Trump faces backlash for saying American Civil War ‘could’ve been negotiated’

Former president’s comments draw ire for implication slavery could have been negotiated

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Saturday 06 January 2024 22:20 GMT
Donald Trump claims Civil War 'could've been negotiated'

Donald Trump claimed the American Civil War — fought over slavery — could have been negotiated and need not have happened.

The former president made the remarks at a campaign rally in Newton, Iowa, ahead of the state’s caucuses on 15 January.

Mr Trump is currently leading the race to secure the Republican Party nomination for the 2024 presidential election.

Speaking about the 1861-1865 conflict between the Union and the Confederacy, he told the crowd of supporters: “I’m so attracted to seeing it. There was something that could’ve been negotiated… Abraham Lincoln, if he negotiated it, we wouldn’t know who Lincoln was. He wouldn’t have been the Abraham Lincoln. But that would’ve been ok.”

The comments provoked outrage online, with former Republican Rep Liz Cheney writing on X: “Which part of the Civil War ‘could have been negotiated’? The slavery part? The secession part? Whether Lincoln should have preserved the Union?”

She continued: “Question for members of the GOP — the party of Lincoln — who have endorsed Donald Trump: How can you possibly defend this?”

Columnist Ahmed Baba posted: “There is no compromise on whether or not Black people should be enslaved. They tried that with the Missouri Compromise —it only separated slave states and free states and led to the Civil War. So no, slavery couldn’t have been ‘negotiated’. It was slavery or no slavery.”

Radio host Michelangelo Signorile commented: “This is one of the most insane things Trump has said.  Could have negotiated slavery?  Would love to hear the terms of that negotiation.”

The Civil War has already come up and caused problems for another candidate during this primary season, with former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley fumbling a question about its causes.

Rather than answering “slavery”, she answered vaguely: “I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run, the freedoms, and what people could and couldn’t do.”

Her failure to cite slavery in her answer attracted an avalanche of criticism, with everyone from Joe Biden to Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison and civil rights leader Rev Dr William Barber hitting out at her comments.

She subsequently apologised, commenting: “Of course, the Civil War was about slavery. We know that, that’s the easy part. What I was saying was what does it mean to us today? It was about individual freedom, it was about economic freedom... Our goal is to make sure we never go back to the stain of slavery, but what’s the lesson in all of that?”

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