How to Use Bad Situations to Teach Good Lessons – David Barton's The Jefferson Lies in Foundations of History

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

Most of my professor colleagues use negative events in the news to teach various lessons. For instance, I have used Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism to teach my students about plagiarism. I feel sure many profs have used Monica Crowley’s plagiarism to teach about that subject. I also refer to David Barton’s faux doctorate to help my students understand how to simulate expertise.
With this post, I hope to start a series of occasional articles which illustrate how one may turn a negative situation into a good lesson. The first contributor is Robert Clemm, Associate Professor of History at Grove City College. The event Rob uses to teach good lessons is the removal from publication of David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies. Below, Rob answers my questions about how he uses The Jefferson Lies to teach good history lessons.

WT: In what course is the activity used?
RC: I incorporate David Barton, and The Jefferson Lies debate, into my Foundations of History course. This is a course that is designed for non-majors at an introductory level but is, in reality, more of a “low-level historiography” course as I’ve never been able to conceive of any other way of teaching it. I broadly divide the class into thirds. The first third is an exploration of how historians view themselves and their discipline utilizing John Lewis Gaddis’ The Landscape of History. The second “third” is the historiography and methodology section in which they read through John H. Arnold’s History: A Very Short Introduction, as well as major figures (Herodotus, Thucydides, Bede) in the development of history. The last third is a “where history is going” section in which we discuss newer (post-1950) approaches towards history such as Gender, Oral, Material Culture, and Digital History.
Barton is integrated into the course at the tail end of my second “third” of the course. After the students have gone through the historiography section, to the point at which Leopold von Ranke seems to establish the “model” for how historians works, Arnold’s book continues by assessing some of the difficulties historians face in interpreting and writing about the past. After they have finished with his book I wanted to try to give them a few opportunities to wrestle with the difficulties of history and apply some of what they had learned. This is also a bit of a skill-based approach as their final paper is an assessment of the work of a historian and I try to give them a few weeks to practice that sort of assessment in a class context. During the shorter week we always have due to break, I have them read and assess a chapter from [Larry Schweikart’s] A Patriot’s History of the United States and [Howard Zinn’s] A People’s History of the United States. Coming back to back, students are really able to see the contrast between two ‘textbooks’ that might as well be describing two different planets for as much as their books have in common. I’ve found that to be a very eye-opening exercise to many students given that they tend to associate any textbook they are given as being near holy writ in terms of truthfulness. I also find that this exercise, which underscores the power of interpretation by historians of the past, paves the way for them to be more receptive to an analysis of David Barton.
WT: Describe the activity.
RC: After the short week, I then spend a whole week (M-W-F classes) on David Barton in the following manner. On Monday I introduce David Barton and pitch him to about as high as I possibly can. In his commitment to primary sources, I describe him as a modern-day antiquarian and in his desire to challenge conventional/received wisdom, I liken him to Thucydides. I may lay it on a bit thick, but generally I’m trying to present him in the best of all possible lights for my students. I’m helped that most of my “lecture” consists of two long interviews David Barton had with Glenn Beck. Not only does this allow Barton to be presented “in his own words,” literally in this case, he also presents most of his main arguments in The Jefferson Lies. To be honest, I intend this day to be a bit of a “set-up” for my students. I’ve had several students, at the end of the week, relate they had been excited about his work and told friends about what they were learning which is precisely my goal for that day.
On Wednesday, I have invited Michael Coulter, your co-author [Getting Jefferson Right], to come speak to my class. He has graciously done this going on 5 years now, and I do appreciate his willingness to do so. Given that on Monday I praised Barton to the heavens I think it is helpful to hear from someone else in providing a contrary voice. In this class I introduce Dr. Coulter and let him speak about his experience with The Jefferson Lies and writing Getting Jefferson Right. He tends to open by describing where he was when he heard Barton’s book had been pulled by Thomas Nelson – I believe he was helping someone paint a room? – and then backtracks through the book itself. In doing so he tends to hit on problems/critiques of points Barton had raised with Beck, but also highlights other issues such as his obfuscation of the slave laws of Virginia through ellipses. As he is lecturing, I tend to just sit back and ‘enjoy’ watching my students suffer a small version of intellectual whiplash.
I also appreciate that he highlights for the students that this is not a mere academic squabble but one Barton has largely brought on himself by claiming to be the Christian historian against which we should all be measured. As Dr. Coulter has said numerous times in my class, by claiming that mantle he is calling into question the work of hundreds of historians, Christian and otherwise, and almost suggesting he is some neo-Gnostic with the keys to the truth of history. In constructing this week, therefore, I spend Monday “teeing up” the class for Michael and on Wednesday he knocks them straight towards confusion. After Wednesday’s class I send them a few links regarding the debate over pulling the books, some from his defenders and some from detractors.
On Friday we discuss not so much The Jefferson Lies itself but the debate surrounding it and whether or not Barton and his defenders had responded as befits being a part of the historical discipline. Given that one defender titled his work “Attacks on David Barton Same as Tactics of Saul Alinsky” and World Net Daily sums up the controversy as “The Anatomy of an American Book Banning” students generally agree that Barton failed to live up to proper historical standards.
WT: What lessons/objectives do you hope to teach with the activity?
RC: I use this week to try and accomplish a diverse number of objectives.
First, I hope that it helps students truly understand that history is a process and a debate. While they may have read that in Arnold’s work, and seen it on display in terms of the contrast between A Patriot’s and A People’s History, I think it is this week that really helps students understand why historians can get animated about a historical debate. Given that so nearly all the students are non-majors, I assume most of them come in with the sense that to choose to be a historian one must be a bit addled. Frankly don’t we know everything that happened? As one colleague commonly greets me in jest, “So, what’s new in history?” I think in discussing the debate over The Jefferson Lies they start to see why historians are passionate about their subject and discipline. In David Barton, so many of us see a charlatan who is not simply misappropriating the past for his own purposes, but also is misusing our entire field as a way of building a following. As they grapple with the implications of the debate I think they become invested as well and get a sense of why historians care so much about their subject as much as David Barton.
Second, I want them to recognize how a historical argument should go which is, frankly, the opposite of what has occurred with Barton and his book. I actually never make a categorical judgment on Barton’s book, telling my students that if they want to have an informed opinion they should read David Barton’s book and yours and then come to their own conclusion in light of the knowledge gained in the course. What I find much more valuable is helping them see why the debate over Barton’s book has “gone off the rails” and doesn’t fit with how historians should engage with one another. Engaging in ad hominem attacks, such as suggesting that you (Dr. Throckmorton) can’t have a valid critique because you aren’t a historian, has no place in how historians should undertake a common search for greater truth. I also highlight, since the debate over the book has become so politicized, that I never once complemented a student in that course for having the “proper Conservative answer” or the “proper Democratic question.” Barton complains endlessly about how he has been attacked by people who had been on “our team” [see the video below] and I instead point out that the only ‘team’ in history is the one trying to discover the truth.
Lastly, I want my students to recognize how historians have a true duty to the general public to present their best work by the standards of the discipline. In many ways this is the week that answers an implicit question as to why Arnold and Gaddis wrote so stridently about historians being humble in their search for the truth and to be constantly “tethered to and disciplined by the sources.” If previously they had thought all of that concern was academics trying to justify their existence, I think it comes home a bit more for them this week. It perhaps comes out most strongly if some students speak up for Barton’s defense and say that the book should have been left on the shelves in the “free market of ideas” so as to let the people decide. While the “marketplace of ideas” sounds good, I tend to press why it is insufficient. It’s a testament to the quality of our students that I don’t tend to have to spell out the answer. Invariably another student highlights how readers place their implicit trust in a historian that they have practiced good scholarship and will never go and check the veracity of someone’s footnotes. Students grasp that historians have to do the careful and dutiful work when in the archives and writing because what we present is trusted by those that read it. We have, in some regard, a trust with the general public that we need to uphold. When we fail to do that, as Barton has with The Jefferson Lies, we violate an implicit contract and cannot move the goalposts in suggesting the public should read it and make up their own minds. While it sounds wonderfully democratic, students realize it’s a sweet-sounding justification for passing off faulty scholarship.
WT: How is the activity received in class?
RC: I think overall it is the best week of the course. Our discussion on Friday tends to be one of the most animated of the course as students have, over the previous two classes, been primed to want to express their own opinion about the book and the controversy.
Beyond content I think it resonates because it comes at a point at the course when they realize they can critique historians and their works at a deeper level than they would have thought at the beginning of the semester. By that point they are aware of the nature of the historical discipline, how it developed, and some of the difficult balances historians have to strike between the reality of the past and representing it in their own work. After a week seeing the differences in American history, with A People’s History and A Patriot’s History, this gives them an opportunity to truly wrestle with questions of responsibility and interpretation. Given that I start the course by asking them why I even have a job when Wikipedia exists, I think it “clicks” for them that history is as much a matter of interpretation as a compendium of facts.
WT: Any other comments or reflections on using bad history to teach good history?
RC: At this point I will continue to use David Barton as I think his work, and the debate surrounding it, truly gets at a number of points I don’t think I could express as easily with any other topic. I also don’t think anyone should feel concerned about students picking up bad habits since Barton and his defenders are so over the top – one student during a discussion asked “Does he know he’s arguing like a 5th grader?” – that it really grates on them regardless of their opinion of the content of his book.
My biggest surprise so far – and perhaps this speaks to your question – is that I’ve never had a defender/acolyte of Barton prepared to go 10 rounds defending him. Now, this could be for any number of reasons; self-selection by students, fear of ‘fighting’ the professor, or simply a desire not to speak in class. At the same time my hope is that students, when confronted with the facts of the Barton controversy, recognize the problems he poses and tend to agree with the critiques. For those concerned that simply presenting bad history might ‘corrupt’ their students, I think that this exercise proves that fear is unfounded. Even with a student body that might be more receptive than the norm to the conclusions of Barton’s work, if not his methods, they seem more than able to separate that from the justified historical critiques of his work.

