Donald Trump received criticism Monday for comments he made about the American Civil War. According to the New York Times, Trump was being interviewed on a SiriusXM radio program when he said that, had Andrew Jackson been President in 1860, Jackson would have prevented the Civil War from happening.
“I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War,” Donald Trump said.
“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.'”
Trump’s comments are peculiar because Andrew Jackson died in 1845, 16 years before the Civil War started in 1861. It also suggests that Trump’s understanding of complex events in history is a bit underdeveloped. Commenting for Mother Jones, noted Yale University Historian and Civil War expert David Blight had a little bit to say about Donald Trump’s unusual view of history.
“Saying that if Jackson had been around we might not have had the Civil War is like saying that one strong, aggressive leader can shape, prevent, move history however he wishes. This is simply 5th grade understanding of history or worse,” Blight said.
“Trump’s ‘learning’ of American history must have stopped even before the 5th grade. I wish I could say this is funny and not deeply disturbing. My profession should petition the President to take a one or two month leave of absence, VP Pence steps in for that interim, and Trump goes on a retreat in one of his resorts for forced re-education.”
Donald Trump tried to clarify his comments with a tweet later in the evening, but some may say the damage has already been done.
David Blight is not alone in ridiculing Donald Trump for his comments. A viral hashtag #TrumpTeachesHistory has been created to mock Trump’s comments about the Civil War by suggesting other alternate histories.
Liberal website the Daily Edge took the opportunity to share some details about Trump’s business career.
According to historian Jon Meacham in the New York Times, Donald Trump’s comments on the Civil War and Andrew Jackson’s potential role in preventing it would necessarily center around the expansion of slavery. Meacham says the central cause of the Civil War was the Confederacy’s desire to expand slavery into territories newly acquired by the United States. The Union opposed the expansion.
“The expansion of slavery caused the Civil War,” Meacham said.
“And you can’t get around that. So what does Trump mean? Would he have let slavery exist but not expand? That’s the counterfactual question you have to ask.”
It’s unlikely that we’re going to get a thorough explanation from Donald Trump as to why he believes Jackson would have been able to prevent the Civil War. The general consensus, however, is that his comments were at best rather foolish, and at worst are an example of revisionist history that suggests the President’s knowledge of the history of the country he now presides over is greatly lacking.
According to Abraham Lincoln Online, a quote from Abraham Lincoln reads, “Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.”
Based on the reaction to his Civil War comments, Donald Trump may want to make sure he’s fully educated on a subject before suggesting any more alternate histories.
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]