Trump and the Civil War: He’s Right

Give the Douche Bag His Due

Regarding the Civil War, Trump asked “why it could not have been worked out” and then observed that he “always felt that the South overplayed their hand.”

In Trumpian language the deal on the table in 1861 was that President Lincoln, chief negotiator for the Union, was fine with slavery where it existed but not its extension elsewhere.

The Southern negotiating position was one espoused by Edmund Ruffin, Robert Rhett, and William Lowndes Yancey. They and their followers, known as fire-eaters, were radical pro-slavery secessionists who wished to destroy the Union and spread slavery far and wide.

Fire-eaters were the Alt-Right of their day, bent on the destruction of the country.

There can be no question that the South, led by the fire-eaters, over played their hand, as Trump correctly asserts.

If Trump was suggesting that a deal avoiding the Civil War would have left slavery intact in the South, he is echoing the position of Abraham Lincoln who in 1858 said, “I suppose it may long exist, and perhaps the best way for it to come to an end peaceably is for it to exist for a length of time.”

Here’s Lincoln on the institution of slavery, also in 1858, “that by our frame of government, the States which have slavery are to retain it, or surrender it at their own pleasure; and that all others — individuals, free-states and national government — are constitutionally bound to leave them alone about it.”

Lincoln’s position that slavery should not spread is not as progressive or humane as it sounds, either.

Eric Foner, Lincoln scholar and author of Fiery Trial, a well-regarded book on Lincoln and slavery, points out that that position, holding slavery in check, was one even a racist mid-westerner could embrace.

From our distant vantage point we conflate being anti-slavery with being pro-black; that’s simply not so.

Whites outside the South despised blacks, slave or free, and wanted no part of them.

Lincoln’s clever position would aid in stockading blacks, a vote-getting position for sure among western territories and states.

The popular notion is that the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves as an act of justice.

That’s false on both counts.

The Proclamation is a surgically-worded political and military document meant to fatally weaken the South without rocking Lincoln’s white warship.

It not only failed to free slaves in states which stayed in the Union, (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland or Delaware), it also exempted 61 southern counties and cities, as well.

As president, Lincoln expressed no sense of moral justice regarding slavery.

And, the idea that he was a civil rights advocate is beyond absurd; in 1858 he said, “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races…”

Trump and Lincoln may have more in common than we wish to contemplate.

Morphing Lincoln into a pale-skinned Frederick Douglas is just one more chapter in the long running fable that blacks emerged from the Civil War free and equal.


  • Victoria Huckenpahler says:

    I have long been amused by how the Black population in general worships Lincoln, yet research into history reveals that he said some very negative things about Blacks as a race. Very glad that your last few paragraphs pointed that out, Eric. As a researcher myself (albeit in another field), I have an aversion to distorted historical rewrites.

  • Jay Palau says:

    I don’t know if that’s entirely fair. There were positions that had to be moderate while campaigning for him to even have a chance at winning. I like to think as he bore the heavy burden of war-time president, he evolved on the position. After all, while the Emancipation Proclamation is as you say, didn’t he insist and greatly assist in getting the 13th amendment passed in 1865?

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