A Challenge to WND and David Barton on Thomas Jefferson and Slavery

Late last night, World Net Daily published another “exclusive” promo piece for David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies. This one focuses on Thomas Jefferson’s relationship to his slaves and repeats Barton’s overconfident denial that Jefferson fathered any of Sally Heming’s children. We did not take up that claim in Getting Jefferson Right because there is no way to know for sure what happened.
However, the unknown author of the WND article then comes after me (and my co-author Michael Coulter without naming him). In his first edition, Barton selectively omitted a section of Virginia’s 1782 law on manumission which allowed slave owners to free slaves by going to the county court house with a “deed of manumission.” He claimed that Virginia law did not allow emancipation. Citing Barton, the WND article doubles down on that claim:

“Numerous historians of previous generations who sought for truth rather than political correctness affirm that the laws of Virginia did indeed forbid Jefferson from doing what he wanted to do throughout his long life: free his own slaves.”

Mr.Barton please name some of those “numerous historians.”
In fact, because of the 1782 law on manumission, many slaves were freed by their owners.
Barton continues:

But Barton says the situation was far more complicated, and takes on Throckmorton’s claim directly in a special section of the new edition. He argues Throckmorton seems to believe only one law governed emancipation in Virginia. In fact, he argues, there were many.

In Getting Jefferson Right, we deal with several relevant Virginia laws, not just one as Barton claims.

Barton asserts:

Because Jefferson suffered severe difficulties throughout his life, Barton says he would be exposing his slaves to possible re-enslavement if he tried to set them free.

Barton observed: “Particularly relevant to Jefferson’s case was a law requiring the economic bonding of certain emancipated slaves… Jefferson… was unable to meet the added financial requirements of that emancipation law.”

We never claimed that it would have been easy for Jefferson to free all of his slaves. We countered Barton’s assertion that Jefferson was not allowed to do so by Virginia law. In fact, there were some restrictions on emancipation for some slaves. On that point, the 1782 Virginia law enumerated the conditions (scroll down to page 39):

 II. Provided always, and be it further enacted, That all slaves so set free, not being in the judgment of the court, of sound mind and body, or being above the age of forty-five years, or being males under the age of twenty-one, or females under the age of eighteen years, shall respectively be supported and maintained by the person so liberating them, or by his or her estate; and upon neglect or refusal so to do, the court of the county where such neglect or refusal may be, is hereby empowered and required, upon application to them made, to order the sheriff to distrain and sell so much of the person’s estate as shall be sufficient for that purpose.

Males and females above 45, males under 21, females under 18 and disabled slaves required financial support. However, not all of Jefferson’s slaves fell in those categories. This provision of Virginia law did not prohibit emancipation. Furthermore, during this period of time, Jefferson voluntarily sold over 50 of his slaves to reduce debts, moving them from one condition of enslavement to another.

Barton and WND continue:

Another law applicable to Jefferson also stated, “All slaves so emancipated shall be liable to be taken… to satisfy any debt contracted by the person emancipating them.”

As Jefferson was, in today’s standards, millions of dollars in debt when he died, freeing the slaves might simply lead to them being taken by someone else.

The clause Barton refers to was passed as a part of a 1792 law. In full, the clause provided:

That all slaves so emancipated shall be liable to be taken by execution to satisfy any debt contracted by the person emancipating them, before such emancipation is made. (emphasis added)

Barton omitted the phrase in bold print. After 1792, a slave freed after an owner contracted a debt could be taken by authorities and sold back into slavery with the proceeds going to satisfy the pre-existing debt. However, if a slave was emancipated and then the slave owner went into debt, the slave could not be taken.

Two points should be obvious. First, this clause is a restriction but not a prohibition. Second, there was a ten year window when the 1792 restriction did not apply.

A third point isn’t as obvious because Barton doesn’t address what Thomas Jefferson did while some Virginia slave owners were manumitting their slaves. Jefferson continued to buy and sell slaves during this period. Jefferson even hired slave catchers to track down runaway slaves.

A Challenge to WND

Let me issue a challenge to Barton and World Net Daily: Allow me space to rebut these promo pieces. Stop misrepresenting my arguments and the evidence and link to this post. Right now, your behavior is a right wing version of the liberal bias you assert is true of the mainstream media. If you are so sure you are correct, then have the courage to back it up.

