Jeff Sessions, a son of the South and President Trump’s attorney general, celebrated former President Abraham Lincoln’s 209th birthday with a blunt and bold statement that clashes with some of his fellow Alabamians and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Speaking Monday at the Union League of Philadelphia’s Annual Lincoln Day celebration, he said slavery alone was the cause of the Civil War.

“Though many Southerners try to say otherwise — and I love my people — slavery was the cause of the war. It was not states’ rights or tariffs or agrarian versus industrial economies. Those issues were all solvable and would have been solved. The cloud, the stain of human bondage—the buying and selling of human beings—was the unsolvable problem and was omnipresent from the beginning of the country,” said Sessions.

“And the failure, the refusal of the South to come to grips with it — really to actually change this immoral system of enslavement — led to the explosion,” added Sessions.

President Abraham Lincoln visits with Union Gen. George McClellan at his headquarters in this Oct. 4, 1862 photo. Lincoln removed McClellen from command after the Battle of Antietam for failing to pursue and destroy the Confederate Army under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee. (AP Photo)

The surprising statement in a thoughtful speech on Lincoln was the boldest — and bluntest — statement by the administration about the Civil War, ending some confusing and conflicting past statements.

Some Trump advisors saw Sessions as the best to deliver the message, being from the South and being the attorney general.

And a few saw it as correcting Kelly, who stepped into a controversy when he cited other reasons for the war such as a failure to compromise.

In October, he appeared on the new Fox show hosted by Laura Ingraham and said “men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand,” and that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”

Sessions didn’t mince words.

“It is fair to say Lincoln did not start the war. He inherited it, and through extraordinary determination, eloquence, judgment, and courage, he finished it. His magnificent soldiers fighting other magnificent soldiers fought it out over four years, deciding the fate of the nation. The enslaved people of the South were emancipated and that by military victory. They venerated Father Abraham for it.

“The Union was preserved—the unwavering vision to which Lincoln was dedicated. The Constitution was preserved,” he said.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at