White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said that a “lack of an ability to compromise” sparked the Civil War.
“[He was] an honorable man,” he said of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Fox News Monday. “It was always loyalty to state back in those days. Now, it’s different today.”
“But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War,” Kelly told host Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle.”
“And men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had to make.”
Kelly did not mention slavery, a key element of the Southern economy and a point of contention between the Union and the Confederacy during the conflict.
The retired Marine Corps. general also said it is “dangerous” not to be cognizant of history while discussing the removal of Confederate statues.
“There will be, 100 or 200 years from now, people that criticize us for what we do, and I guess they’ll tear down, you know, statues of people that we revere today,” he said.
“It’s dangerous, I think,” Kelly added. “It’s just very, very dangerous and it shows you what, how much of a lack of appreciation of history and what history is.”
Racial tensions in the U.S. have been heightened this year, boiling over in unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.
White supremacists descended upon Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Lee there.
The situation turned violent, however, when a car drove into a crowd of counter-protesters there, killing one person.
Two Virginia State Police Department officers were also killed in a helicopter crash that authorities linked to the fracas in Charlottesville.
National debate has since raged over whether Confederate monuments are valuable historical artifacts or symbols of racial injustice.