No, David Barton, I Did Not Recruit Jay Richards

Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission
Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission

Although World Net Daily lists January 12 as the release date for the second edition of David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies, it is now available on Amazon. I ordered the Kindle version and found a serious flaw within minutes of reading Barton’s response to our book Getting Jefferson Right.
Barton claims that I recruited Jay Richards to in turn recruit Christian historians to begin a campaign against Barton. That claim is not true. After reading Getting Jefferson Right, Richards approached me via Facebook message on May 14, 2012. Before that message, I did not know Richards. Here is what Barton says in The Jefferson Lies:

Throckmorton admitted that he had recruited scholars for this purpose, led by Jay Richards, a philosopher/theologian with the Discovery Institute, who, according to media outlets had asked “10 conservative Christian professors to assess Barton’s work.” Although he reported that their responses were “negative,” several of them actually refused to participate in his quest.
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 133-137). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Later in the book’s preface, Barton claims:

In fact, when Jay Richards (the speaker from the Discovery Institute who was enlisted by Throckmorton to find and recruit critics to attack my works) confronted me about what he claimed were errors in The Jefferson Lies, I repeatedly asked him if he had read the book. He refused to answer. But it was clear from his mischaracterization of my arguments that he had not read it (or at least all of it). For instance, he repeatedly asserted that I said that Jefferson was an evangelical, but as is clear in the chapter on Jefferson’s faith, I do not make that claim.
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 613-617). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

In fact, Richards wrote to Michael Coulter and me on May 14, 2012 via the Getting Jefferson Right Facebook page. He thanked us for the book and offered to contact Christian journalists on our behalf. Then, on May 23, Richards wrote to say that he had spoken to two of Barton’s supporters about the historical problems in Barton’s book (see below for the identity of one of them which was revealed by Barton). The next day, Richards alerted me that he had been “commissioned” (it was unclear who did the commissioning, but it wasn’t me) to find six Christian historians to read Barton’s book, our book, and Barton’s DVD lecture America’s Godly Heritage. Richards then approached six scholars who then agreed to provide feedback. Richards did not tell me the identity of the scholars and I still don’t know all of them. The number providing some level of feedback eventually grew to ten.
According to Richards, Barton was also going to be informed that this process was happening.
Barton’s attempt to make me the one pulling all the strings is false and I think he knows it. I say this because on his Wallbuilders’ website, he tells the story differently. About one of the scholars recruited by Richards — The Masters’ College history professor Gregg Frazer — Barton says (see footnote 2):

From a hostile written review of David Barton and WallBuilders written by Gregg Frazer at the request of Jay Richards. That written critique was subsequently passed on to David Barton on August 13, 2012, by the Rev. James Robison, to whom Jay Richards had distributed it.

From Barton, we learn that Gregg Frazer was one of the historians recruited by Richards. Richards then gave the critique to Robison (co-author with Richards of the book Indivisible). Then, if Barton’s timing is correct, Robison gave Frazer’s critique to Barton on August 13, 2012, a few days after Thomas Nelson’s move to pull The Jefferson Lies from the shelves became public.
Not only is Barton’s claim about me false, the narrative he constructs appears to be designed to obscure what really happened. The Jefferson Lies was not doomed by political correctness, but rather by the deficiencies identified by conservative critics and reviewers. Conservative scholar Jay Richards came to us due to the merits of our work, not because we recruited him. In turn, Richards did not act alone in the effort to bring peer review to The Jefferson Lies. 
For some reason, those who commissioned Richards apparently did not follow through in a vigorous manner on the information they received. This is a part of the story as yet untold.
This misrepresentation of recent history is just the first of many issues from the second edition of The Jefferson Lies I will explore in the coming months.
 

New Endorsement of Getting Jefferson Right – John D. Wilsey

In his second edition of The Jefferson Lies, David Barton provides a lengthy critique of our work in Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third PresidentWe intend to use that material in our own second edition which I hope to publish sometime in 2016. In response to Barton’s new edition, I am going to publish some additional endorsements for Getting Jefferson Right by historians and other scholars.  Today, historian and theologian Dr. John D. Wilsey weighs in:

In Getting Jefferson Right, professors Throckmorton and Coulter offer a thoroughgoing effort to understand our third president in all of his human complexity. In their avoidance of special pleading and their pursuit of scholarly integrity, Throckmorton and Coulter serve both the living and the dead. For the living, they advance the field of early US history and help clarify the lines of Christian orthodoxy. For the dead, they honor Jefferson’s humanity by dealing with him honestly. Honor and soundness are the results of their labors.
John D. Wilsey, assistant professor of history and Christian apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea.

Additional endorsements can be found at GettingJeffersonRight.com.

