My Jaw-Dropping Debate with a Trumpster Who Said the Civil War Wasn’t About Slavery

One of the downsides in doing what I do for a living is when someone I’ve never met asks me what my career is. It’s not that I’m ashamed of fighting against Republican bullshit and for progressive policies, it’s that politics can sometimes be a volatile subject to start discussing with someone you’re not familiar with.

Inevitably there are instances such as last night where one of my buddy’s friends asked what I did, then immediately asked me the follow up question that really should never be asked: So, who’d you vote for?

Typically whenever somebody I don’t know asks me that question I’ll pause for a moment, then do my best to change the subject.

Unfortunately, this person didn’t pick up on me clearly trying to avoid getting into the topic, following up my attempt to change the subject by saying, “You didn’t vote for that bitch Hillary, did you?”

“You mean the candidate who received 3 million more votes than Trump? Proudly,” I replied.

Much to my surprise, that was the end of that discussion — at least so I thought.

About an hour or so later, when my friend got up to use the restroom inside (we were all hanging out on his patio), that seemed to be an opening this other person was waiting for to broach the subject of politics. They used my political background as a segue to ask me about history — in particular, my thoughts on the Civil War.

“So, since you follow politics I’ll assume you know some stuff about history. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on why the Civil War was fought?,” she asked.

Right away I knew her asking this question meant that she’s one of those conservatives who thinks the war was about states’ rights, not about slavery.

“Mostly slavery, but there were obviously other factors at play. However, no matter how you’re about to spin your response here in a second, make no mistake about it, the primary issue was slavery,” I stated.

What proceeded was this person going from fairly calm, to extremely hostile and agitated. They weren’t shouting, but their voice definitely became elevated as they called me ignorant, insisted several times that the war wasn’t about slavery, ranting on about how it was just about states’ rights.

For the most part, I sat there calmly as she went on rambling about this for a couple of minutes. She was clearly disgusted that I said the Civil War was mostly about slavery.

After her tirade ended, I simply asked, “Then why do so many of the declarations of secession, including Texas’ very own, specifically mention their belief that this country was created by, and for, white people and the role of the ‘African’ was as their slave?”

“That’s a lie! It was about states’ rights!,” she quickly shot back.

This is when I grabbed my phone, did a quick Google search, and pulled up the Declaration of Causes from February 2, 1861 outlining the reasons why Texas left the union. I went directly to the official Texas State Library and Archives Commission website. This wasn’t a random blog, or some unknown source that could be dismissed as inaccurate — it was an official website owned and operated by the state of Texas. This is a completely legitimate “.gov” website.

After I pulled the website up, and found a couple of passages that proved my point, I tried to show her what these documents said.

“I don’t believe it! That’s a lie!,” she said, refusing to look at the website.

After she refused to even look at what was written in this official document, I then proceeded to read a couple of the parts I felt proved my point that slavery and racism were the main driving forces behind the Civil War:

She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery–the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits–a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.

“It wasn’t about slavery! The Civil War was about states’ rights! I don’t believe what you’re saying. That’s not real,” she ranted.

I pointed out to her that I was reading an official document from an official state of Texas government website, but she continued to refuse to look at my phone, insisting that the Civil War wasn’t about racism or slavery.

“Okay, well then why did the KKK adopt the Confederate battle flag to represent them if the Confederacy wasn’t about slavery or racism? Why did the former Confederate states all adopt segregation laws to deny African Americans their rights?” I asked.

This is when things really went off the rails.

“That’s because the KKK are a bunch of racists,” she said.

“Exactly! And they adopted a flag from the Confederacy to represent their racist views,” I quickly pointed out.

“I’m not racist! My family isn’t racist! You’re ignorant and don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. It was about states’ right and northern aggression against the South,” she babbled on.


Once again I went back to the declaration of causes from the state of Texas clearly outlining their belief that a primary reason for joining the Confederacy was “protecting the institution known as negro slavery – the servitude of the African to the white race.”

“I don’t believe that’s real. You’re just ignorant,” she replied.

