Again this summer, David Barton is separating students from their money. Last summer via Glenn Beck’s Mercury One charity, the historical document collector started a summer internship program designed to prepare students ages 18-25 to educate their professors in history. Round two is this summer and Barton carries on his war with professors via his students.
Barton: Racists? What Racists?
I feel sorry for the students but it is too late for those who have already gone through it. Last summer, some came away with some problems they had to unlearn. In this post, I want to focus on something Barton said in the OneNewsNow interview.
And contrary to reports from liberal media outlets and academics, the country was not founded by a bunch of slave-owning racists, he [Barton] argued. “Once we separated from Great Britain, then you find that three out of four Founding Fathers released slaves, freed slaves, started abolitionist societies, went on to crusade against slavery,” he offered as examples.
While I don’t trust his math, I don’t need to have an exact percentage to assess what happened at the founding of the United States. Whether most founders owned slaves or not (I believe they did), what matters is what they did when it counted. In Christian America, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention decided that preserving the union was more important that ending slavery. We all know the history. Slavery didn’t end because noble founders “released slaves, freed slaves, started abolitionist societies, went on to crusade against slavery” or any such thing.
Some founders never owned slaves and were always opposed to slavery and in good conscience refused to support the union. Others condemned slavery, but owned slaves and held racist attitudes. Still others believed Africans were destined by God to serve whites. The situation is far more complex than Barton portrays it to be. No rationalization or math trick can change what happened or make it all better. It is only in the current white evangelical Republican echo chamber that such a whitewashing can be considered informed and wise commentary.
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Sarah Pulliam Bailey has a profile of Stephen McDowell in today’s WaPo. McDowell runs the Providence Foundation, a Christian nationalist group with David Barton on its board.
Bailey attended one of McDowell’s “Christian history” tours and reported her observations. Although she doesn’t give a full account, what she describes sounds like David Barton’s discredited spiritual heritage Capitol tour.
McDowell follows the Christian nationalist approach of eliminating moral tension from history. For instance, Pocahontas wasn’t a captive, she was a convert. Bailey reports that McDowell pointed to the painting of the baptism of Pocahontas and told them “her baptism is a reflection of why the colonies were established.” In this version of history, Pocahontas willingly accepted Christ and freely married John Rolfe. In fact, the conversion of Pocahontas occurred while she was in English captivity; perhaps the Stockholm Syndrome should be called the Pocahontas Syndrome.
Some Facts Wrong
John Fea is quoted in this piece saying McDowell gets “some facts wrong.” His point is that the bigger picture is the distortion of the past for present-day political purposes. While I agree, I also think it is unconscionable how many facts these people get wrong for the money they charge. According to Bailey, McDowell charged the school group $999/person for this experience.
The financial and time investment make these experiences especially hard to undo. The participants now think they have had the hidden truth revealed to them. The Christian guide they trust pulls back the curtain and shows them the real facts. Now when someone corrects the errors, these students and their parents are prepared to discount the actual facts. There is strong motivation in most people to make that investment of time, money, and trust worth it. To find out that much of the information is wrong or biased is very hard to accept.
If you are reading this and thinking about doing one of these tours, please contact me or John Fea. There are some really excellent ways to address this subject matter.
After Barton’s book was pulled from publication in 2012, he claimed Simon & Schuster would republish it. That never came to pass. Then WorldNetDaily put it out claiming that Christian publisher Thomas Nelson pulled the book due to “political correctness.” Barton’s buddy Glenn Beck claimed that “liberal bastards” were behind the effort to discredit the book. These claims came even though most of the recent critics were Christian college professors. In short, none of these excuses hold water.
