Trump: Civil War Could Have Been Avoided By Big Hearted Andrew Jackson

President Donald Trump made a rather curious statement on Monday about the Civil War that had people either confused or enraged.  In an interview with the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zico, Trump said that the Civil War was avoidable and could have been prevent if President Andrew Jackson had lived a bit longer.  He insisted “There’s no reason for this.”  Many people have noted that there were millions of reasons in the form of enslaved blacks and Jackson was hardly the man to call when the question of slavery was raised.

First and foremost, I agree with Trump that there are clear analogies between his victory and the election of Andrew Jackson.  Trump stated “My campaign and win was most like Andrew Jackson, with his campaign. And I said, when was Andrew Jackson? It was 1828. That’s a long time ago.”  I think that the comparison is a good one historically and politically.  Both were populist victories and both presidents credited their victories to the power of the common citizen.

Then, however, it get a bit more twisted.  In the interview, Trump discussed how a deal could have been struck to avoid the Civil War.  He stated in pertinent part:

“I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, ‘There’s no reason for this.’ People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

Trump later tweeted that Jackson “would never have let it happen.”

It is hard to get past the first line:

“I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart.”

I have long been a critic of Jackson who I viewed as man with a lethal temper and shaky allegiance to the rule of law.  Jackson was so excessive in his application of martial law in New Orleans during the War of 1812 that he was reprimanded for his denial of basic rights, including denying press freedom.  The image of the big hearted Jackson is a bit hard to square with the man who was most responsible for the Trail of Tears where thousands died under the Indian Removal Act.  Jackson openly defied the ruling in  Worcester v. Georgia (1832) where the Court ruled that Georgia could not assert authority over the Cherokee as opposed to the federal government.  Jackson however was less concerned with the Indians than he was avoiding a conflict with the Georgia militia.  He refused calls from people like Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams to support the claims of the tribes.  Instead, he continued the removal of the Indians.

Of course there is also the obvious problem that Jackson was a slave owner himself and might not be particularly sympathetic to the cause of abolitionists.  He owned 150 human beings when he died in 1845.  He placed ads to recover runaway slaves.  One such ad, entitled “Stop the Runaway,” offered details of a “Mulatto Man Slave, about thirty years old, six feet and an inch high, stout made and active, talks sensible, stoops in his walk, and has a remarkable large foot, broad across the root of the toes — will pass for a free man.…”

It was equally curious to read Trump’s statement that “He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this.'”

Once again, Jackson died in 1845 and the war started in 1861.  Trump may have been referring to Jackson stopping the secession of South Carolina in the 1830s.  However  that was part of the “Nullification Crisis” and the insistence of South Carolina that it could void federal tariffs.  A compromise was readily available over an individual state’s ability to void federal tariffs. That is nothing like what faced Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s.

This is not the first time that Trump appeared to fold history.  Speaking at an African-American history event, he said that 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass “is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.”

Trump concluded his remark on Jackson with  “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

 Worked out?  The only work around would have been a continuation of Missouri Compromises where slave and non-slave states were kept in rough balance to preserve slave state power in Congress.  That would leave the unfinished business of our national scourge of slavery.  It would leave millions in chains and no one could suggest that Jackson would ever be the “Great Emancipator.”  Most do not feel the need to ask “why” but rather why it took so long.

105 thoughts on “Trump: Civil War Could Have Been Avoided By Big Hearted Andrew Jackson”

  1. I don’t really understand how a Civil War was necessary. Let them go, they’ll be back. Economics. Without slaves to plant/pick plantations couldn’t get the cotton. Did they ever offer slaves a small amount of money? We are still suffering the damage of the war. Maybe Lincoln had an idea about assimilation. His VP was a wispy washy kind of fellow and did nothing in his tenure about the black people. Slavery was a way of life, as it has been all over the world. Here they wandered off the plantation with no idea what to do. Freedom comes with many caveats.

  2. The British Empire ended slavery in 1833 without a civil war. President Trump seems to raise a legitimate issue.

  3. Most Confederate soldiers fought because an enemy army was invading their lands. More difficult question is why Union soldiers fought. Did they really abandon their families (who would inevitably suffer hardship since there were no welfare programs back then) and risk maiming or death in order to “free the slaves” (which wasn’t even a war aim until well into the war)? Especially odd since no other country had to fight a war to end slavery. It’s not too hard to conclude that the real purpose of the war that Lincoln launched against the seceding states (and not *all* the slave states seceded) was nationalism-imperialism. 700,000 dead (when the total population of the country was only 32 million) for what was essentially an imperialist war. Better to let the Southern States secede (which some abolitionists favored) and quickly eliminate slavery in what remained of the Union. Seceding states that wanted to rejoin the Union would have to eliminate slavery first.

    P.S. When Mussolini conquered Ethiopia, he abolished slavery there.