This is the video that Dr. Clemm shows where Barton attacks me on issues other than history.
Many thanks to Dr. Clemm for sharing this activity.

David Barton Again Says His Christian Critics Were Recruited to Attack Him

David Barton recently gave a speech to the Arkansas Tea Party Alliance. At the end of his presentation, a person in the crowd asked him about the background of his book The Jefferson Lies. Specifically, the questioner wanted to know why it was pulled from publication. Barton then launched into his false victim narrative. Watch:

Initially, he referred to Right Wing Watch who he said is funded by George Soros. After lamenting his Wikipedia page, he implied that someone (perhaps Soros inspired people? He once said that “secular guys” recruited us) got Christian professors to attack his book on Jefferson. He then said that Thomas Nelson got scared by the controversy and pulled his book because they were bought out by Rupert Murdoch and didn’t want any controversy. He defended himself saying that he had boxes of documentation for his claims and that his new book has a chapter debunking his Christian critics.  Now we have gone silent (lulz).
Here we go again.
1. I have never been recruited by anyone to write a critique of David Barton’s work. I do it because I want to and it is immensely satisfying to know the truth. George Soros does not fund my work.
2. There are scores of Christian professors around the country who have weighed in on Barton’s history, not just six.
3. Thomas Nelson said plainly that they lost confidence in the book’s facts. Thomas Nelson did their own review of the claims made by Barton’s critics and determined his books was historically unsound. This was reported widely (not just on MSNBC). The claim about Murdoch has no support. Barton has never offered any proof that Murdoch had anything to do with his book being pulled. Furthermore, HarperCollins Christian (what Thomas Nelson was folded into) has published other controversial books since Barton’s was pulled.
4. Barton’s new book does have a chapter addressing some of our claims. However, he also changed several claims in the new book in keeping with our critiques without giving us any credit. I don’t agree that he satisfactorily addressed our claims and we certainly haven’t gone silent.
It never ceases to amaze me how Barton can stand before Christian people and say the things he does.
I challenge Barton to provide proof that Thomas Nelson pulled his book because they didn’t want controversy.
I challenge him to offer proof that I have been recruited by secular guys, George Soros or anybody to attack his work.
I challenge any of the crowd at the meeting to check Barton’s statement with the Christian professors Barton denigrated. You can get the rest of the story about Jefferson by reading Getting Jefferson Right.

