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History Lessons
Trumpsplaining the Civil War

Pundits are pearl-clutching over the president’s recent ruminations about the Civil War, transcribed here in the Washington Post, in which he suggests (in his typically disjointed manner) that if Andrew Jackson were President in the run-up to the secession crisis, the breakout of war might have been avoided. This is supposedly evidence that Trump is historically illiterate, or even that he sympathizes with the Confederacy.

But whether Trump knows it or not, there is a good historical parallel here: Andrew Jackson defused the Nullification Crisis with South Carolina by sending in federal troops and making his resolution clear. Had President James Buchanan showed this kind of fortitude—resupplying and reinforcing federal forces in the South and projecting his determination to hold the Union together in 1860—things might have gone very differently in 1861. Many observers made this point at the time; Buchanan’s feckless ineptitude, often contrasted with Jackson’s forthright resolution, is one of the main reasons Old Buck is considered the Worst President Ever.

It’s also worth noting that Lincoln’s position in 1860-61 was that his election didn’t have to mean Civil War—that he wanted to “find a way to work this all out” and was ready to compromise bigly to avoid hostilities. Had he been alive during the war, Jackson would likely have been an anti-Lincoln, pro-Union Democrat like Stephen Douglas—Lincoln’s defeated opponent who supported Lincoln against the secessionists.

Civil War counterfactuals can and will be debated forever. But in this particular case, Trump has stumbled into a historically defensible position by highlighting the fact that presidential weakness in the late 1850s made federal dissolution more likely—and, predictably, is being dumped on for it by any-stick-is-good-enough, faux-outrage critics.

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  • D4x

    TY for the Trumpsplaining on Andrew Jackson, a bit like plugging the dam of those ‘faux-outrage’ critics’ flood of keystrokes, because, Jackson died in 1845, and, racist…

    The worst part? How many Americans under the age of 45 were ever taught even that much history.

    • RedWell

      The most embarrassing part? Guess who were the teachers and parents of all those Americans under 45.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Unionized Democrats for the most part….

        Next question?

        • RedWell

          Wait, a whole generation is to blame for one thing, but only one portion of the previous generation is to blame for another.

          Next question: how does that work?

          • f1b0nacc1

            I merely answered your question, I didn’t blame a whole generation for anything. You asked “who were the teachers and parents of all those Americans under 45?”, and I pointed out that they were (for the most part) unionized Democrats, which indeed they were. Now I should be correct…the PARENTS were likely many things other than unionized Democrats (who typically breed at a much lower rate than Republicans, thank God!), but the teachers pretty much fit that description perfectly.

            If you don’t like the answer, that really is your problem, but I made no attempt to blame a whole generation for anything….

          • D4x

            I was not blaming two generations for anything, but know that many states stopped teaching civics, and, rhetorical question: Who knows how they have been teaching American history?

  • Pete

    So ….Trump has stumbled into a historically defensible position but the smarty-pants at ViaMedia knew it from their ‘studies’ and they don’t stumble.

    I wonder if Barack Hussein Obama knows the date of the Civil War. 50-50 he doesn’t.

    • f1b0nacc1

      He didn’t know how many states there were, so you do have a point…

      • D4x

        Guam does get to vote. O44 was including territories, DC, PR…

  • Kevin

    Trump has the enormous good fortune of having enemies who always think they are the smartest guy in the room.

  • Boritz

    This is a perfect example of the kinder, gentler side of TDS.

  • FriendlyGoat

    If Trump had been president, there would have been a compromise to retain more “states rights”. That’s maybe good for avoiding, delaying or down-scaling that big war (no one can say), but it’s very bad for everything else. Half the states were nuts in the statehouse then, and half of them (or more) still are.

  • ljgude

    As Old Hickory would say, whup them pearl clutching, any stick is good enough, faux outrage critics till they beg for their mammas. But listen up real good college boy. – Intuitive types (ya know Myers Briggs an all that) don’t stumble over nuttin. Stumblin is for confused thinkin’ types and college boys. Intuitives light on an idea like a rattlesnake in the dark. They might be right or they might be wrong just like thems that thinks it through. But it comes on them all at once. They jus know. And it is plain as sin that our President is a bona fide Intuitive who only thinks after the notion takes hold of him.

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