WND Markets The Jefferson Lies

Some readers will see what I did there with the title of this post.
WND is rolling out pre-launch publicity for David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies, including a new website and a trailer. Watch:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2pUBopUnGQ[/youtube]
The new website features endorsements for the new book. I wonder if they have any idea what they are endorsing. Only one teaches history (John Swails, Oral Roberts University). I wonder if Swails was a professor at ORU when Barton played D-1 basketball there (I mean, didn’t play basketball there).
This should be fun.
jeffersonbookcoverIf you want to get a head start on the facts regarding Barton’s claims, a great Christmas gift for yourself or that history lover on your list is Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President by yours truly and Michael Coulter.
Also see Thomas Kidd’s articles in World on the Barton controversy from 2012.
Earlier today, I responded to World Net Daily’s absurd contention that The Jefferson Lies fell victim to political correctness.
 

World Net Daily and David Barton Claim Political Correctness Doomed The Jefferson Lies

On Friday of last week, World Net Daily published something called “Anatomy Of An American Book Banning.” Believe it or not, World Net Daily and David Barton are hoping to convince readers that Barton’s book was pulled from publication due to political correctness. The subtitle of the article is:

How New York Times bestseller was resurrected after falling casualty to political correctness.

Joseph Farah and Barton deserve each other; both engage in historical revisionism. Farah says at the end of the WND article.

Farah added: “Think about all the books that are published every year in America – many tens of thousands. Only one book that I know of in my lifetime has been censored by its own publisher after becoming a bestseller. Only one history book was so banned in the United States, to my knowledge – pulled from the shelves to ensure Americans couldn’t read it and make up their own minds about it. Many books published in America as non-fiction are made up out of whole cloth – and that includes history books with the most preposterous speculation and fantasies. In a free society, that is to be expected. What should never be expected is that controversial books with premises some might disagree with should be banned, spiked, burned or shredded. That’s exactly what happened to this book. And that’s why WND Books is bringing it back into the marketplace.

Is it possible that Farah thinks he is telling the truth? I can’t see how. The book was never “censored,” nor was it “banned in the United States.” The book was not destroyed. WND is not bringing it back into the marketplace. The Jefferson Lies has been available from Wallbuilders since the rights reverted back to Barton after Thomas Nelson stopped publishing it (see this Wayback Machine link for February 2013). It is available now on Amazon and has been for years.  In fact, it has been available since at least June 15, 2013 from World Net Daily’s Superstore (see this Wayback Machine link). Let that sink in. Farah said the book was banned and implied it was somehow not in the marketplace. He has been selling it since early 2013.
There is two critical problems for WND’s theory about political correctness and Thomas Nelson: Thomas Nelson publishes many other conservatives and no other books have been pulled from publication during the same time period.
I left a comment after the article and in it named several conservative authors which Thomas Nelson publishes, including a couple published by WND.

Regarding WND’s accusation that Thomas Nelson pulled Barton’s book due to political correctness, please consider that Thomas Nelson currently publishes books by Jerome Corsi and Ben Shapiro. Thomas Nelson publishes Eric Metaxas’ highly regarded book on Bonhoeffer. Other conservatives published by Thomas Nelson include Richard Land, Judge Napolitano, Tom Coburn, William Bennett, Kevin McCullough, Star Parker, Sam Brownback and others. It makes no sense that Thomas Nelson publishes these authors but removed David Barton’s book due to Barton’s conservative ideas.

The politically correct theory fails when one considers there is no pattern, no other book which was removed. Thomas Nelson conducted an internal review and came to the same conclusion as many external critics. No amount historical revisionism by Barton and WND will change what happened.

Happily, there is an antidote to this revisionism.

World Net Daily to Publish New Edition of David Barton's The Jefferson Lies

wndb-Barton-Jefferson-Lies-COVERFirst, he said Simon & Schuster was going to publish it. They declined.
Today, World Net Daily announced plans to publish a new edition in 2016.
I am looking forward to learning the identity of the “academic endorsements.” Why not just post them now on the WND page promoting the book?
Michael and I are up for another round. We have a few academic endorsements of our own.
 

Setting the Record Straight
on Thomas Jefferson
Historian David Barton responds to his critics head-on
in this new edition of 
The Jefferson Lies

WASHINGTON — America, in so many ways, has forgotten its past. Its roots, its purpose, its identity all have become shrouded behind a veil of political correctness bent on twisting the nation’s founding, and its Founders, to fit within a misshapen modern world.

The time has come to remember again. 


