I am sorry that Andrew Jackson biographer Jon Meacham was not more understanding toward Trump’s remarks about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War. In this interview on MSNBC, Meacham says that Trump conflated Jackson’s actions to defuse the nullification crisis with the crisis of the Civil War itself. Meacham says that while Jackson managed the nullification crisis, where the leading opposition to the federal government came from South Carolina, it was impossible for anybody to avoid the Civil War, started by South Carolina at Fort Sumter. Maybe Meacham is right that an orgy of death was the only way to settle the slavery issue, but Lincoln did not start out to abolish slavery or to declare war against the slave states. As Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address:
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
By the time Lincoln came into office, war may have been unavoidable, but there were a series of relatively weak presidents between Jackson and Lincoln: Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan. Is it beyond all reason that a stronger President, like Jackson, could have worked out some kind of a solution short of civil war? All of the pundits say it was impossible and Trump is a fool to raise the possibility. The commentariat is fairly dripping with hatred, not only of the slave-owners of the 1860s, but of the Southerners who refuse to flagellate themselves for being the progeny of slaveholders. Their contempt for Trump extends to all Southerners living in the South today, as well as to the Southern Founding Fathers who were slave owners: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, all of whom went on to be President. I expect the Washington and Jefferson memorials in D.C. will be demolished soon, like the Civil War statues in New Orleans and other Southern cities, and the Constitution will be replaced by some new, more modern, more enlightened governing document.
The main criticism by pundits who want to quickly attack Trump is to point out that Jackson died years before the Civil War started. By saying this, they portray their ignorance of American history in the 1830s, when the South was already denying the authority of the federal government over Southern states. This was the very issue that led to the Civil War and to the secession of the Southern states. Jackson dealt with it vigorously in order to keep the union together. In particular Joe Scarborough on MSNBC and Jonathan Karl on ABC have shown their woeful ignorance of American history.
Evan Osnos has written an article in the New Yorker examining ways to remove Trump from office, either by impeachment or because of physical or mental incapacity. In discussing the mental incapacity of Presidents, which he says is frequent, he oddly supports Trump’s version of Andrew Jackson and the Civil War. Osnos says:
Some of these [presidential] illnesses had far-reaching historical consequences. Just before Franklin Pierce took office, in 1853, his son died in a train accident, and Pierce’s Presidency was marked by the “dead weight of hopeless sorrow,” according to his biographer Roy Franklin Nichols. Morose and often drunk, Pierce proved unable to defuse the tensions that precipitated the Civil War.
Osnos makes Trump’s point that a stronger President than Pierce might have been able “to defuse the tensions that precipitated the Civil War.” I presume that Joe Scarborough and Jonathan Karl think Evan Osnos is as mentally unstable as Trump because he shares a similar view of the history leading up to the Civil War. Or maybe it’s Joe and Jon who are mentally unstable, or just uneducated, or just filled with hateful political prejudice.