Thomas Nelson said at the time that they lost confidence in the books facts and pulled the book due to historical errors. I outlined what I know about the situation in a previous post. In fact, philosopher and college professor Jay Richards recruited 10 Christian scholars, mostly historians, to read our book and then Barton’s. On the whole, the scholars came back to Richards with the feedback that Barton had turned Jefferson into a figure unrecognizable to them. It wasn’t long afterwards that Thomas Nelson took the extremely rare step of pulling the book from publication.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said Ecclesia was unaccredited. I have corrected it to reflect that the school is accredited by the Association of Biblical Higher Education but is not regionally accredited which is the gold standard for academic accreditation.
Watch out, shoes are dropping in the Ecclesia College kickback case. Arkansas Online today reports that Oren Paris III resigned from his post as president of Ecclesia College and entered a last minute conditional
guilty plea in the kickback and bribery case which came to light early last year. Along with State Senator Jon Woods, and consultant Randall Shelton, Paris was indicted in federal court on March 1, 2017 for allegedly participating in a scheme to funnel state improvement funds through Ecclesia to Woods and Shelton. State representative Micah Neal was also in on the alleged plot and earlier entered a guilty plea.
Ecclesia College is an Christian school in Springdale AR which has the support of Christian nationalists David Barton and Eric Metaxas. The school is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education but is not accredited by the Higher Learning Commission which covers schools in Arkansas.
Initially, Paris was defiant and claimed he would be vindicated. Although Paris entered a guilty plea, the move may have been a legal maneuver, according to media reports. His trial was slated to begin Monday and Paris may be hoping to revisit his status if an appeals court overturns Judge Timothy Brooks decision not to dismiss the case.
In the plea agreement, Paris admits that he “knowingly obtained GIF [General Improvement Funds] money for the College under materially false and fraudulent pretenses.” Paris then caused funds to be paid to Randall Shelton knowing that some of those funds would end up back with Senator Jon Woods in a kickback. By entering a conditional guilty plea to one count, Paris has thrown Shelton and Woods under the bus.
Incredibly, Ecclesia College is standing by Paris, writing on the school Facebook page:
As you know, Dr. Oren Paris and two others were indicted a little over a year ago by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. For Oren, his immediate family, and the extended family at Ecclesia College, this has been a period of spiritual trial, eased by an ever increasing gratitude for God’s constant presence and His great faithfulness.
While we continue to believe firmly that Dr. Paris has been honest and forthright in his statements from the beginning of this case, he and his legal team are now convinced that the best path forward is to accept a conditional plea agreement negotiated with the government. We stand with him in his decision.
Information recently brought to Dr. Paris’s attention has shed new light on facts he previously knew but had interpreted differently. This enables him to truthfully make the statement required by the government. The terms of the conditional plea agreement clear the path for an appeal to be filed with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to address some the issues raised during the course of this case that have caused us all great concern regarding the appearance of fairness of the judicial system. In the meantime, while Dr. Paris will be stepping down as president of Ecclesia College until his name is cleared in order to avoid further unnecessary distraction from the College’s mission, he will continue to serve Ecclesia.
We know and trust that God is moving on our behalf toward His ultimate answer to our ongoing prayer for His deliverance. Please continue to pray with us that the upcoming appeal will lead to a fully just outcome in the end.We are completely confident that God has every individual and this institution in His all-capable hands. To the faculty, staff, and students operations will continue as normal. We look forward to seeing Him in and through this situation for the overall good and promising future of Ecclesia College.
For His glory,
EC Board of Governance
It is very difficult to square the plea agreement with this statement from the Board of Governance. If his statement to the government is true, then he “knowingly obtained GIF money for the College under materially false and fraudulent pretenses” and “knowing and intentionally engaged in a scheme to defraud the citizens of Arkansas of the honest services of Arkansas state Senator Woods.” (See image below from page 4 of the plea agreement)
This case is not over. Senator Woods and Randall Shelton still must go to trial and no doubt they will have something to say about Paris’ involvement.
Evangelicals have been a big puzzle since Donald Trump has come on the scene. Why would these moral crusaders fall behind a womanizer who bragged about sexual assault? A new study from sociologists Andrew Whitehead, Joseph Baker and Samuel Perry in a recent edition of the Sociology of Religion journal provides some answers.
