Former President Trump said he believed the Civil War could have been avoided through negotiation, though that would’ve changed the legacy of former President Lincoln.
Trump, at an Iowa rally on Saturday, said he finds the conflict “fascinating” but “so horrible.” He also noted the high death toll.
“So many mistakes were made. See, there was something I think could have been negotiated, to be honest with you. I think you could’ve negotiated that. All the people died, so many people died,” he said.
It is estimated that 620,000 soldiers died between 1861-65.
He added that Lincoln could have negotiated to avoid the war, but would not have been as well-known as he is today.
“Abraham Lincoln, of course if he negotiated it, you probably wouldn’t even know who Abraham Lincoln was,” Trump said. “He would have been president, but he would have been president, and he wouldn’t have been the Abraham Lincoln. Would’ve been different, but that would’ve been OK.”
“I know it very well. I know the whole process that they went through, and they just couldn’t get along, and that would’ve been something that could have been negotiated and they wouldn’t have had that problem,” he continued.
The former president and 2024 GOP front-runner’s comments come after fellow Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley faced backlash last month over her response to a question from a voter about the cause of the Civil War.
Haley said in response to the question that the war was fought over the role of government and “how government was going to run, the freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do,” not mentioning slavery. She later said she “assumed it was a given” that the war was about slavery.
Trump has received some criticism in the days since he made his comments about the war. GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis told ABC that he did not understand what Trump was trying to say.
“I don’t even know what he’s talking about — Lincoln did what he had to do. He ended up ushering in the abolition of slavery, and he saved the Union,” DeSantis said.
Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) questioned how the war could have been avoided in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Which part of the Civil War ‘could have been negotiated’? The slavery part? The secession part? Whether Lincoln should have preserved the Union? Question for members of the GOP—the party of Lincoln—who have endorsed Donald Trump: How can you possibly defend this?” she said.
Extensive negotiations over the status of slavery occurred for years leading up to the eventual secession of the southern states and outbreak of the Civil War. Multiple pieces of legislation had been passed by Congress in the years before the war to try to reach a compromise to satisfy the North and the South.
But Lincoln’s election in 1860 for the Republican Party, which formed around a platform of stopping the spread of slavery into new states and territories, led states to begin seceding. Seven southern states seceded from the Union after Lincoln’s election but before he took office.
The war formally began about a month after Lincoln was sworn in.
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