On May 16, David Garrison, professor at Ohio Christian University, hosted David Barton to discuss “Jefferson Lies, the Founding Fathers, and Academic Elites.” Guess who the academic elites are?
Barton spent about an hour misrepresenting history and the position of my book with Michael Coulter, Getting Jefferson Right. Apparently, in June I will get a chance to respond on the same program.
There is a lot I could talk about but I want to note something surprising. Barton seems to have reversed his position on the printing of the Aitken Bible. In fact, despite some inaccurate embellishments, he debunks himself.
At 47:32 into the segment, Garrison raises the issue of the Aitken Bible by saying, “and they commissioned a Bible, as I recall, I forget the name of it…”
Barton interrupted Garrison at that point and explained the history of the Aitken Bible. Barton calls Aitken the official printer of Congress and claims,
Aitken says, “hey let’s print a Bible here in America…He said, let’s print this, and Congress said, ‘good idea’ and so Congress assigned a committee to oversee the accuracy and the printing, had both the chaplains of Congress go through the thing to make sure it’s accurate, to make sure this thing is not being printed with non-Scriptural stuff in it. And so when the Bible rolled off the presses, it was printed by the official printer of Congress, Robert Aitken. He printed 10,000 copies. In the front of that Bible, it has the recognition of James Duane, who was the chairman of the committee in Congress that oversaw the project and has the two chaplains, White and Duffield, who sign off on the accuracy of it. It contains a Congressional endorsement in the front of the Bible, which says, ‘Resolved the United States Congress assembled recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States.” So Congress didn’t officially print the Bible. It was the official printer of the Congress who printed the Bible with a Congressional endorsement with a Congressional committee oversight, with the approval of the Congressional chaplains.
Although Barton admits that Congress didn’t officially print the Bible, he still frames it as a kind of joint effort of Congress and Aitken. While Aitken did print the first two Journals of the Congress, he was not the only printer used by Congress. Congress secured several printers for various jobs. John Dunlop (who also printed the Declaration of Independence) assisted Aitken and printed the third edition of the journals. David C. Claypoole, not Robert Aitken, had the title of “Printer to the Honourable the Congress” at around the same time Aitken approached Congress with his petition.
In any case, Congress responded favorably to Aitken’s request to check the Bible for accuracy and they endorsed the work as a benefit to religion and the arts but they did not say “let’s print this.” In fact, Aitken had already printed the New Testament and started printing the entire Bible before he approached Congress. He petitioned Congress on January 21, 1781 but there was no official action by Congress until September, 1782. In the mean time, Aitken offered his Bible to the public, publishing a circular on August 11, 1782 which was titled, “Sir, Various inducements have led me to print a neat and correct edition of the Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, which, I expect, will be ready for sale by the beginning of October.”
Despite Barton’s spin and additional embellishments, his admission that Congress did not print the Aitken Bible is significant. This admission is in contrast to what he said on the Monumental movie, on the recently removed Family Research Council video and to the Montana prayer breakfast crowd in March. For instance on the FRC video, Barton said
This is a copy of what the first Bible printed in English in America looked like. This Bible was printed by the U.S. Congress in 1782.
Now he says Congress didn’t print the Bible.
While this may seem like progress, it is only of minor significance until Barton publically admits that he has misled millions of people and takes responsibility for it.