The study, which is also summarized by the authors in Monday’s Washington Post, points to a belief in core tenets of Christian nationalism as a major factor associated with Trump support. To assess Christian nationalism, the authors asked participants in the Baylor Religion Survey the following questions:
“The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation,”
“The federal government should advocate Christian values,”
“The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state” (reverse coded),
“The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces,”
“The success of the United States is part of God’s plan,” and
“The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”
The authors found that the more a person believed America is or should be a Christian nation, the more likely that person was to vote for Trump. This was true across party affiliation. The image below taken from the study demonstrates that Democrats with Christian nationalist beliefs were three times more likely to vote for Trump than Democrats who didn’t have those beliefs.
Item five above is one which can be interpreted without a Christian nationalist meaning. Christians of many stripes see God as having a general plan which includes the success and failure of nations in it. One need not see America as having a special plan to endorse this item. Otherwise, I think the items assess important components of Christian nationalist beliefs about church and state.
Make America Christian Again
In short, the more you buy into David Barton’s way of looking at history, the more likely you are to be a Trump supporter. Christian nationalist voters reason that Trump will move America toward their vision of a Christian America even if he isn’t personally devout. Once upon a time, Christian leaders told us that character counts in leaders. Now, power is what matters. Trump voters want policies in place which will coerce a Christian consensus — make America Christian again.*
The authors also found that anti-Muslim sentiment related to Trump support. Christian nationalists, such as David Barton, have demonized Islam beyond the historical record and at least one Christian “religious liberty” group denies religion status to Islam.
After reading this study, I feel on the side of the angels by fact checking Christian nationalists historical claims (e.g., Getting Jefferson Right). Christian scholars have a special responsibility to present the facts and withstand the pressure from Christian leaders to corroborate a false Christian nationalist narrative.
In a remarkable Yahoo News article, Jon Ward gives the public a look into the thinking of Eric Metaxas as he defends himself against his critics.
Metaxas is the author of books on Bonhoeffer, Wilberforce and most recently Martin Luther. Much to the puzzlement of many, Metaxas is also a full-throated supporter of Donald Trump. In his email exchange with Metaxas, reporter Ward sowed sharp questions about Metaxas’ support for Trump and reaped Metaxas’ whirlwind of projection and self-justification. You must read the whole thing at Yahoo and then hop on over to Medium where Jon reproduced the email exchange in full.
I could pick out many aspects of this exchange, but Ward’s piece is so clear that little commentary is needed. I will simply hit one or two high spots and then end with some commentary on Metaxas’ rant about Messiah history professor John Fea.
House of Mirrors
Ward summarized the email exchange:
To read Metaxas’ email was like entering a house of mirrors. It was not Trump who had aroused and played upon xenophobia as a candidate by his endless talk of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and his slur of Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and his talk of banning all Muslims from entering the country. Rather, “Beltway and Manhattan elites” were engaged in a “new and accepted tribalism and xenophobia” against “white European ‘Christian’ varieties” and in favor of Islam.
Ward really captured the contradiction in Metaxas later in the article:
Metaxas firmly planted himself on the side of the common folk against “elites.” He protested the “patronizing” and “fundamentally un-American” attitudes of media gatekeepers, who he said believe “many Americans are too uneducated or too gullible to properly understand all that confusing news in its raw form.” But when it came to the topic of Trump’s many racially charged comments dismissing or demeaning minority groups, Metaxas didn’t hesitate to take the view of an elite who knew what was better for those communities than they did themselves.
Trump, Metaxas said, “has been perceived as wrong by certain groups, by many groups. We need to take that perception seriously, but just how seriously is the larger question. Are we not living in a time when everyone is far too easily offended, so much so that we are taking our eyes off what actually matters, off actually solving the real problems of people rather than giving politically correct lip service to those problems?”
When you attack Metaxas or Trump, you’re patronizing. When Trump attacks, the other side is too easily offended.