Debunking One of David Barton's Oldest Stories: Thomas Jefferson and the D.C. Schools

Thomas Jefferson Middle School Academy, Washington, DC. From school website
Thomas Jefferson Middle School Academy, Washington, DC. From school website

David Barton was a guest on Michael Brown’s Line of Fire show recently and spun some familiar yarns.
A story that has been around awhile (since Barton’s 1989 book Myth of Separation) is his claim that Thomas Jefferson incorporated the Bible and Isaac Watts hymnal into the curriculum of the Washington D.C. schools while Jefferson was president. This claim has been thoroughly debunked before by others, notably Jim Allison and Chris Rodda. While those authors documented well their rebuttal to Barton, I like to consult the primary sources for myself. Here I lay out Barton’s claim followed by the truth.
Listen to Barton on Line of Fire:


When he became president of the United States, the Constitution authorizes that Washington, D.C. be run by the federal government, not by any state.  So the schools of Washington, D.C. are under federal control. This is a new city when he moves in, he’s the president, he’s the first president to have a full term in the White House, everything else was in New York and Philadelphia, so he gets a full term, brand new city to him, he is now in charge of Washington, D.C. public schools as well. So he’s on the school board for Washington, D.C. public schools, they have to start the system, he authors the plan of education for Washington, D.C. public schools and he installs two reading texts for Washington, D.C. public schools, one is Isaac Watts hymnal, which is where we get the hymns like Joy to the World, etc., that’s what they learned to read from, and the Bible is the other one, and so Jefferson did that.

Barton refers to this story in The Jefferson Lies:

In 1805 President Jefferson was elected head of the board of trustees for the brand new Washington, DC, public schools. 51 He told the city council that he would “willingly undertake the duties proposed to me – so far as others of paramount obligation will permit my attention to them”; 52 that is, he would do what he could for the city schools with the caveat that his presidential duties came first. Robert Brent therefore served as head of the trustees instead of Jefferson; but as a trustee, Jefferson contributed much to the new school system. In fact, James Ormond Wilson, the first superintendent of the Washington, DC, public school system, affirmed that Jefferson was “the chief author of the first plan of public education adopted for the city of Washington.” 53 When the first report of the Washington public schools was prepared and released to document the progress of students, it announced:

Fifty-five have learned to read in the Old and New Testaments and are all able to spell words of three, four, and five syllables; twenty-six are now learning to read Dr. Watts’ Hymns and spell words of two syllables; ten are learning words of four and five letters. Of fifty-nine out of the whole number admitted [enrolled] that did not know a single letter, twenty can now read the Bible and spell words of three, four, and five syllables; twenty-nine read Dr. Watts’ Hymns and spell words of two syllables; and ten, words of four and five letters. 54

Most can probably visualize the Bible as a text to teach reading, 55 but what of Watt’s Hymns? Isaac Watts was a Christian theologian and hymn writer, penning some of the strongest doctrinal anthems in Christendom, including classics such as “Jesus Shall Reign,” “Joy to the World,” “O God our Help in Ages Past,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Am I a Soldier of the Cross,” “At the Cross,” and others. It was this hymnal, along with the Bible, that was used to teach reading to students in the school system whose plan of education was directly attributed to Thomas Jefferson.
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 1813-1832). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

We can go to the very source Barton points readers to in the footnote to debunk this story — the article by J.O. Wilson on the history of the D.C. schools.* Let’s take the claims one by one.
Jefferson was elected to the D.C. school board in 1805. He accepted in a letter to Robert Brent and at the time told Brent he would “willingly undertake the duties proposed to me, so far as others of paramount obligation will permit my attention to them.” In other words, being president had to come first. After this, Barton’s claims are mostly false.
Did Jefferson Write the Plan of Education for Washington, D.C. Schools?
Barton says in his book that Jefferson authored the plan of education. However, the source he cited doesn’t say that. About Jefferson’s involvement in the D.C. plan of education, Wilson (Barton’s own source) wrote:

A notably comprehensive report, setting forth in detail the plan of the entire educational system from an academy to a university, was prepared by a select committee and adopted September 19, 1805. Mr Jefferson’s early and liberal contribution in money and his accepting and holding the offices of trustee and president of the board of trustees of public schools so long as he resided here show his personal interest in their establishment, and the fact that he had several years earlier proposed a quite similar plan of education for the state of Virginia and a few years later, in 1817, vigorously renewed his proposal, make a strong probability that he himself was the chief author of the first plan of public education adopted for the city of Washington.

Barton’s quotation of Wilson is where the mischief is. In The Jefferson Lies, Barton wrote:

In fact, James Ormond Wilson, the first superintendent of the Washington, DC, public school system, affirmed that Jefferson was “the chief author of the first plan of public education adopted for the city of Washington.”

