White House chief of staff John Kelly claimed Monday that a “lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War.” But the reality is that the path to civil war was marked by numerous compromises on slavery, as the author Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out on Twitter Tuesday morning. In fact, the war started because of the people who wanted to maintain and expand the right to own other people as property.
“I mean, like, it’s called The three fifths compromise for a reason,” Coates tweeted early Tuesday, referring to the constitutional provision that increased representation for slave states in the House of Representatives in 1787.
“But it doesn’t stand alone,” Coates said. “Missouri Compromise. Kansas-Nebraska Act.”
After the Civil War, he later tweeted, there was also the Compromise of 1877, which further disenfranchised black people once federal troops withdrew from Southern states.
President Abraham Lincoln, Coates noted, also compromised on several occasions. Not only did he not actually want to abolish slavery, but he “repeatedly sought to compromise by paying reparations ― to slaveholders ― and shipping blacks out the country.”
He didn’t even mention the Compromise of 1850, which among other things allowed the South to implement slavery in new U.S. territories gained during the Mexican-American War.
The enslaved black populations of the South, Coates said, “did not need modern white wokeness to tell them slavery was wrong.”
Kelly defended Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monday, calling him an “honorable man” ― a declaration that Coates compared to “some kid insisting his deadbeat dad is actually a secret agent away on a mission.” Lee, he said, was a “dude who thought torture was cool.”
“Even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black,” Adam Serwer, a senior editor at The Atlantic, wrote in June.
If Kelly can laud someone who sold human beings, Coates concluded, “you really do see the effect of white supremacy.” Last month, Coates said that President Donald Trump “might be a white supremacist.”