  4. I am a Trump voter/supporter and I do have concerns about the President’s off-the-cuff remarks. I think he needs to study our history. Perhaps some historians could combine their areas of expertise. The President’s staff and family should talk about these historical faux pas. I’m not sure every President knew our complete history, but perhaps avoided discussing Presidenties in general. I would recommend Paul Johnson’s “History of the American People”. I’m saying some of this in case someone with access to the President reads it and shares my concern. Newt Gingrich is fairly close to the President and is an American history buff. Someone must face him with the need for accurate mentions of history.

  5. A ‘Civil’ war is an armed conflict between different peoples. For those bandying about the term ‘Civil War’, I would suggest using the more appropriate term, ‘War Between The States’.

    There was nothing ‘civil’ about the ‘Civil’ War. Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus, imposed censorship of the press/telegraph, violated Posse Commitatus, and soldiers from both ‘sides’ committed atrocities and war crimes (murder, rape, robbery, arson) not just against other soldiers but against civilians and non-combatants.

    The question and real concern I have is:
    Is Trump setting himself up as another Lincoln, and is he setting the rest of us up for a true Civil War?

    1. “Is Trump setting himself up as another Lincoln, and is he setting the rest of us up for a true Civil War?”

      The “setup” has been coming for quite some time; long before Trump took office. We are a nation divided about what form of government we want. We cannot be a constitutional republic as originally designed and utilitarian democracy that we’ve become.

      1. Olly, we are still struggling with the remnants of that war. The Jacksons/Sharptons keep it stirred up. Education is ignored. Sad because it’s the only way to make life better.

    2. ExpatNJ – the correct term is the War of Northern Aggression.

        1. David Benson – if you join a club, can you not quit the club? That is what South Carolina did. Then Lincoln kept troops in two forts outside Charleston, on land that belonged to the state (now country of South Carolina) and sent a ship to supply them. After repeated warnings that South Carolina declared the territory theirs, the federal troops moved into Fort Sumpter. After repeated attempts to get them out, they finally fired on them. After lots of firing, but no deaths, they finally surrendered the fort.

  6. I believe Mark does not understand humor, Trump is and will always be a con-man. Anything that comes out of his tiny little mind will be a distraction from his con. Like a good magician always watch what the other hand is doing.

  7. First, hindsight is 20/20. I’m sure that after the war, after more than 600,000 people died, there were those who questioned why war couldn’t have been avoided. The war turned families, friends, and neighbors against each other. American against American. Lives ruined. Families destitute after the loss of the breadwinner. Land lost. Carpetbaggers. There was so much grief and bitterness for many years after. I know it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the mentality of slavery, and how the consciences of so many people could have been in a coma. Why couldn’t they have just freed the slaves? Figured out it was wrong? If there was no other way to free them, then thank God for the sacrifice of all those Yanks, and for the bravery of everyone involved, black and white, in the Underground Railroad.

    As for Jackson being troubled by the Civil War, it was clear for decades that the North and South, slave and free, were becoming divided. The union was becoming more acrimonious and the bond was more tenuous. The state of the Union and the question of states’ rights and the enslavement of man was on the public’s mind for many years.

    That said, I believe that Trump thrives on the thrill of negotiation, and he often speaks unscripted, stream of consciousness thoughts as they occur. Perhaps he sees the Civil War as a monumental failure of the union that should have been prevented, while freeing the slaves. He’s not a white supremacist, so clearly no reasonable person can suppose he regrets freeing the slaves. My supposition was that he believes that if he were President at the time, he would be such a skilled negotiator that he could have freed the slaves and saved the union.

    People don’t change, so I expect more Tweets and more comments about how he could have saved us if he’d only lived in the past, or if a past figure lived later and he just tweaked a couple of things such as his ownership of slaves, it would all be different. He doesn’t use a teleprompter, which is both a good and a bad thing. You never really know the true person when they rely exclusively on polished, vetted, speeches on teleprompter that go through 10 different review committees. You get the real person when they just open their mouth. Sometimes, dare I say oftentimes, they insert their foot. But the salient point for me, personally, is that he’s not a racist or anti semitic. He does have an ego. And so whatever he says, I remember that crucial point and blow it off to more Trump bravado. His unifying principal has been his frustration with how the country is run. And so of course he’ll go on tangents about how he could have run it better at any time in history. That’s just ego (the hubris of most politicians) and not anything sinister or dangerous.

    Just think. If we maintain the balance of powers that Obama significantly eroded, and yank the politics out of agencies for which a lack of bias is critical (the IRS, NSA, DOJ, EPA, the media), then our nation is secure from the abuse of power of any POTUS. If corrupt Hillary had won, then I firmly believe we would have ceded even more power to the office, and that would have laid the groundwork for a dictatorship. I don’t know if Hillary would have donned the requisite aviator glasses, beret, and cigar, or if it would have been her successor, all for our own good in a socialist dictatorship, but it is more difficult to rein in power than it is to let it out.

    1. “That said, I believe that Trump thrives on the thrill of negotiation, and he often speaks unscripted, stream of consciousness thoughts as they occur.” He has negotiated virtually nothing. Paul Ryan has boxed the great negotiator in and even the wall is dead.

Comments are closed.