More contradiction comes via Metaxas’ opinion of Hillary Clinton. On one hand, he wrote to Ward:
Christians who think the Church in America might have survived a Hillary Clinton presidency are something like the devout Christian Germans who seriously and prayerfully thought it unChristian to be involved in opposing Hitler because to do so would have dirtied their hands with politics,…
He even once tweeted “Hitlery Clinton” but in the email exchange he told Ward: “Nor do I mean to compare Hillary to Hitler, but the principle at issue is the same nonetheless.” If he didn’t mean to compare Hillary to Hitler, then why bring up Hitler?
John Fea and the Beast of Revelation
Despite his complaints of being pilloried, he did not hesitate to pillory. His response to a question about historian John Fea’s spot-on critique of his book If You Can Keep It is a case in point. Ward asked in part:
The greater point is that Fea thinks you make a common mistake of many evangelicals, that of confusing America with the kingdom of God. This is a complex and nuanced point. A firm rootedness in one’s citizenship in heaven should not produce passivity or fatalism about one’s community or nation here on earth. But the critique of culture warriors often is that they cling too tightly to worldly outcomes because the two categories (kingdom of God and America) have become almost unintelligibly mixed or combined. Do you think you have done this in any way?
Metaxas snorted in response:
Mr. Fea’s critiques have not only not persuaded me, they have helped me see more clearly why what I said in my book If You Can Keep It is necessary to communicate to as many Americans as possible at this time in history. If I could give a copy of that book to every American — or at least to every young American — I would do so. Mr. Fea’s misunderstanding on this central issue — one that particularly seems to plague academics — is at the heart of our problems as a culture and as a church.
To mix these very separate categories is a great sin indeed, but such sins must be in the eyes of the beholder. I am afraid Mr. Fea has committed the opposite sin in being so enamored of a certain anti-populist and anti-American narrative — which view is so trendy in the Academy that he should be concerned about having accepted it himself — that he falls into the category of those who find any healthy celebration of patriotism as like unto worshipping the Beast of Revelation.
Metaxas did not answer the question. All he did was attack Fea’s character and his patriotism. If Metaxas wants to elevate discourse among Christians, perhaps he should start with himself.
Those new to the criticisms of Metaxas’ historical errors in If You Can Keep It should go back and read the many critical reviews of the book by Christian historians (here, here, here, here, here). These critiques documented the many historical problems in the book. At the time, he doubled down on the errors and aligned with David Barton against the critics.
I believe historians writing about this period of history will find Ward’s article quite helpful as a window into the evangelical split over Trump. Agree or disagree with Metaxas, I think and he and Ward deserve thanks for being willing to put this conversation before the public.
Another list of critiques of Eric Metaxas’ If You Can Keep It John Fea’s series Tracy McKensie’s blog Gregg Frazer’s review My article in the Daily Caller My blog posts addressing the errors
A military religious freedom watchdog group is asking Commanding General Major General Pete Johnson to uninvite Kenneth Copeland from the February 1 prayer breakfast at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Kenneth Copeland has a rather checkered history but the main reason for the outrage is Kenneth Copeland’s past teaching on how to address post-traumatic stress disorder. On that topic, the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation Mikey Weinstein told the General:
But there’s something else that makes Copeland an even more outrageous choice to speak to any military audience. He has claimed that PTSD isn’t real because it isn’t biblical, saying on a 2013 Veterans Day episode of his TV show:
“Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me. You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it, and it doesn’t take psychology. That promise right there [referring to a Bible verse he had just read] will get rid of it.”
Copeland’s guest that day, Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton, wholeheartedly agreed, adding that warriors in the Bible fighting in the name of God were “esteemed” and in the “faith hall of fame” because they “took so many people out in battle.”
