Yesterday, there was a great deal of mockery over Trump’s statement that the Civil War was preventable.  He figured that maybe Andrew Jackson could’ve stopped it.  Was this another goof?

I don’t think so.

That is to say, I don’t think the Civil War had to happen or even that it was inevitable.  My reading of Civil War history has always indicated that it came about because both sides of the issue became increasingly more polarized and the leadership in Congress lost the ability to forge any of the compromises that had prevented crises before.

Which, unfortunately, is how we are now.

Slavery was the cause of the Civil War, there’s no question about that.  Not to me anyhow. But was it absolutely necessary to fight the Civil War to abolish it?  Debatable, but I say no.  See, the blame for the Civil War has to lay 100% on the South.  Not only did they start it, they had no good reason to start it.

In 1861 the Constitution, Congress, and the Supreme Court all protected slavery.  Lincoln had even vowed not to interfere with slavery wherever it existed, though he clearly didn’t want it to spread any further into “free” territories.  The entire federal government was content to allow slavery to continue, but it just wasn’t good enough for the South.  They looked at Lincoln and saw a president had won the election with a small share of the vote, who was inexperienced, and utterly hostile to everything they believed in. There was a perception on the part of much of the country that the president was a controversial lightning rod of division and not in any way up to the job.

Which, unfortunately, is how we are now.

For the South to secede under the circumstances that it did was insane.  If anything, the North should have been threatening to secede over the Fugitive Slave Act, if it felt that slavery was worth going to war over.  After the Dred Scott decision, it probably felt like a serious bummer of a low point for abolitionists.

Would the war have been prevented if Jackson or someone very much like him had been in office?  Yeah, probably.  I think almost anybody seen as less anti-slavery than Lincoln (who wasn’t really that abolitionist) would have been able to convince the South not to secede had he won the 1860 election.

To Jackson’s credit, he did defuse the Nullification Crisis and head off South Carolina’s first attempt to secede with a combination of diplomacy and typically not-very-subtle threats, thanks to the Congress backing him up.  That crisis was sort of the Revenge of the Sith to Fort Sumter’s A New Hope.  A prequel.

The lesson was that a credible president who was willing to compromise but seen as believable in the use of force (and Jackson was fucking terrifying) and backed by Congress could defuse a secession crisis over a divisive issue.  Unfortunately, it remained to be seen that Lincoln was a really tough guy in his own right who could be fair.  Again, I blame the South for needlessly pulling the trigger but it didn’t have to play out that way.

Slavery ended in lots of other countries without a civil war.  The last one to eliminate slavery in the West was Brazil sometime in the late 1880’s.  Is it really likely that the US would have kept slavery around longer than Brazil if we hadn’t fought a giant war over it?  I give our forebearers more credit than that.

Slavery was already becoming economically unviable thanks to industrialization.  Abolition was inevitable.  Civil war wasn’t.

So, all that said, I don’t see where Trump really went wrong with his interpretation of history.  The Civil War happened because the great compromisers and big damn heroes who could have prevented it–and were willing to–were gone.  I see that as Trump’s key takeaway and can’t find fault with it.

Where do you land on this?  Am I going too easy on Trump again?  Also, are we also past the point of being able to compromise our way out of our current division?  Or was slavery the only issue that could possibly have caused a civil war at any time in American history?

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Judge dredd, pro se

Yeah, this is yet another very stupid and sad sort of revisionist bullshit statement by trump. By no means am I a scholar of the civil war. If we were to debate the merits of it in a factual way you’ll smoke me one on one. However, I doubt trump could even cite five important facts or names in the civil war. He’s an idiot and this is yet another flub on his part. What should be discussed here isn’t if what he said is truthful because you can say that about anything. Of course the civil war COULD HAVE… Read more »

Judge dredd, pro se

Sorry. I don’t see it this way at all. Let’s set aside how invalid the Jackson argument is in this specific scenario (Jackson owned slaves and I doubt, personally, he’d have had any interest placing a line in the sand about abolition at all) and just discuss the idea of how dangerous bad asses truly are in the political arena. Trump has expressed his disdain for the beauracracy that stands in his way on many occasions. Like a true “mom and pop” shop that his company is, he just wants to wave his scepter and have things done at his… Read more »

Judge dredd, pro se

Yes I know you mentioned Jackson not being seen as an abolitionist in the post but I’m sorry, that view might’ve led the south to avoid secession but only because jackson would’ve simply tolerated slavery. I don’t buy the line that slavery being economically untenable would’ve unraveled it on its own. The south had two motivations for the preservation of slavery 1.) how VITAL slave labor was economically to the south and 2.) slaves co sidered free men would’ve thrown the popular vote in the south unfavorably in favor of black people (or simply would’ve given an unpopular voice to… Read more »

The Irish were also used as slaves to some degree, so it wasn’t just the Africans that were exploited. Native American tribes also kept slaves. I don’t know that the war wasn’t inevitable-it might have actually happened earlier if not for the Compromises that punted the issue until 1860. There were enough cultural differences between North and South so that something might have happened, but those differences might have lessened with trade and growth as the country expanded West. By the time the war began there had already been violent political arguments over slavery, and actual conflict with the “Bleeding… Read more »

IF, Jackson, had survived, or simply was born later with all the same ego, experiences, and life, could he had made a difference and prevented a war between the states? Yes of course, he could have. there is no reason to assume that a man of his caliber and experiences, even with his liabilities, could have made different decisions that would have averted the war. Now, would he be inclined to maybe. Given his pro salver status he would not be inclined to side with the north as so much, to outright end slaver, but to prevent a war, which… Read more »

Slavery started in the south when the landed elite could not keep Indians and poor English on the farms to harvest rice in the early days. in desperation someone hit on the idea of using the labor of Africans whom, to them were adapted to the heat, of the Carolinas and could be forced into such labor. By the time of the war, slavery was at a dead end, the high cost of slaves with the inefficiency and cost of the system were spinning out of control. The attempt to industrialized the south was being met by resistance from the… Read more »

as for Trump, when he got in this race, i assumed he was a stalking horse for Clinton, there for one purpose, draw off votes of people angry at the establishment republicans, and secure Hillary her coronation. Then he got the nomination, i knew he wasnt a conservative, or a republican. Just a populist loud mouth that would drift to what ever position worked for him. On winning, and seeing his reaction to the results i became convinced that he really didnt think he was gonna win…..and now he in over his head in many ways,and finds he cant bull… Read more »

Judge DREdd Pro Se

Ok, well I guess we need to decide whether this is some sort of nuanced and ingenious seed planting or a fucking moron reality tv star who assumes he’s got an edit button coming to him. I insist he’s a dipshit and this just poured out of his mouth like every other stupid thing he says. There is literally no contextual relationship of who could’ve managed/avoided civil war over slavery without, you know, discussing slavery. Right? Otherwise why not just make a comparison to the war of 1812? The dipshit not only referenced one of the most pivotal moments in… Read more »

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