But look at what Wilson wrote and notice what Barton omitted in The Jefferson Lies. Wilson said Jefferson’s donations and his prior work on education in Virginia

make a strong probability that he himself was the chief author of the first plan of public education adopted for the city of Washington. (bold print is what Barton left out of his quote)

Wilson did not affirm that Jefferson wrote the plan, he guessed Jefferson authored it based on circumstantial evidence. We don’t know what Jefferson’s role was in writing the plan.
Did Jefferson Make Sure the Bible Was Used in D.C. Schools?
Even if Jefferson did write the plan with his own hand, it destroys Barton’s claim because Jefferson didn’t include Bible in it. Wilson’s history provides a description of the 1805 plan:

In their plan the board of trustees said:

The academy shall consist of as many schools as circumstances may require, to be limited at present to two, one of which shall be situated east of the Capitol and within half a mile of it and the other within half a mile of the President’s house, it being understood that these positions are considered by the board as temporary, and consequently subject at any future time to alteration. In these schools poor children shall be taught reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, and such branches of the mathematics as may qualify them for the professions they are intended to follow, and they shall receive such other instruction as is given to pay pupils, as the board may from time to time direct, and pay pupils shall, besides, be instructed in geography and in the Latin language. The schools shall be open each day, Sundays excepted, eight hours in summer and six hours in winter, to be distributed throughout the day as shall be fixed by the board, except during vacation, which shall not commence prior to the first of August, nor continue after the 10th of September, and whose duration shall be fixed by the board. (emphasis added)

There is no mention of the Bible or a hymnal by Watts or anyone else.
So where does Barton get the idea that Jefferson incorporated the Bible and Watts’ hymnal? 
A little later in his article, Wilson described some developments after Jefferson left office.
In 1812, the Washington schools switched their methods to allow a D.C. school to follow the approach of an educator named Joseph Lancaster. Then in 1813, a report of the progress under the new educational plan was submitted. Wilson provides the entire report; I will cite the part of it misused by Barton:

In 1813 Mr Henry Ould made the first report of a Washington public school of which we have any record.
It reads as follows : February 10, 1813.
This day 12 months ago I had the pleasure of opening under your auspices the second genuine Lancasterian school in America. The system was set in operation (as far as the nature of the room would admit) in this city on the 10th of February, 1812, in an inconvenient house opposite the General Post Office, but notwithstanding the smallness of the school-room there were 120 scholars entered on the list during the first three months. I was then under the necessity of delaying the admission of scholars, as the room would not accommodate more than 80 to 100 scholars. It now becomes my duty to lay before you an account of the improvement of the scholars placed under my direction in your institution, which I shall do in the following order:
130 scholars have been admitted into your institution since the 10th of February, 1812, viz., 82 males and 48 females, out of which number 2 have died and 37 left the school for various employments, after passing through several grades of the school, which therefore leaves 91 on the list.
55 have learned to read in the Old and New Testaments, and are all able to spell words of three, four, and five syllables; 26 are now learning to read Dr Watts’ Hymns and spell words of two syllables; 10 are learning words of four and five letters. Of 59 out of the whole number admitted that did not know a single letter, 20 can now read the Bible and spell words of three, four, and five syllables; 29 read Dr Watts’ Hymns and spell words of two syllables, and 10, words of four and five letters.

Thomas Jefferson left the presidency in 1809 and retired to Monticello, no longer president or a member of the D.C. school board. This 1813 report summarized the work of one school which was implemented in 1812. Barton gets his claim that Jefferson included the Bible and Watts’ hymnal in his plan from a report about another plan implemented in one school and submitted nearly four years after he left town.
Barton’s mash up of the facts is clearly wrong and has been since 1989.
What Did Jefferson Say About the Bible in Schools?
Joseph Lancaster believed in using the Bible as a reading book. Thomas Jefferson on the other hand did not. In Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, he directly addressed the use of the Bible in schools:

The first stage of this education being the schools of the hundreds, wherein the great mass of the people will receive their instruction the principal foundations of future order will be laid here. Instead therefore of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured for religious enquiries, their memories may here be stored with the most useful facts from Grecian, Roman, European, and American history. — The first elements of morality too may be instilled into their minds such as when further developed as their judgments advance in strength may teach them how to work out their own greatest happiness by showing them that it does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed them but is always the result of a good conscience good health occupation and freedom in all just pursuits. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 154. (emphasis added)

In sum, David Barton claims Thomas Jefferson wrote a plan of education for the Washington, D.C. schools which included instruction in reading from the Bible and a hymn book. The very source Barton cites as evidence debunks these claims and demonstrates that Barton is willing to mash up the facts to get a story useful for his overall narrative about Thomas Jefferson.
*Another source for the history of the Washington, D.C. schools is here.

David Barton Claims Professional Historians Don't Use Original Documents and That's Why They Attack His Work

I have just about run out of headlines to describe the errors in David Barton’s description of why The Jefferson Lies was pulled from publication in 2012. He and World Net Daily continue to promote the idea that the book’s critics were liberals and that Thomas Nelson pulled the book due to political correctness. I’ve debunked these false claims more than once.
Now he is advancing another theory about why historians have been critical of The Jefferson Lies. In an article (another whitewash of Jefferson’s actions relating to slavery) at World Net Daily, Barton claims professional historians refuse to use “original documents.” From the WND article:

Barton blames the ignorance surrounding Jefferson on the refusal of professional historians to review original documents instead of second-hand sources.

Barton said: “Nobody knows anything unless they quote from another PhD. No, go back to the original documents. When you go back to the original documents you get things right. And so what they do, when you go back to the books, they all quote each other in a circular fashion. And because I went back to the originals instead of quoting PhDs, the PhDs said, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’”

Barton suggested his use of original sources is one of the reasons many historians are so hostile to “The Jefferson Lies.”

“That’s what gives them heartburn, because now they have to admit that what they’ve been taught may be wrong, their philosophy may be wrong, they’ve taken a position that no longer comports with history, and they’ve been saying that this is what history teaches,” Barton said. “So it really puts them in a hard spot.”

Barton must mean primary sources when he says “original documents.” He himself doesn’t use original documents for most of the claims he makes. For instance, he cites Jefferson’s letters which he takes from books and internet sources. Here are just a few relevant footnotes from The Jefferson Lies:

Thomas Jefferson, “The Thomas Jefferson Papers,” Library of Congress, to Robert Brent on August 14, 1805 (at: http:// loc.mss/ mtj.mtjbib015028).
Thomas Jefferson, “Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia,” The University of Virginia, August 4, 1818 (at: http:// ~ lombardi/ edudocs/ jefferson_uva_1818. html).
Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Charlottesville: F. Carr, and Co., 1829), Vol. IV, 23, to Mrs. John Adams on July 22, 1804, Vol. IV, 228, to John Adams on October 28, 1813, and Vol. II, 48– 50, to Mrs. Cosway on October 12, 1786; Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), Vol. II, 253– 254, “Notes on Religion,” October 1776, Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington, DC: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIV, 71– 73, to John Adams on January 24, 1814; etc.
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, WND Books. Kindle Edition.

