What Trump meant about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War

What he said:

“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, and 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, you think about it, why?”

Like so many things Trump says, this makes no sense.  But I think I know what he meant.

I think he is alluding to the Nullification Crisis–a conflict between the Federal Government and South Carolina during Jackson’s presidency.  The stated reason for the crisis was that South Carolina claimed they didn’t have to abide by Federal tariff laws.  The real motives were a bit deeper, and are an obvious prelude to some of the issues that sparked the Civil War.

Jackson himself wrote: “the tariff was only a pretext, and disunion and southern confederacy the real object.”  It was sort of a trial run for the South, which would later use similar states’ rights-style arguments as a reason to preserve slavery, ultimately leading them into conflict with the North.

Trump, of course, knows none of that.  But Stephen Bannon, an admirer of Andrew Jackson, probably does know it, and Trump vaguely remembered him saying something about it once.  Of course, he couldn’t remember specifics, like that it was about the issue of Federal vs. State power, or that it led to Southern states claiming they had a right to preserve slavery. He just remembered “Andrew Jackson” and “something that led to the Civil War”.

(I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect Bannon is one of those guys who argues that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, but was instead about “states’ rights.)

The end result is the totally rambling and nonsensical quote above. But I think on this one, it’s pretty easy to trace Trump’s incoherent babble back to the primordial Bannon-stew that spawned it.


  1. This reminds me of Trump’s “last night in Sweden” comments–when what he really meant, somewhere in his garbled mind process, was “what I saw last night on Fox about Sweden.” So much of what he says is pure chaos. And I suspect you’re right about Bannon–Trump probably caught him holding forth about the “War of Northern Aggression.”

  2. At first I was instantly grumpy re-reading the Trump quote because it was so embarrassingly stupid. Then I thought you can’t possibly believe he even remembered a scintilla of anything about Andrew Jackson. And then you brought up Steve Bannon and I had my AH HAH moment. Great post.

    1. Thanks! And yes; anytime that Trump says anything about history I suspect that Bannon was involved.

      My guess is that before he met Bannon, Trump had no idea who Andrew Jackson was, and possibly not even that there was a Civil War.

      1. As I alluded to in my tweet, I don’t care that much about seeing his taxes anymore. We all know what they will show. I want to see his school grades.

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