Dayton in 1847, where he was later elected to Congress. A staunch supporter of states’ rights, Vallandigham became the most famous of the so-called Copperheads, the name given to a particularly vocal group of northern Democrats who opposed the Civil War as unconstitutional and favored immediate peace with the Confederacy, even if it meant preserving slavery.
In 1863, Vallandigham was arrested and imprisoned after being convicted by a military court of violating a federal order forbidding the expression of sympathy for the enemy. This was after he made derogatory comments about President Lincoln and his prosecution of the war. Lincoln later banished Vallandigham to the Confederacy after commuting his sentence.
While many people view the controversial Vallandigham as a traitor, others see him as a patriot for defending free speech and the Constitution through his actions and words, unpopular as they were at the time among northerners. Lisbon Landmark Foundation members believe he should be recognized because of the prominent role he played in the Civil War debate, regardless of his opinions
Gallo admitted he knew little about Vallandigham before granting permission for the statue but he has since read what some online sources have to say about him.
“I gather from what I read of his biography, I can understand why some people might be concerned,” he said. “Charles Manson might be a famous person, but you wouldn’t want to put up a statue of him.”
At Gallo’s suggestion, council decided to host a town hall meeting for 6:30 p.m. May 22 in council chambers to hear what residents have to say about the issue. He has yet to discuss the issue with foundation members, but they will be invited as well.
Ryan Hillman, co-president of the Landmark Foundation, was contacted but had no comment at this time, other than to say he plans to attend the meeting.
Hillman later contacted Sen. Schiavoni to find out what was going on, and Schiavoni called this reporter to say DiCerbo should have never contacted Gallo without checking with him first, but he said she is an intern and only has been on the job for a month.
Schiavoni said what he learned from talking with DiCerbo is that only one person called their office to complain about the statute, and he is displeased her email indicated there was multiple calls. It is his understanding, however, that other council members have received complaints about the proposed statue.
Schiavoni said he is unfamiliar with Vallandigham but plans to do some research on him before deciding where he stands on the issue.