As others do, Barton uses what are more accurately called primary sources to cite Jefferson’s words. One can find them on the web or in edited collections of his letters. I have yet to come across a footnote in Barton’s new edition which cites an original document only available to Barton. In the first edition, Barton cited a sea letter signed by Jefferson which he apparently has in his library. However, in the new edition, that letter is not cited. As an aside, Barton used that letter to claim Jefferson signed presidential documents with the phrase, “In the year of our Lord Christ.” We demonstrated in Getting Jefferson Right that Jefferson did not choose to write that phrase in his own handwriting on a shipping letter and apparently in response (I can’t find it in the new edition) Barton removed the claim from the new edition (for more on this claim check here and here).
Historians are taught to use primary sources. It is a foundation of the discipline. For instance, check out this article on using primary sources to teach history from the American Historical Association website:

Strategies and Resources for Teaching with Primary Sources

Free and open access to the raw materials of history is not enough for K–12 classroom teachers. They also need the strategies and resources for effective, relevant, and rigorous primary source instruction. All TPS professional development offerings for history teachers convey the same message: teaching with primary sources helps students ask meaningful questions, develop critical thinking skills, and acquire new knowledge. Whether students are learning about the Civil War, the dust bowl migration, or the civil rights movement, working with primary sources models the investigative process used by historians, and encourages active student engagement at all stages of the learning process. For example, a lesson on the Declaration of Independence in which students compare Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten “original Rough draught” with the final version adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776, illustrates differences in word choice and intent, and hence demands greater scrutiny of Jefferson’s language and the meaning he attached to his words. Also available at the library’s web site is an online interactive program that assists students in sourcing the documents that Jefferson drew upon for ideas and phrases (

Barton must know he is misleading people here. Perhaps he could give an example of an historian using secondary sources inappropriately but that doesn’t mean that a majority do it. Furthermore, his critics rely on primary sources. We certainly do and since he says he has read Getting Jefferson Right, he knows we do.

Another problem with Barton’s claim is that he uses secondary sources.

For instance, in the first edition of The Jefferson Lies, Barton claimed that Thomas Jefferson invited preacher James O’Kelly to the White House to preach. Barton wrote in the 2012 edition:

Jefferson also arranged for other ministers to preach at the Capitol, including the Reverend James O’Kelly, another of his strong supporters. Originally a Methodist, O’Kelly later founded a movement known as the “Republican Methodists” because of the common beliefs they shared with Jefferson’s political movement. He twice visited Jefferson at the White House, and Jefferson twice arranged for him to preach in the church at the Capitol. 31 Following one of those occasions, a newspaper editor reported that after O’Kelly’s sermon, “Mr. Jefferson arose with tears in his eyes and said that while he was no preacher, in his opinion James O’Kelly was one of the greatest preachers living.” 32
Barton, David (2013-02-15). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 3024-3030). WallBuilder Press. Kindle Edition.

Checking footnotes 31 and 32, one finds:

31 Wilbur E. MacClenny, “James O’Kelly: A Champion of Christian Freedom,” in The Centennial of Religious Journalism, ed. John Pressley Barrett (Dayton: Christian Publishing Association, 1908), 265.
32 Dr. J. P. Barrett, editor of the Herald of Gospel Liberty, Dayton, Ohio, quoted in Wilburn E. MacClenny, The Life of Rev. James O’Kelly and the Early History of the Christian Church in the South (Suffolk: Edwards & Broughton Printing Company, 1910), 171– 173.
Barton, David (2013-02-15). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 5926-5932). WallBuilder Press. Kindle Edition.

MacClenny wrote in 1908 and 1910 (click the link for the 1910 book). MacClenny provides one source for his information regarding O’Kelly and Jefferson, J.P. Barrett. Barrett was the editor of a church newsletter, Herald of Gospel Liberty. While I don’t know Barrett’s entire tenure at the newsletter, he was editor in the early 1900s and not during the early 1800s. He did not witness Jefferson calling O’Kelly one of the “greatest preachers living” because he wasn’t alive.
In this case, Barton not only used a secondary source (MacClenny), but he used one (Barrett) another step removed from Jefferson’s time and the event in question. Barton did just what he accused professional historians of doing. Furthermore, professional historians would find such a source laughable.
What about in the new edition? Did Barton keep the O’Kelly stories?
While Barton removed the story of Jefferson calling O’Kelly one of the greatest living preachers, he still relies on MacClenny to claim O’Kelly was Jefferson’s great friend and preached twice at Jefferson’s request.

Jefferson personally arranged for other Christian ministers to preach at the Capitol, including the Reverend James O’Kelly, another of his strong supporters. Originally a Methodist, O’Kelly later founded a movement known as the “Republican Methodists” because of the common beliefs they shared with Jefferson’s political movement. He twice visited Jefferson at the White House, and Jefferson twice arranged for him to preach in the church at the Capitol. 36
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 3620-3624). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

The footnote still points to MacClenny:

36 Wilbur E. MacClenny, The Centennial of Religious Journalism, John Pressley Barrett, editor (Dayton: Christian Publishing Association, 1908), 250 and 265, “James O’Kelly: A Champion of Christian Freedom.”
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 6873-6875). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

In fact, there is no primary or contemporary source for the claims about O’Kelly. Barton relied on a secondary source (MacClenny) which in turn used a secondary source (Barrett) to spread questionable information about these events. Both secondary sources were 100 years removed from the events in question. In fact, there is no primary source evidence that O’Kelly ever preached at Jefferson’s request or even met him.
In preparation to write Getting Jefferson Right, I read James O’Kelly’s papers which are housed at Elon University. In them, there is no mention of a friendship with Jefferson or of preaching in the Congress. The only reference to Jefferson is correspondence between Senator Harry Byrd and the Library of Congress. Sen. Byrd asked the Library of Congress if O’Kelly ever preached in Congress. Frederick Scott, acting chief of the Library of Congress’ Government and General Research Division replied in 1971 that no records could be found to substantiate the story.  I also asked Anna Berke at the library at Monticello if Jefferson ever corresponded with O’Kelly. After a search of all of Jefferson’s papers, she informed me that there is no letter to, from, or about James O’Kelly.
The short summary of this matter is that Barton did what he accuses others of doing. Those who are enamored with Barton’s extensive footnotes should check them out.

