Columnist

“I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. 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.’ People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
— Donald Trump

Narrator: The Civil War, if you think about it, why?

Sad fiddle music begins to play.

(A series of clips: troops walking ashore on D-Day, an engraving of the Boston Massacre, Fort Sumter with “You’re Fired” on it.)

Jeff Sessions: (long silence) Well, there is one thing we know about the Civil War, and that is: A lot of people don’t approve of it. But it is where I got two of my middle names, so that is good at least.

Narrator: Why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

(A portrait of Andrew Jackson.)

Narrator: Andrew Jackson could have stopped it. He was known for his “big heart,” and it was probably this tendency to get sad and even cry at the thought of injustice that is the reason we associate him with the Trail of Tears. He could have made a deal. He said.

Andrew Jackson: There’s no reason for this.

Narrator: But the war came. No one really can say what the war was for. They were very upset, and some of them waved a beautiful symbol of heritage and states’ rights. There were a lot of battles fought in this war: Gettysburg, for instance, where there were almost as many people present as might attend a below-average Trump rally.

(Picture of Iron Man and Captain America.)

Narrator: Here in his own words is the testimony of one of the men who fought in this conflict.

Sullivan Ballou letter: My very dear Sarah, The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days, perhaps tomorrow. Where we will go I do not know. I am not entirely certain of where we are, what year it is or what country we are in.

I have no misgivings about the justice of our cause. We are right to join Abraham Lincoln to do something that did not seem possible even 10 or 20 years ago.¹ Ah! But yet my heart fondly wishes that Andrew Jackson could have done a deal. Then might I see the rippling grass or other foliage of wherever the place is where I live with you, my heart’s darling.

The men, wearing the colors that they wear, are doing what they can for the cause. We are in a great moment in history, I think, and I know that Frederick Douglass’s contributions continue to be more and more.² Do not weep, Sarah, but think of him and bear up.

But I do love you, dear Sarah, even more than this thing that I am fighting about. Sometimes I ask myself: Why could that one not have been worked out? But alas, I know Abraham Lincoln did something that was a very important thing to do, and especially at this time. Ten or 20 years before, it would not have been possible, but then it was, and he did it.³ History shall remember him and write his name upon the brow of the sky. And my sacrifice shall be writ there too, not to be forgotten by generations to come, and my memory cherished. For we are fighting for something that is very important to do. Whatever it is.

It has nothing to do with slavery, definitely.

(1) Trump said this.

(2) Trump said this.

(3) Trump said this.