“So, I’m the ignorant one, yet you’re the person who doesn’t believe that a document published on an official website linked to the Texas state government is real — because it contradicts the lies and myths you want to believe?,” I sarcastically asked.

She stood up, called me a closed-minded prick, and left.

Without a doubt, this one was the most mind-numbing “debates” I’ve had with another individual — ever. I couldn’t stop myself from openly smirking, sometimes borderline laughing, when she repeatedly insisted that an official document from an official Texas government website wasn’t real. The fact that she refused to even look at the website proved to me that she’d rather continue to live her life completely ignorant about the truth than simply change her mind after being presented with indisputable facts that contradicted what she thought was true.

Her attitude epitomized the typical mindset of most Donald Trump supporters. Millions of people who don’t care about truth, facts, reality, history, or even common sense — just what they want to believe. Many of these people have determined that their ideology matters more than facts, and anything (or anybody) saying otherwise is simply being closed-minded or spreading “fake news.”

Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know what you think.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • Ned Maxwell

    I’m curious….at any time did she try to prove her point? Did she at any time come up with any site that had opposing facts? My guess is no.

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    • Paula Peña

      Been there many times. Just yesterday when I couldn’t take another lie
      and another day of our president not showing compassion for people who are our allies and friends I vented and lost more fb friends. I begged Trump’s supporters to intelligently explain to me how our president can get away with the lies day after day. The best response I got was, “Because he can.” Another was supporting his “caring” for people by posting a picture from 1989 and an award Trump had won for humanitarianism in NYC. They can’t support their arguments with facts and don’t see why their responding to us that we are ignorant and that facts aren’t real is a problem. When we say these are scary times, we aren’t just a whistling Dixie. The apathy that has been replaced with racist sympathizers and the television generation of Trump have taken over the White House-unbelievable, I blame a very weak Republican Party for this man-and are blind to what is really happening. We are not a country of scholars, but a country of television watching couch potatoes. SMH. If Trump says he cares for the environment his words are all they need. Never mind that his actions only show his support of big oil and coal. If he says that the future and jobs aren’t possible with the development and use of renewable resources his words are all they need. His words are their truth, never mind that he isn’t consistent and that he is angry and is trying to manage the government as a tyrant.

      • Pingy

        There’s no use trying to argue fact versus fiction with these people. One must hit to the core of what most Trump supporters truly believe in, what makes them tick. So for anybody who claims to be a Christian, these words will anger them at first, but it will also give them pause, planting a seed to grow in their moral sub conscience. Don’t argue–the little said the better! Here’s how it goes: “It’s a free country, and I defend your decision to be a Trump supporter as long as you don’t maintain that you are a Christian while doing so, because as your friend, it’s very sad to imagine you getting turned away when your time comes to enter through those pearly gates”. Those are powerful words for a true believer, and once you’ve said that, anything else you say will only dilute it. When they argue back, just shrug your shoulders. Say nothing more!

      • bfg

        You cannot argue with a closed mind. It’s like beating your hands on a locked door. All you’re going to get is bruised knuckles.

  • Jay S

    Mississippi — “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

    • Randy Woloshin

      Lies! Fake News! You probably created that site yourself just to spread your misinformation!
      *I probably should have typed in ALL CAPS for a more convincing effect. 🙂

  • Phranqlin

    Cognitive dissonance. She identifies with the romantic “lost cause” of the Confederacy and imagines herself as a rebel giving the finger to the evil Federal government. But she also knows that slavery is evil and doesn’t think of herself as a racist. These thoughts have a hard time co-existing. Thus she has to deny that Lincoln’s opposition to slavery was the main reason why the Southern states seceded from the Union. Slavery was essential to the Southern economy and chief among the “state’s rights” they wished to preserve was the right to brutally enslave millions of men, women, and children.

    I’ve been on the receiving end of enough “states rights” discussions and seen enough “Wrong on slavery, right on everything else” T-shirts to know that this point of view is depressingly common even in the North.