David Barton's Conservative Critics: Debunking the Liberal Attack Claims

To promote David Barton’s second edition of The Jefferson Lies, World Net Daily, Glenn Beck, and David Barton claim the first edition was pulled from publication by publisher Thomas Nelson due to ideologically motivated attacks by liberals.
World Net Daily:

Despite the wildly popular success of the original hardcover edition, or perhaps because of it, a campaign to discredit Barton’s scholarship was launched by bloggers and a handful of non-historian academics.

What happened next was shocking – virtually unprecedented in modern American publishing history. Under siege from critics, the publisher spiked the book and recalled it from the retail shelves from coast to coast. The Jefferson Lies is thus a history book that made history – becoming possibly the first book of its kind to be victimized by the scourge of “political correctness.”

Glenn Beck:

And you know, the other nice thing about it [republishing The Jefferson Lies] they say, is that it takes this, excuse the expression, this isn’t my expression, this would be somebody elses’; I don’t know who’s, but, the liberal bastards that went and have an agenda and not based in facts had it pulled off the New York Times bestseller list because it just didn’t have the facts. This [holding up The Jefferson Lies] has taken all of their arguments and dismantled all of their arguments.

David Barton:

Many in academia today openly proclaim their disdain for traditional American ideals and heroes, including Thomas Jefferson, routinely twisting his words to suit their own agendas. This is what happened four years ago. But through the new release of ‘The Jefferson Lies,’ Americans will not only meet the unfiltered Jefferson as he speaks clearly for himself on a variety of issues, but they will also understand why he was so proudly esteemed by Americans for literally centuries, until trashed by modern professors and critics.

The problem with this narrative can be illustrated with a sampling of conservative criticisms of The Jefferson Lies.

First of all, let’s recall that Thomas Nelson is a Christian publisher who continues to publish books by conservative authors, including Jerome Corsi, Eric Metaxas, Richard Land, Judge Napolitano, Tom Coburn, William Bennett, Kevin McCullough, Star Parker, Sam Brownback, and others. 
When the book was pulled in 2012, several conservative organizations and media sources reacted with approval.
Gospel Coalition
Just after The Jefferson Lies was pulled, Gospel Coalition’s Justin Taylor titled an article: “Thomas Nelson Ceases Publication of David Barton’s Error-ridden Book on Jefferson’s Faith” Taylor concluded: “This is actually a very interesting test case for those who have bought in to Barton’s historiography, methodology, and conclusions. Do we care about the truth, or do the conclusions we want to hear justify the means used to obtain them?”
Joe Carter, also on the Gospel Coalition’s website, wrote:

Why It Matters: In 1950, British biologist Sir Peter Medawar said that French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin “can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself.” A similar criticism could be made about Barton. While his books and videos have deceived thousands of Christians about the historical record, Barton appears to be sincerely convinced of the superiority of his own interpretations.

Yet despite his claims to being an “historical expert,” Barton tends to make sloppy, factual errors and extrapolations that are wholly unsupportable. For instance, he claims the U.S. Constitution is laced with biblical quotations.

The Gospel Coalition’s council consists of additional mainstream, conservative evangelicals such as John Piper, Al Mohler, Russell Moore, Tim Keller and Anthony Carter, just to name a few better known non-liberals.

Colson Center for Christian Worldview – Breakpoint:

On The Point, a Colson Center radio show, John Stonestreet summarized the controversy over The Jefferson Lies by referring to Jay Richards’ efforts to involve 10 Christian historians in an evaluation of the book. As Stonestreet noted, the response was negative.


Then, writing in a Breakpoint column, Tom Gilson said:

The story has been told in both the secular and the Christian press: Barton’s most recent book, The Jefferson Lies, was riddled with misinformation. Its publisher, Thomas Nelson, pulled it from distribution. Barton is standing firm in his position, but reliable historians—strongly conservative Christian scholars among them—continue to hold him in error, and not just because of this work but because of others as well.

Gilson concluded:

To accept any human teacher without checking on his message with due diligence is to abandon our responsibility to the truth. David Barton’s errors are not only his. They also belong to those of us who bought his message carelessly, unquestioningly, too eagerly, and too comfortably.

Later on his own blog, Gilson said:

Barton’s errors seem sufficiently well documented. They are nothing less than tragic, for him and for his large audience. Inevitably some Christians will be angry with those who have shined a light on David Barton’s errors. Far better they recognize that the best way to rally around him is to encourage him to stick close to the truth. Far better we all stick close to the truth.

Institute for Religion and Democracy:
The IRD was founded in order to monitor and counter the evangelical left. From IRD’s website:

Welcome to the website for the Institute on Religion & Democracy. We are a watchdog of the religious and evangelical left, disputing their claims to represent millions of church members when espousing a liberal or far-left political agenda.

In 2012, Bart Gingerich wrote about Barton’s work on the IRD blog, concluding:

And as for the powerhouse spokespeople for such reactions, David Barton provides the material to meet the agenda. Thus, the “exaggerations” are propped up even more since they meet the requirements of a belly-aching pattern of decline and ruin. Unfortunately, the agenda comes at the expense of individual souls. Students—especially the scholastically adept—are hurt very badly by the misinterpretations, misportrayals, mistruths. I barely survived coming across the knowledge, and there are many who do not. David Barton isn’t helping by circulating lies. Those of Christian-cultural influence must realize that we their children are not just bullets in the culture war. I’m not really much for the metaphor in the first place, but if we’re really serious about protecting marriage, life, and the Western heritage, we ought never to stretch the truth to get our way. Proceedings have already gone underway; it’s time to court martial David Barton.

