Gov. Paul LePage likes to lecture other people about history. The problem is that this self-described “history buff” often gets his facts wrong.

In the most recent case, LePage downplayed the role of slavery in the Civil War — a provably and dangerously false statement as debates intensify about removing statues of Confederate leaders that are on prominent display in cities across the southern United States.

White supremacists and neo-Nazis protesters descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month. Their goal, they said, was to protest the city’s planned removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led Confederate troops.

Defending such statues and claiming the Civil War was really one about land and property rights more than it was about slavery, as LePage has done, overlooks the genesis and goal of the Confederacy. LePage and other defenders of Confederate leaders also argue that Confederates were simply fighting for their culture. They conveniently overlook or downplay that importing people from Africa and making them work on their farms and plantations was a foundational part of this culture and that, since slaves were considered property, defending property rights meant defending slavery.

During a radio appearance Tuesday, LePage wrongly said that the war was not initially about slavery and that President Abraham Lincoln, “a very brilliant politician,” later made it about slavery.

LePage could begin to truly learn Civil War history by reading the Constitution of the Confederate States of America. In addition to counting slaves as three-fifths a person for purposes of political representation and taxation, it contains this line: “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”

The constitution also gave those living in the Confederate states the right to travel within the states with “their slaves and other property,” emphasized that any slaves who escaped were to be returned to their owners and allowed slavery in any states that later joined the Confederacy.

If slavery wasn’t important to the Confederate states, it wouldn’t have been mentioned 10 times in their constitution, which was adopted in 1861. Nor would it have been mentioned in the first sentences of many of the Confederate states’ declarations of causes for leaving the union.

LePage should also read letters from Union soldiers during the early days of the war. They, include letters from soldiers from Maine, which made it clear their mission was to end slavery as a means of preserving the American union. And, no, contrary to LePage’s embarrassingly erroneous claim on Tuesday, thousands of Maine men did not fight for the Confederacy.

“What a splendid cause is this on which we are engaged. I think it is the grandest that ever enlisted the sympathies of man. Nobler even than the Revolution for they fought for their own freedom while we fight for that of another race. I firmly believe that the doom of slavery is fixed and if it is not wholly rooted out by the present war, measures will be taken to wipe it out forever,” Lt. Col. Walter Stone Poor, a teacher from Maine who fought for the Union, wrote in a May 15, 1861, letter to his brother-in-law, George Fox.

“If such an event can be consummated by any sacrifice of mine, it shall be cheerfully made. I could die for this as readily as I could lie down to rest at the close of a day of wearisome toil. … War is bad, heaven knows, but slavery is far worse. If the doom of slavery is not sealed by the war, I shall curse the day I entered the Army, or lifted a finger in the preservation of the Union,” Poor added.

Just as deciding whether to stand with Nazis and white supremacists or with those opposing them should be a simple choice, it should be easy to side with those who fought for freedom for another race against those who fought against their own country to preserve slavery.

As Maine’s governor, it should also be easy to decide that it’s more worthwhile to celebrate the heroic acts of tens of thousands of Maine troops who fought to end slavery — including thousands who died for the cause — than to fabricate history.