  • Robyn Ryan

    States do not have the right to deny Constitutional rights to other people. The entire anti-abortion movement is focused on denying poor women their Constitutional right not to be made or kept pregnant against their will.
    The role of the Fed is to protect citizens from state government abuse.

  • giantrobot1973

    I remember learning this in 7th or 8th grade. And I went to a Catholic School in Flagstaff Arizona….the liberal bastion of Arizona. Anyway, it was hammered into us….’hey, it wasn’t slavery, it was states rights.” I never really know what that meant, because the obvious next conclusion was that the rest of the nation did not want to the right to own people to be in practice or existence anymore. “So it was about slavery? The right to own slaves?” “No, it was about states rights.” It is clear that the issue was slavery, the states told the rest of the nation in their articles of succession. What more evidence do you need?

    • elicareklaw

      I was in high school in the early 60s, and I also remember that the textbook explanation of the Civil War was that it was mostly about state’s rights, although slavery was clearly the right under issue.

    • Shirley

      It was about the States right to own Slaves. When the Northerners saw children being sold as slaves that were fathered by their masters they were livid because some of these biracial Children’s skin was white. Back then if you had 1/4 % black in your blood your were considered black. All they saw was white people being sold as slaves.

      • Nick

        Each state had different rules. Most of the states that seceded debated this extensively in writing their post-war laws and constitutions, and the people of the time understood that this was a very sensitive issue. George D. Tillman said, during the debates on the new SC Constitution in 1895:

        If the law is made as it now stands respectable families in Aiken,
        Barnwell, Colleton, and Orangeburg will be denied the right to
        intermarry among people with whom they are now associated and
        identified. At least one hundred families would be affected to my
        knowledge. They have sent good soldiers to the Confederate Army, and are
        now landowners and taxpayers. Those men served creditably, and it would
        be unjust and disgraceful to embarrass them in this way. It is a
        scientific fact that there is not one full-blooded Caucasian on the
        floor of this convention

  • Riight

    The only proper answer for why the Civil War started: ‘Blame Obama!’

  • This has happened to me, also. I sometimes look at these people with my most incredulous expression and say, “Does any of this mean anything to you? Missouri Compromise? Abolitionist Movement? John Brown? …Remember any of that from your primary school education? No? Well, thanks for playing.” Many …maybe even Most… of these people who scream bloody murder when a statue of some Confederate general gets removed have never even so much as walked a battlefield from that war …spent a day there. A statue is not the same thing as history. It doesn’t destroy the historic merits of an event because a statue is removed. A visit to a civil rights museum conveys more of the power in the voice of Dr. King than a statue, which cannot capture the contours of suffering and violence. A walk through a military cemetery conveys more of the depth of loss than an obelisk with same names inscribed. I’m not trying to argue that statues don’t have value and meaning. I am arguing that people who scream about the removal of a statue on the basis of “wiping out history” haven’t really contemplated that history all that much or honestly or they wouldn’t be able to come to such a conclusion. They are being driven by a different motive. When they claim the confederate flag as their “heritage,” they dismiss the larger and greater narrative and heritage that is the United States of America.

    • Interesting you mentioned a military cemetery.

      Because between all the racists who took his battle flag and made it their own, and the politically correct demonizations of his family name today, among all sorts of other things, the family of General Robert E. Lee had their land taken from them by the US gov’t, and years later — in what is now, today, 1 of the 3 most important SCOTUS ruling on property rights and unlawful confiscation — the US gov’t was required to give the land back it wrongfully confiscated.

      But the Lee family, being considerate of the families who now had their sons buried on their land by the US gov’t, ended up selling the land back, and not really for what it was worth, despite the ruling.

      You know it today as Arlington National Cemetery.

      So the next time someone gets on anyone for recognizing General Lee and cursing his family or anything about him, understand he refused to get involved … until he was asked to command an army to shoot his fellow Virginians. What might a lot of us do in the same position, asked to take up arms against the people in our neighborhoods?