First Things:

Prior to Thomas Nelson’s decision to pull the book, the well respected conservative Catholic website First Things published an article by Greg Forster critical of Barton’s treatment of John Locke. Forster, a conservative, wrote:

The focus of the current controversy is Barton’s new book on Jefferson. My friend Jay Richards doesn’t mince words; he says this book and Barton’s other books and videos are full of “embarrassing factual errors, suspiciously selective quotes, and highly misleading claims.”

I’m not a scholar of Thomas Jefferson, but I am a scholar of John Locke . Barton has an article about Locke on his website, so I thought I’d weigh in with my opinion on whether it matches Jay’s description of Barton’s methods. It does, and then some.

I should note for the record that I’m not only a conservative (both theologically, as an evangelical, and politically, as a Republican) but one with a track record of defending Locke against claims that he was a deist or that his philosophy is antithetical to Christianity. As providence would have it, just over a week ago I published an article on how Locke’s Reasonableness helped me come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Grace University:

On the GU website, Professor Jim Eckman wrote in review (click through to read the entire review) of The Jefferson Lies:

As a Christian historian and Christian leader, I believe very strongly that we must be truthful and forthright about our beliefs.  We must also be people of integrity and be scrupulous in how we present our case.  In my judgment, David Barton has not done this.  (Thomas Nelson has ceased its publication of Barton’s book on Jefferson.)  He needs to be called to task and evangelicals in the US must be much more discerning and careful in what is claimed about our Founders.

American Vision:

On some issues, I suspect American Vision is to the right of Barton. This Christian reconstructionist group is politically and religiously on the very far right. Writing on the American Vision website, Joel McDurmon provided a lengthy rebuttal to one chapter of The Jefferson Lies. About Barton’s book, McDurmon concluded:

Sadly, with the level and degree of error I have found in just the chapter I reviewed, I cannot recommend this book to the average Christian reader. While a book like this needs to be written vindicating Jefferson from much liberal nonsense, the reader nonetheless will need to fact-check nearly every claim Barton makes for accuracy. And this is way too much to ask of the average reader. If that is to be the task, it would be better to skip Barton’s book altogether and go read all of Jefferson’s papers directly, because that what the reader will have to do eventually anyway.

In light of these conservative criticisms, it is clear that Barton, Beck and WND are engaged in a massive effort to revise history, and not just about Jefferson. Liberal attacks did not doom The Jefferson Lies, numerous conservatives weighed in. Historians, pastors, culture warriors, and scholars from a wide variety of disciplines publicly expressed concerns. Eventually, Thomas Nelson conducted a review and made their decision.
Worldview Weekend:
Brannon Howse is a very conservative minister who has been a critic of Barton’s Christian nation teaching for several years. He consistently reposted information critical of The Jefferson Lies. Howse is quite conservative.
Getting Jefferson Right Reviewers
Some conservative reviewers of my book with Michael Coulter about Barton’s Jefferson claims, Getting Jefferson Rightspecifically mentioned their views of Barton’s claims in their review. For instance:

Getting Jefferson Right by Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter stands up for truth in scholarship against the scholarly problems found in David Barton’s ‘The Jefferson’s Lies.’ Because of the courage of Throckmorton and Coulter, Barton has regrettably fallen from his pedestal of preeminence as a scholar of the early American era. Throckmorton and Coulter deserve the ‘Medal of Honor’ for courage and probity.

-Chuck Dunn, Distinguished Professor of Government. Regent University. Author and/or Editor of 20 books on American politics, including The Seven Laws of Presidential Leadership and American Culture in Peril.

Getting Jefferson Right is an intellectual and historical take down of David Barton’s pseudo-history of Thomas Jefferson by two Christian professors who teach at a conservative Christian college. Michael Coulter and Warren Throckmorton have done their homework. Anyone who reads this book must come to grips with the untruths and suspect historical interpretations that Barton regularly peddles in his books, speaking engagements, and on his radio program. I have yet to read a more thorough refutation of Barton’s claims.

–John Fea, Chair of the History Department, Messiah College and author of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction

More Recent Conservative Criticism

Since The Jefferson Lies was pulled from publication, other religiously and/or politically conservative groups have advance critical opinions of Barton’s approach to history. For instance:
Jeff on the Pulpit and Pen blog wrote:

Widely discredited faux historian and seductive propagandist, David Barton, of Wallbuilders, along with his co-conspirator, Glenn Beck, are now joining TBN for a weekly series titled “Foundations of Freedom.” Barton, who pushes a politically right-wing form of Christianity at the expense of historical truthfulness, is widely known for his disproven book, Jefferson Lies, which was subsequently withdrawn from publication after being voted the “least credible history book in print.”

I am aware that some conservative Christian groups continue to laud Barton’s approach to history (e.g., after a brief hiccup, Family Research Council; even though they had to correct his facts, Focus on the Family; and American Family Association). My reason for documenting the response of other prominent conservatives is to counter the hoax now being perpetrated by Barton, Glenn Beck and WND that any opposition to Barton’s Christian nation approach to history and The Jefferson Lies comes only from liberals, non-historians, non-evangelicals or leftists.
Prior to Thomas Nelson’s decision to pull The Jefferson Lies, several critical reviews from Jefferson and/or American history scholars appeared in print. John Fea teaches at Messiah College; I don’t know how the others would describe themselves.
Wall Street Journal – A Still Unsettling Founding Father – Alan Pell Crawford.
Religion Dispatches – The Quixotic Task of Debunking David Barton – Paul Harvey
The Jefferson Hour – Review of The Jefferson Lies – Clay Jenkinson
The Way of Improvement Leads Home – (The Jefferson Lies, parts onetwothreefour,five and six) – John Fea

David Barton and Wallbuilders Double Down on The Jefferson Lies Accusations

In his new edition of The Jefferson Lies, David Barton claimed that I recruited Jay Richards to find Christian historians who would engage in a campaign against him. That charge is still false.
I denied the charge in a post here and in a review on The Jefferson Lies Amazon page.
Today someone at Barton’s organization, Wallbuilders, replied to my review with an accusation that I told one story in the review and another story to some undisclosed persons. See below:
I then replied:
At one point in November 2013, Barton claimed that “secular guys” recruited Christian professors to attack Barton. At the time, I wrote:

Barton claims his Christian critics were recruited by “secular guys.” Of course, this is flatly false, at least in my case and anyone I know. No one recruited Michael Coulter and me to critique Barton’s book. Furthermore, there are dozens of Christian professors who have critiqued Barton’s work simply because it is the right and honest thing to do.