At the time, Barton and Copeland took a lot of heat over that “advice.” Before I go on, here is the segment:
I hope the General decides to find another speaker. In my opinion, Copeland disqualified himself to speak to our service men and women. In addition to his bogus advice about PTSD, he teaches that people who recite certain Bible verses will survive war. In essence, his teaching is that Christians will survive if they do the right things and recite the right magic Bible verses (Psalm 91 is one he suggests). In his PTSD video, he claims that the Bible gives a promise of survival to soldiers who fight for God. I don’t know what happens to people who don’t believe these things according to Copeland.
I can’t imagine what he will say that will be of general benefit or encouragement to people of all faiths. His teaching in his Veteran’s Day video and on his website requires a rather close adherence to his specific interpretation of the Bible. There are many Christians who reject this approach, not to mention those of other faiths and no faith. Surely, General Johnson can find someone who can bring people together and respect troops of all faith traditions.
Here is the announcement in the Fort Jackson newsletter:
National Prayer Breakfast to take place Feb. 1 at NCO Club sponsoring the National Prayer Breakfast for the Fort Jackson Community 7:30-9 a.m. Feb. 1 at the NCO Club. Nationally recognized televangelist Kenneth Copeland will be the speaker. Tickets are available from your unit. The event is free, but offerings will be accepted at the event. Attire will be duty uniform or civilian equivalent. The purpose of the NPB is to emphasize the importance of prayer for the Nation, Fort Jackson, our armed forces, and our Families. The themes for the breakfast are: prayers for the nation, community relationship and spiritual fitness.
Out today, Vox has an article by Tara Burton hoping to help progressive readers understand the David Barton phenomenon. Over the years, Barton
has been identified as the “historian” behind a Christian nationalist narrative of the nation’s founding. Burton correctly connects newly appointed Religious Liberty Ambassador Sam Brownback and PA Republican candidate for Congress Rick Saccone with Barton. Brownback and Barton have a long relationship. I wrote about the Saccone-Barton link early last year.
Overall, to me as a long time student of this subject, there isn’t much new here.
When an Earned Degree Isn’t Earned
I am disappointed that Burton didn’t use the Vox platform to point out Barton’s academic fraud. She touched on it but left an incomplete impression:
Barton is a self-taught historian and activist. He’s received little formal historical training and his sole credentialed degree is a bachelor’s in religious education from evangelical Oral Roberts University, although he later claimed to have earned a doctorate from officially unaccredited Life Christian University on the basis of his published works.
Yes, he claimed one day to have an earned doctorate, but then the very next day, he took down his boastful claim when I revealed that the “earned doctorate” wasn’t earned but came from diploma mill Life Christian University. Barton no longer claims the degree. He won’t answer questions about his initial claim. Given that Burton said Barton gives Christian nationalism a “veneer of academic respectability,” I think this detail is quite significant.
The issue isn’t simply that he claimed a degree from an unaccredited school. Such that it is, he does have a piece of paper from Life Christian University. The claim which goes to Barton’s credibility is that he said that the degree was earned without specifying the means of earning it. Barton never said the degree was earned based on his published works. That rationale came from the president of Life Christian University, Douglas Wingate.
Despite this missed opportunity, I think Burton’s gets Barton’s influence mostly right when she says:
Barton remains a prominent figure in evangelical and dominionist circles and a regular on conservative conference circuits. He continues to speak on his nationally syndicated WallBuilders radio show, on which he describes himself as “America’s premier historian.” That said, since his fall from grace, Barton has publicly been cited by fewer and fewer prominent politicians, which makes Saccone’s choice to feature him at an early rally striking. But despite this, his influence is such that his particular narrative of American history is still taken by some on the right as, well, gospel.
These days almost no students who take my classes know who Barton is. More younger people seem wary of his claims. However, among those who strongly believe America is a Christian nation, Barton can do no wrong.
I watched it for over an hour and saw three state events. The first one I couldn’t identify because I tuned in too late and then later on I heard Kansas and Delaware politicians talk about keeping faith in America. Several of the speakers talked about faith and mentioned people of all faiths but the only representative of any faith besides Christianity was a rabbi (I didn’t catch his name). All other people featured during the event were Christian. It became obvious the longer I listened that the event should have been named: Keep Conservative Christianity in America.