      And what of the land grab? And the donation after? These things are lost when we don’t teach history, and make it a simple right/wrong game. Especially considering who Lee was, and what his family graciously donated

      But then again, I’m sure many here might say his family’s land should be confiscated, because he ‘picked the wrong side. He fought the US.’

      But if you read the legal justification the US gov’t used, it wasn’t because he took command of the Virginia Army of the North. No. The US gov’t claimed it had the right to confiscate any land of any US Union General, which he still was too, and anyone of a public service.

      Which kinda goes back to what we Americans often do to our serving military at times. A very sad history that we don’t look at or learn from, even today.

      The Civil War destroyed this country and, sadly, didn’t resolve a lot. The North still dictated with greater representation, and the South still abused African-Americans because the North wanted it’s cheap goods.

      • cowboyinbrla

        Bryan, I’m sorry, but you are sorely mistaken on several points here (though you have some of the broad outline of the story sort of right).

        First: the Union never claimed the right to take the property of “any US Union general”. Rather, Lincoln and the US military leadership knew that Arlington *had* to be captured, and quickly, because of its commanding position overlooking DC. From there, the Confederates could bombard DC and destroy much of the nation’s capitol city. Remember that Jackie Kennedy selected the site for JFK’s grave after they’d visited Arlington cemetery and enjoyed the view of DC from the hilltop – that vista and secure position was extremely important to the Union.

        The United States passed a law empowering military commissioners to levy taxes on real estate in “insurrectionary districts” (ie Confederate territory) and to require those taxes be paid *in person* by the owner. When Lee, occupied with the war, could not do so (because he’d be arrested when he tried to show up), the land was confiscated for non-payment of taxes. Once in their hands, the Union army began using parts of the plantation as a burial ground, precisely to render it unable to be used as a plantation again.

        Lee’s family did not “donate” anything. Lee’s son sued the U.S. government after the war, and won title to the property back, as the court ruled that the requirement that the taxes be paid in person deprived the Lees of due process of Law.

        The United States had to either remove everything from the property (including thousands of graves), or else buy it. The two parties agreed to a price of $150,000, which both sides said was “fair market value”. So there was no “donation” and it wasn’t at substantially less than what it was worth.

        And Robert E. Lee was *not* still a Union General. He resigned his commission in the Union Army to become general of the Army of Northern Virginia, which put him largely in charge of the Confederate army.

        You characterize the offer to Lee to command the Union Army (at the outbreak of war) incorrectly. You effectively suggest that he only had two choices: fight for the Union, or fight for the Confederacy. He had a third option: he did not have to choose to fight at all. He instead aligned himself with his home (treasonous, seceded) state, not just because those were his “neighbors”, but because he absolutely believed in white supremacy, in slavery, and in keeping black Americans in subjugation and bondage in perpetuity. Don’t sugarcoat what he did, and what he chose to do.

        Finally, you’re simply wrong about the North having “greater representation”. Under the original constitution, the *south* had disproportionate representation, because slaves were each counted as 3/5 of a person for allocating how many representatives a state got, but those slaves got to do none of the voting – meaning that a white southerner who could vote had more representation than a white northerner. And the “two senators per state” regardless of population favored the southern states, at first, because they were much more sparsely populated originally, but they had the same representation as much more densely populated northern states.

        You can see that in the electoral college (which has the same numbers as senators plus representatives, for each state). It’s not a coincidence that five of the first seven US presidents were slaveholders from the South, because those states had much greater representation in the Electoral College (because of greater representation in Congress) than the north.

        After the war, the southern states’ voter rolls swelled as hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of freed African-Americans were given the right to vote (a right soon abridged in practice). That maintained the high number of representatives the southern states had. The only reason that number declined, relative to the total, is the admission of NEW states, west of the Mississippi.

      • That property was worth far more than what they agreed to. Sorry, but that is charity.

      • cowboyinbrla

        So you say. I didn’t realize you were an expert in appraising property values based on their condition 150 years ago. My apologies.

      • That property was worth far more than what they agreed to. Sorry, but that is charity.