Former US President Donald Trump on Saturday suggested the American Civil War could have been avoided through “negotiation,” arguing that the fight to end slavery in the US was ultimately unnecessary and that Abraham Lincoln should have done more to avoid bloodshed.
The former president’s comments come a little over a week before the caucuses in Iowa, where he has a significant lead in the polls over his closest rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
“So many mistakes were made. See, there was something I think could have been negotiated, to be honest with you,” Trump said at a campaign event in Newton, Iowa. “I think you could have negotiated that. All the people died. So many people died.”
It’s not the first time Trump has tried to compare himself to Abraham Lincoln.
In 2020 Trump held a press conference virtually in the lap of Lincoln’s statute at the Lincoln Memorial to connect to his fellow “wartime President.” Trump even lobbied for a place next to Lincoln on Mount Rushmore. Now, the “Party of Lincoln” just finished its convention with the virtual deification of Trump as the “new Lincoln.”
The American Civil War has emerged as an unlikely talking point on the GOP primary trail. More than a week before Trump’s comments, Haley answered a question about the cause of the Civil War without mentioning slavery – the driving force behind the war. She has since backtracked.
According to American historians, there were a series of efforts before the Civil War began to cut a deal to save the Union. But the future of slavery in the South could not be settled through compromise and the nation went to war with itself. Trump did not say how he would have prevented the conflict, which he also called “so horrible but so fascinating.”
“It was, I don’t know, it was just different,” Trump said of the war. “I just find it – I’m so attracted to seeing it.”
After describing the wounds soldiers sustained on the battlefield, Trump said, “There’s nothing nice about it,” adding the war was a “tough one for our country.”
He also suggested that Lincoln would not have the same historical cachet “if he negotiated it.”
Former Republican lawmaker Rep. Liz Chene, who Trump helped unseat after she voted to impeach him, slammed Trump’s take on social media, asking how Republicans who have endorsed the former president can “possibly defend this?”
“Which part of the Civil War ‘could have been negotiated’? The slavery part? The secession part? Whether Lincoln should have preserved the Union?” Cheney wrote. “Question for members of the GOP – the party of Lincoln – who have endorsed Donald Trump: How can you possibly defend this?”