These conservative Christians seemed to feel that their faith was under attack. They spoke as if their freedom to practice their religion was in jeopardy. How strange a sight it was to see elected officials standing in places of power praying in the name of Jesus, invoking their specific religion without restriction, and complaining about limitations on their religious liberty. They quoted the Bible as if all religions and people of no religion should respect those teachings. Remember these are legislators who are proclaiming that they, as legislators, need to keep faith in America, but when they say faith, the only faith they are talking about is Christianity.
In the Delaware session, bad history was evident. The final speaker of the session (I couldn’t hear his name) told the story of Ben Franklin’s call to prayer as if the Constitutional Convention delegates actually heeded Franklin’s call and prayed daily during the Convention (they didn’t).
Unfortunately, this looks like another concerted effort to confuse Christians about the actual events of the founding era and church-state relations. This can only continue to lead many churches into a false mission of political activism, aligning themselves with Republican candidates who speak Christianese.
Better campaign than Keeping Faith in America: Keeping Christ in Christianity.
Oh, how I have missed me some Wallbuilders!
In a stunningly simplistic video, Tim Barton, son of David Barton, holds up a copy of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and asks if Darwin was a racist. Why would he wonder this? The full title of Darwin’s book is: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Because of the phrase “favoured races” Barton says Darwin was racist and evolution shouldn’t be studied in school. Watch:
Did Tim Barton Forget the Constitutional Convention Slavery Deal?
Barton invokes the Declaration of Independence to suggest that the founders didn’t believe in “favoured races.” He said at about one minute: “The founding fathers even wrote in the Declaration, ‘All men are created equal.” There’s not favored races.”
Really? Has young Mr. Barton forgotten about the subject that nearly ripped the Constitutional Convention apart? The favored race was represented in Philadelphia while the African slave was sold out by our founding fathers. How can you tell the story of America without the story of favored races?
What Then Should We Teach?
After insinuating that Darwin was a racist, Barton questions the teaching of evolution. If that is the standard, then we will have to question the teaching of Christianity. Although less so now, in the past many Christians used their religion as a basis for racist attitudes. One major divide during the Civil War was theological between abolitionists and those who believed Christianity supported or even mandated the superiority of whites. One of the clearest illustrations of this is a speech given by the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens in 1861.
MR. STEPHENS rose and spoke as follows:
Mr. Mayor, and Gentlemen of the Committee, and Fellow-Citizens:- . . . We are in the midst of one of the greatest epochs in our history. The last ninety days will mark one of the most memorable eras in the history of modern civilization. . . .
I was remarking, that we are passing through one of the greatest revolutions in the annals of the world. Seven States have within the last three months thrown off an old government and formed a new. This revolution has been signally marked, up to this time, by the fact of its having been accomplished without the loss of a single drop of blood. [Applause.]
This new constitution, or form of government, constitutes the subject to which your attention will be partly invited. . . .
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other — though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.” Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind — from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just — but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal. (emphasis added)
Darwin or Jefferson?
