The Thoughts and Musings of Tom Allain

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it

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The Trump Chronicles, Volume 66: Apparently You’re Not Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

Dear Don:

Don, Don, Don, what are we going to do with you? A few days ago you sat down with Salena Zito of the Washington Examiner and said this about the Civil War:

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 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?

I’m still wrapping my head around this quote, but I think you were trying to make the point that if President Andrew Jackson were still President in 1861 he could have prevented the Civil War.

When it was pointed out to you that President Jackson left office in 1837 and died in 1845, you doubled down on Twitter and claimed that “President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen!”

Yeah, that’s not true. President Jackson owned slaves and almost certainly would have opposed the election of Abraham Lincoln and supported succession.

OK, you’re a real estate developer and I’m a history buff and I’m trying to be understanding about this. I don’t expect all of us to know our history, but I do expect our President to have a basic understanding of the history of the nation he leads.

So Don, let me school you on the causes of the Civil War. It’s really all about slavery.

We really need to begin with the first few years after the Declaration of Independence. Starting in 1781 we were governed by the Articles of Confederation. Slavery, which began in the American Colonies in 1619 had, by the 1780s, survived almost exclusively in the Southern States.

But the Declaration of Independence declared that all men (and we hope women) are created equal in the eyes of God. The Articles of Confederation, written in 1777, said nothing about slavery, but soon our founders met to “update” the Articles in 1787.

This led to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. Delegates from all thirteen states grappled with values, dreams, hopes, fears, and their faith. In the end they created a Constitution that we all admire and promise to protect.

But while valuing separation of church and state, free speech, and countless other interests, they failed to decide the future of slavery. Southern delegates, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson recognized the irony of owning slaves in a “free” country but couldn’t bring themselves to call for abolition. To use a modern term, they kicked the can down the road.

But by the early 1800s our new nation faced the can they couldn’t kick: While the Constitution did not prohibit slavery, it decreed that slaves counted as 3/5 of a person for the purposes of the census. This benefited Southern slave owners as 60% of their slaves were counted in the census but didn’t vote.

You see, Don, the Southern economy depended primarily on agriculture, and with the invention of the cotton gin in 1794, cotton became incredibly valuable and created the large plantation system. Most Southern farmers didn’t own slaves but the Southern economy depended on slave labor.

At the same time our nation was growing. Until 1803 the Mississippi River constituted our Western border; that year we purchased the Louisiana Territory that brought us to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. By 1853 we owned all the land we now call the 48 contiguous states.

And that created a problem. Everyone knew that these vast territories would eventually coalesce into states, but the Southern (slave) states feared that the newly formed abolitionist movement, founded in the Northern states, would gain enough influence in Congress to abolish slavery. They demanded that Western expansion allow for the expansion of slavery, at least in the Southern territories.

By 1850 Congress attempted to admit states in pairs: one slave state and one free state.

But the election of 1860 made war inevitable. This is hard to imagine but the Democrats divided over the issue of slavery. Northern Democrats didn’t want slavery to expand West and backed Stephen A. Douglas. Southern Democrats backed John Breckenridge who found the expansion of slavery as necessary for their survival.

Democrats split their vote between Stephen Douglas and John Breckenridge, and Republicans voted for Abraham Lincoln. As he was an opponent of slavery, 11 states seceded.

Don, I’m telling you this because this war was inevitable. You may admire President Jackson but he would have been more of a problem than a solution. He was a Democrat and a slave owner.

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