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View from the Hill

Understanding Greg Brannon's views on the Civil War

Earlier this week, View from the Hill posted audio interviews of Republican Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon from 2012.

In the same interview, Brannon said on two occasions that Abraham Lincoln did not go to war with the South over slavery — around the 11:50 mark when talking about habeas corpus law.

Greg Brannon: Again, he’s a human. He’s a person. He has habeas corpus. That’s why it’s the most famous habeas corpus case. And then 1861, President Lincoln suspended it. It’s not his function. In fact in 18…

Bill Lumaye: What…can I ask…because it shows my ignorance…why did he suspend it?

GB: He went to war with the South seceding when you read the idea about tariffs, economic aspect…the slavery issue came back later. Read Lincoln’s own words. Please. But in 1866 the Supreme Court said Lincoln was wrong, we’re sorry. Okay. It’s like…but under that idea of war, all out terror, all out war is when the government supersedes power of the individual….

On a second occasion in the interview, Brannon is speaking with a caller, discussing America’s history of slavery when the caller asked Brannon why Lincoln freed slaves.

Caller: One thing and I’ll hang up. I got one question and we’re talking about motive here. What was the reason Lincoln freed the slaves?

GB: That’s very interesting look back at his own words. He was actually not a fan. He used that later in the war two years into the war. High tariffs went to war. He actually wanted to move them to Liberia and Frederick Douglass went ballistic and said this is my country. So, and was it political power? There are a lot of books on both sides. My thing about the Civil War is that we have to get back to the core of who humans are and get back to the idea you cannot enslave anybody at any level and that was our scar back from the beginning.

The idea that Lincoln did not go to war over slavery and rather over tariffs, as Brannon said, is not considered a mainstream idea, said Fitzhugh Brundage, a UNC professor of history who specializes in the Civil War.

“What he states there is an extreme simplification of some arguments that have been made for a long time — in fact, from almost as soon as the war started and by the late 1860s,” Brundage said.

Brundage said there were some kernels of truth to some of the ideas Brannon expressed, but they are taken to the extreme.

“When South Carolina fired on Ft. Sumter, Lincoln did not think he was waging a war to destroy slavery,” he said. “There’s a kind of kernel there in that without question, there were deep economic division but the idea that Lincoln somehow went to war to promote the tariff and Northern Industrial might was a gross oversimplification.”

None of this means Brannon is nostalgic for the old South or a neo-confederate who supports slavery. The first time, he is speaking about the Dred Scott case and on the second occasion, he condemns slavery.

But Brannon’s interview shows that he might hold a view of the Civil War as an overreach of the federal government’s power.

Brannon’s campaign did not respond to multiple attempts for comment.

View from the Hill is a political blog by Daily Tar Heel staff writers. Any opinion expressed in it does not represent the Daily Tar Heel. Email the blog coordinator at

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