Below I briefly discuss Darwin and race. However, no matter what Darwin thought about it, it is incredibly hypocritical for Tim Barton to brand
Darwin as a racist on the basis of the title of Origin of Species while father David Barton elsewhere lauds Thomas Jefferson as an “advocate for equality.” In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson said about African slaves:
It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expence of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race. — To these objections, which are political, may be added others, which are physical and moral. The first difference which strikes us is that of colour. Whether the black of the negro resides in the reticular membrane between the skin and scarf-skin, or in the scarf-skin itself; whether it proceeds from the colour of the blood, the colour of the bile, or from that of some other secretion, the difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and cause were better known to us. And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of colour in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immoveable
veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race? Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant symmetry of form, their own judgment in favour of the whites, declared by their preference of them, as uniformly as is the preference of the Oranootan for the black women over those of his own species. The circumstance of superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man? Besides those of colour, figure, and hair, there are other physical distinctions proving a difference of race. They have less hair on the face and body. They secrete less by the kidnies, and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odour. This greater degree of transpiration renders them more tolerant of heat, and less so of cold, than the whites. Perhaps too a difference of structure in the pulmonary apparatus, which a late ingenious experimentalist has discovered to be the principal regulator of animal heat, may have disabled them from extricating, in the act of inspiration, so much of that fluid from the outer air, or obliged them in expiration, to part with more of it. They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labour through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present. When present, they do not go through it with more coolness or steadiness than the whites. They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection. To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed in labour. An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep
of course. Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous. It would be unfair to follow them to Africa for this investigation. We will consider them here, on the same stage with the whites, and where the facts are not apocryphal on which a judgment is to be formed. It will be right to make great allowances for the difference of condition, of education, of conversation, of the sphere in which they move. Many millions of them have been brought to, and born in America. Most of them indeed have been confined to tillage, to their own homes, and their own society: yet many have been so situated, that they might have availed themselves of the conversation of their masters; many have been brought up to the handicraft arts, and from that circumstance have always been associated with the whites. Some have been liberally educated, and all have lived in countries where the arts and sciences are cultivated to a considerable degree, and have had before their eyes samples of the best works from abroad. The Indians, with no advantages of this kind, will often carve figures on their pipes not destitute of design and merit. They will crayon out an animal, a plant, or a country, so as to prove the existence of a germ in their minds which only wants cultivation. They astonish you with strokes of the most sublime oratory; such as prove their reason and sentiment strong, their imagination glowing and elevated. But never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture. In music they are more generally gifted than the whites with accurate ears for tune and time, and they have been found capable of imagining a small catch. Whether they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody, or of complicated harmony, is yet to be proved. Misery is often the parent of 267–
the most affecting touches in poetry. — Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love is the peculiar ;oestrum of the poet. Their love is ardent, but it kindles the senses only, not the imagination. Religion indeed has produced a Phyllis Whately; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism. The heroes of the Dunciad are to her, as Hercules to the author of that poem. Ignatius Sancho has approached nearer to merit in composition; yet his letters do more honour to the heart than the head. They breathe the purest effusions of friendship and general philanthropy, and shew how great a degree of the latter may be compounded with strong religious zeal. He is often happy in the turn of his compliments, and his stile is easy and familiar, except when he affects a Shandean fabrication of words. But his imagination is wild and extravagant, escapes incessantly from every restraint of reason and taste, and, in the course of its vagaries, leaves a tract of thought as incoherent and eccentric, as is the course of a meteor through the sky. His subjects should often have led him to a process of sober reasoning: yet we find him always substituting sentiment for demonstration. Upon the whole, though we admit him to the first place among those of his own colour who have presented themselves to the public judgment, yet when we compare him with the writers of the race among whom he lived, and particularly with the epistolary class, in which he has taken his own stand, we are compelled to enroll him at the bottom of the column. This criticism supposes the letters published under his name to be genuine, and to have received amendment from no other hand; points which would not be of easy investigation. The improvement of the blacks in body and mind, in the first instance of their mixture with the whites, has been observed by every one, and proves that their inferiority is not the effect merely of their condition of life.
There is serious discussion among scholars about the racial views of Darwin. Some believe he held racist views, others believe he entertained them but eventually discarded them. As an illustration of someone who offers a sympathetic view of Darwin, I offer this video featuring Adam Gopnik on Fora.tv.
Given what Gopnik says about Darwin here (entertained ideas of human being distributed in breeds like animals), perhaps Darwin followed Jefferson’s thinking. I don’t know enough about the intellectual history of that concept to say; Gopnik may be being too charitable. If need be, I can look into that for a future post. However, I hope I have demonstrated that it is sloppy thinking and poor history to try to pin racism on any one view of origins.