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Haley Declines To Say Slavery Was Cause of Civil War

The former South Carolina governor instead said it was a dispute over how ‘government was going to run.’

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.,Charlie Neibergall/AP

Nikki Haley declined to say that slavery was a cause of the Civil War on Wednesday evening, placing the blame, instead, on the role of government.

The former UN Ambassador and South Carolina governor, who has seen her star rise in the first-in-the-nation primary state, was appearing at a town hall event in Berlin, New Hampshire, when a voter asked her to identify the cause of the war.

“I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run,” she responded. “The freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do. What do you think the cause of the Civil War was or argument?”

The questioner, who could not be easily heard off camera, was apparently unpersuaded by Haley’s response. When she asked him what he believed the cause of the war was, he replied that he wasn’t running for president.

“I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are,” Haley replied. “And I will always stand by the fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people. Government doesn’t need to tell you how to live your life. They don’t need to tell you what you can and can’t do. They don’t need to be a part of your life. They need to make sure that you have freedom. We need to have capitalism. We need to have economic freedom. We need to make sure that we do all things so that individuals have the liberties so that they can have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do or be anything they want to be without government getting in the way.”

When the questioner said it was “astonishing” to hear her respond “without mentioning the word slavery,” Haley replied: “What do you want me to say about slavery?” She then asked for the next question.

The exchange, which took place roughly an hour and a half into the town hall event, underscored the unique nature and customary pitfalls that often await candidates in New Hampshire, where direct exchanges with voters are the norm.

Haley has seen her stock rise rapidly in the Granite State in recent weeks, with a pitch that is often in tune with the state’s more moderate and independent minded streak of Republicanism. But her southern roots aren’t always a natural fit in New Hampshire. And the comments on slavery could pose hurdles for her in the coming weeks.

Haley was governor when South Carolina removed the confederate flag government grounds in 2015, following the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. Prior to then, she defended states’ rights to secede from the United States in a 2010 interview with a local activist group, as CNN reported.

While there were a number of contributions to the outbreak of the Civil War, the conflict, which was the deadliest in U.S. history, was fought predominantly over the South’s desire to see the preservation of slavery.