In 2012 prominent historian David Barton set out to correct the distorted image of the once-beloved Founding Father Thomas Jefferson in the best-selling book 
The Jefferson Lies. Despite the wildly popular success of the original hardcover edition, a few dedicated liberal individuals and academics campaigned to discredit Barton’s scholarship and credibility, but to no avail.
Barton responds to his critics in a lengthy preface to this new paperback edition in which he takes to task his former publisher and directly answers with thorough documentation the main issues his detractors registered, while also providing numerous academic endorsements of his work. This paperback version, to be released by WND Books on January 12, 2016, certifies that Barton’s research is sound and his premises are true as he tackles seven myths about Thomas Jefferson head-on and answers pressing questions about this incredible statesman including:
•   Did Thomas Jefferson really have a child by his young slave girl, Sally Hemings?

•   Did he write his own Bible, excluding the parts of Christianity with which he disagreed?


•   Was he a racist who opposed civil rights and equality for black Americans?


•   Did he, in his pursuit of separation of church and state, advocate the secularizing of public life?

Through Jefferson’s own words and the eyewitness testimony of contemporaries, Barton repaints a portrait of the man from Monticello as a visionary, an innovator, a man who revered Jesus, a classical Renaissance man, and a man whose pioneering stand for liberty and God-given inalienable rights fostered a better world for this nation and its posterity. For America, the time to remember these truths again is now. 


David Barton is the founder and president of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional heritage. He is the author of many best-selling books, including Original Intent, The Bulletproof George Washington, American History in Black and White, and The Question of Freemasonry and the Founding Fathers. He addresses more than four hundred groups each year. Barton was named by Timemagazine as one of America’s twenty-five most influential evangelicals, and he has received numerous national and international awards, including Who’s Who in Education and Daughters of the American Revolution’s highest award, the Medal of Honor. David and his wife, Cheryl, have three grown children. 

The Jefferson Lies will be in bookstores nationwide on January 12, 2016. 

Daily Jefferson: Why July 2 Could Have Been Independence Day

Thomas Jefferson wanted the fact that he authored the Declaration of Independence on his tombstone. Even though his work was edited, he is credited with the authorship. The favorable vote for independence was conducted by Congress on July 2, 1776. According to the National Archives website:

Independence Day Should Have Been July 2 –July 2, 1776 is the day that the Continental Congress actually voted for independence. John Adams, in his writings, even noted that July 2 would be remembered in the annals of American history and would be marked with fireworks and celebrations. The written Declaration of Independence was dated July 4 but wasn’t actually signed until August 2. Fifty-six delegates eventually signed the document, although all were not present on that day in August.

After the Declaration was finally approved and dated July 4, the document was not signed until August 2.
John Adams thought that July 2 would be the day that celebrations took place marking American independence. He said in a July 3, 1776 letter to his wife:

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

As we all know, July 4th is the day which became an unpaid federal holiday in 1870.
So say a prayer, play some games, explode some things and watch some fireworks starting today through July 4 and you’ll have everything covered.
And if you give gifts, here is a suggestion.

Daily Jefferson: June 21, 1808 Letter From Thomas Jefferson to James Pemberton About Relations With Native Americans

David Barton sometimes tells his audiences that Thomas Jefferson edited the Gospels in order to give just the words of Christ to the Indians for their instruction. However, there are many words of Jesus which Jefferson did not include in his work. Another fact that makes Barton’s claims even more of a fantasy is that Jefferson believed learning English and reading the Bible was the last thing Indians should do to become civilized. In this letter to James Pemberton, Jefferson gives a summary of his agenda to make the Indians more like the English. He begins by saying learning letters is the last step:

I wish they may begin their work at the right end. our experience with the Indians has proved that letters are not the first, but the last step in the progression from barbarism to civilisation.   
Our Indian neighbors will occupy all the attentions we may spare, towards the improvement of their condition. the four great Southern tribes are advancing hopefully. the foremost are the Cherokees, the Upper settlements of whom have made to me a formal application to be recieved into the Union as citizens of the US. & to be governed by our laws. if we can form for them a simple & acceptable plan of advancing by degrees to a maturity for recieving our laws, the example will have a powerful effect towards stimulating the other tribes in the same progression, and will chear the gloomy views which have overspread their minds as to their own future history. I salute you with friendship & great respect.

In our rebuttal to Barton in World magazine in 2012, we said this about Jefferson’s views on missionaries to Indians.

