“Nikki Haley’s Omission of Slavery From Discussion of Civil War Causes: Silence Speaks Volumes.
Nikki Haley, the current United States Ambassador to the United Nations, was recently asked to explain the cause of the American Civil War. Her response, which omitted any mention of slavery, was notably absent of historical accuracy and sparked controversy.
The Civil War, fought between 1861 and 1865, was a result of decades of simmering tensions between the North and South on many issues, including states’ rights and slavery. For generations, slavery had been deeply embedded in Southern states’ societies and economy. In 1861, several Southern states declared their secession from the United States in defense of their “right” to maintain slavery. This sparked the Civil War.
Haley’s recent remarks, however, make no mention of slavery. Instead, she attributed the cause of the Civil War to a failure “to figure out a way to work it out.” Her comments fly in the face of historical evidence and have sparked criticism among academics and other observers.
Historian and Columbia University professor Eric Foner was quick to point out the glaring omission in Ambassador Haley’s response. “Anybody who goes through ninth grade American history knows that slavery was at the heart of the Civil War,” he said.
Slavery’s involvement in the Civil War is one of the most widely accepted historical facts and was addressed extensively in Foner’s 2009 book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.
Additionally, the US National Park Service states that “slavery and the status of African-Americans were at the heart of the sectional crisis, the events leading up to the Civil War and the cause of the war itself.” Numerous other respected historians concur with this assessment.
Although Ambassador Haley’s comments lacked the necessary context, she does have a point regarding the need for compromise. If the two sides had been willing to compromise earlier in 1861, the Civil War may never have been necessary.
Despite Haley’s failure to mention slavery as a cause of the Civil War, her emphasis on the importance of compromise and avoiding armed conflict remains valid and important. It is a reminder that we should never take the path of violence as a solution and should instead look for alternatives when faced with disagreement.
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