Ohio History Journal

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"Contest MY seat sir!": Lewis D.

Campbell, Clement L. Vallandigham, and

the Election of 1856




After the October 1856 elections, a heated political controversy arose in

Ohio's Third Congressional District which mirrored the regional and factional

turmoil dividing the nation. The District lay in the southwestern part of the

state and included three politically diverse counties: Butler, Montgomery, and

Preble. In the election, Democrat candidate Clement L. Vallandigham lost to

incumbent Republican representative Lewis D. Campbell for the third time,

this time by only nineteen votes. Although Vallandigham could not produce

any hard evidence, he attributed Campbell's victory to illegal votes cast by

African Americans. Encouraged by his supporters, he sought to overturn the

election results by contesting the official vote count.

Five months after the election, while gathering evidence to challenge the

qualifications of some voters, Vallandigham's lawyer stumbled upon a politi-

cal gold mine. Thomas Millikin, an election judge for Hamilton's second

ward, identified four voters as "persons of color" and stated that the men could

vote since each admitted to having "more white blood than black blood." A

month after Millikin's testimony, Alfred J. Anderson, a voter named by the

election judge, confessed that his mother had "one-fourth part of African blood

in her veins." More important to Democrats, he also admitted to having

voted for Campbell.1

Controversies over suffrage were not new to Ohioans, for Republicans and

Democrats disagreed over whether or not Ohio law granted blacks the right to

vote. The state constitution of 1803 explicitly stated that only "white male



Robert J. Zalimas, Jr., is a Ph.D. candidate in history at The Ohio State University. He is es-

pecially grateful to Professor Joan E. Cashin for her forthright criticisms and encouragement

throughout the research, writing, and revising stages of this article.


1. Testimony of Thomas Millikin and Alfred J. Anderson, Congress, House, Committee of

Elections, Ohio Contested Election: Memorial and Depositions in the case of Clement L.

Vallandigham, contesting the seat of Lewis D. Campbell, as a member from the third congres-

sional district of the state of Ohio, 35th Cong., 1st sess., 1857, Misc. Doc. no. 4, 105, 121. Ohio

Historical Society, PA Box 693-19. (Hereafter cited as Depositions.) Cf. David M. Fahey's

article in which he discusses a controversey over Anderson's participation in the presidential

elections of 1856. David M. Fahey, "'Slavery is a Sin Against God and a Crime Against Man':

Alfred J. Anderson and Oxford's Black Convention of January 7, 1853," Old Northwest,

5(Spring-Summer, 1990), 7.