In his response, Barton created several straw men—that is, he attacked his misrepresentations of our work. He claimed we deny the role of Congress in using religion to civilize the Indians. That is not true. Although peripheral to our purposes, we acknowledge the unfortunate abuse of Indians via religion by the federal government. However, we don’t focus on U.S. relations with Indians because our purpose was to examine Barton’s claims about Thomas Jefferson and the Indians. On point, Jefferson did not hide his thoughts about Indians and missionaries. In a letter to physician James Jay, Jefferson asserted in 1809:

“The plan [Jay’s plan] of civilizing the Indians is undoubtedly a great improvement on the ancient and totally ineffectual one of beginning with religious missionaries. Our experience has shown that this must be the last step of the process.”[iii]

Jefferson added that the Indians preferred Aesop’s Fables and Robinson Crusoe and outlined several steps to civilization before religious matters could be introduced. Yes, the government occasionally paid missionaries to work with Indians, but Jefferson expressed reservations about the policy.[iv]

Daily Jefferson: Jefferson on Blackstone and British Common Law

According to David Barton, Thomas Jefferson thought Sir William Blackstone was foundational to legal practice. However, Jefferson felt a reliance on Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England  by American law students had led to what he called the “degeneracy of legal science.” In fact, Jefferson told  Judge John Tyler in this June 17, 1812 letter that he preferred to rely on no British authorities for legal interpretations after the time of the Declaration of Independence. Following his recommendations would “uncanonize” Blackstone. Jefferson said:

But the state of the English law at the date of our emigration, constituted the system adopted here.  We may doubt, therefore, the propriety of quoting in our courts English authorities subsequent to that adoption;  still more, the admission of authorities posterior to the Declaration of Independence, or rather to the accession of that King, whose reign, ab initio, was the very tissue of wrongs which rendered the Declaration at length necessary.  The reason or it had inception at least as far back as the commencement of his reign.  This relation to the beginning of his reign, would add the advantage of getting us rid of all Mansfield’s innovations, or civilizations of the common law.  For however I admit the superiority of the civil over the common law code, as a system of perfect justice, yet an incorporation of the two would be like Nebuchadnezzar’s image of metals and clay, a thing without cohesion of parts.  The only natural improvement of the common law, is through its homogeneous ally, the chancery, in which new principles are to be examined, concocted and digested.  But when, by repeated decisions and modifications, they are rendered pure and certain, they should be transferred by statute to the courts of common law, and placed within the pale of juries.  The exclusion from the courts of the malign influence of all authorities after the Georgium sidus became ascendant, would uncanonize Blackstone, whose book, although the most elegant and best digested of our law catalogue, has been perverted more than all others, to the degeneracy of legal science.  A student finds there a smattering of everything, and his indolence easily persuades him that if he understands that book, he is master of the whole body of the law.  The distinction between these, and those who have drawn their stores from the deep and rich mines of Coke and Littleton, seems well understood even by the unlettered common people, who apply the appellation of Blackstone lawyers to these ephemeral insects of the law.

Although his Commentaries were popular, Blackstone opposed American independence. Jefferson, instead of seeing Blackstone as an influence, saw him as a barrier to a distinctly American law profession.
For more on Getting Jefferson Right, click the link.

Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson

In honor of our third president, I can suggest a worthy gift given to anyone in his name.
jeffersonbookcover
 
Written mostly to debunk David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies, the book stands on its own as an examination of Jefferson’s views on religion, the Bible, and slavery.
Barton spent a lot of time at the Faith Baptist Church telling the audience that the founders all followed Blackstone’s ideas that our government was based on the Bible. Thomas Jefferson wasn’t impressed with that argument as this letter to John Adams shows. Here’s just a bit that sounds like what David Barton would like us to do:

it is not only the sacred volumes they have thus interpolated, gutted, and falsified, but the works of others relating to them, and even the laws of the land. we have a curious instance of one of these pious frauds in the Laws of Alfred. he composed, you know, from the laws of the Heptarchy, a Digest for the government of the United kingdom, and in his preface to that work he tells us expressly the sources from which he drew it, to wit, the laws of Ina, of Offa & Aethelbert, (not naming the Pentateuch.) but his pious Interpolator, very awkwardly, premises to his work four chapters of Exodus (from the 20th to the 23d) as a part of the laws of the land; so that Alfred’s preface is made to stand in the body of the work. our judges too have lent a ready hand to further these frauds, and have been willing to lay the yoke of their own opinions on the necks of others; to extend the coercions of municipal law to the dogmas of their religion, by declaring that these make a part of the law of the land.