Jay Richards is a Fellow at the Discovery Institute who recruited 10 scholars to read our book and The Jefferson Lies. None of these scholars were recruited by secular people to critique Barton.

Even the Family Research Council recognized flaws in Barton’s presentations and pulled his Capitol Tour video from view. Also, Focus on the Family edited Barton’s talks to remove two major historical errors. Perhaps Barton is going to include FRC and Focus on the Family among those recruited by the unnamed “secular guys.”

I don’t know if Barton, Wallbuilders or WND will ever admit it, but it is undeniable that numerous conservative Christians have come forward with major academic critiques of the claims presented by Wallbuilders.

To support his claim that I recruited Richards, Barton wrote this footnote in the new edition of The Jefferson Lies.

The publisher of another of my works, The Founders Bible, released after The Jefferson Lies, reported to me some unexpected and unsolicited contacts he had with Warren Throckmorton, explaining: “About a month ago, I started to get hounded by Throckmorton via email and on our website. He even called my former publishing partner and ended up issuing a warning and a threat. Warren ‘warned’ that he had assembled a coalition of people, supposed conservative Christians, who were mounting a campaign against David. If we intended to publish The Founders’ Bible, anyone associated with Barton was likely to suffer financially, because they were going to come against him. Sort of hit me blindside.” I received this email from the publisher of The Founders Bible on August 16, 2012.
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 4669-4675). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

On July 3, 2012, I wrote to a friend who once was involved with the publisher of The Founders Bible with a heads up about the issues relating to The Jefferson Lies. The email was not a threat but rather a concerned personal alert to a friend. As I understand it, that email was forwarded to the publisher of The Founders Bible. I also made attempts to contact the publisher directly for comment about various aspects of the Founders Bible (for instance, I wondered if The Founders Bible was really going to include a favorable reference to a defender of Southern slavery). In my contacts with my friend and with the publisher I recollect describing the emergence of critiques from Christian conservatives.

Jay Richards contacted me in May 2012. He told me he had been commissioned to contact Christian historians to explore fact claims in The Jefferson Lies. While I was happy to hear that Richards was involved, I did not recruit him. Later, I made contacts with my friend and the publisher of The Founders Bible in July 2012, months after Richards first contacted me.

I have yet to hear from Wallbuilders about their claims but will update this post if I do.

David Barton Removes Claim About Chaplains at the University of Virginia in New Edition of The Jefferson Lies

In the 2012 edition of The Jefferson Lies, David Barton claimed to debunk the notion that the University of Virginia (founded by Jefferson) had no chaplains. He took up this as one of his major points as evidence that Jefferson established UVA as a “transdenominational” college. See below from the first edition of The Jefferson Lies:

4. Did the University of Virginia Have Chaplains?
The modern claim that the University of Virginia had no chaplains is also easily disproved by original documents, including early newspaper ads that the university ran to recruit students from surround-ing areas. In the Washington newspaper the Globe, the Reverend Septimus Tuston (identified in the ad as the chaplain of the university and who later became the chaplain of the US House of Representatives and then the US Senate) discussed religious life at the school, reporting:
Barton, David (2013-02-15). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 1330-1335). WallBuilder Press. Kindle Edition.

Barton then cited a 1837 article from the Washington Globe. Jefferson died in 1826; he had nothing to do with chaplains at UVA. Perhaps anticipating this counterpoint to his argument, Barton crafted a narrative to try to explain why chaplains were not appointed in the early days of the school. However, what Barton does to James Madison (who took over when Jefferson died) demonstrates his bias. From the first edition of The Jefferson Lies, Barton selectively quoted Madison:

The University of Virginia did indeed have chaplains, albeit not in its first three years (the university opened for students in 1825). At the beginning, when the university was establishing its reputation as a transdenominational university, the school had no appointed chaplain for the same reason that there had been no clergyman as president and no single professor of divinity: an ordained clergyman in any of those three positions might send an incorrect signal that the university was aligned with a specific denomination. But by 1829, when the nondenominational reputation of the university had been fully established, President Madison (who became rector of the university after Jefferson’s death in 1826) announced “that [permanent] provision for religious instruction and observance among the students would be made by . . . services of clergymen.”
Barton, David (2013-02-15). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 1362-1369). WallBuilder Press. Kindle Edition.

This treatment of Madison completely changes Madison’s meaning. Actually these words from Madison comes from a letter he wrote to a fellow university trustee. Here is what Barton cited Madison as saying:

“that [permanent] provision for religious instruction and observance among the students would be made by…services of clergymen.”

However, Madison made no public announcement about UVA policy. Instead, Madison wrote those words in a May 1, 1828 letter to Chapman Johnson, one of the members of the university Board of Visitors. The actual quote depicts a completely different meaning than Barton implies. Here is the entire section of the letter, from which Barton lifts his quote. Barton leaves out the words from Madison which are required to understand the meaning. Another unwarranted change Barton makes is to add the word “permanent.” What Barton omitted is in bold print below:

I have indulged more particularly the hope, that provision for religious instruction and observances among the Students, would be made by themselves or their Parents & Guardians, each contributing to a fund to be applied, in remunerating the services of Clergymen, of denominations, corresponding with the preference of the contributors. Small contributions would suffice, and the arrangement would become more & more efficient & adequate, as the Students become more numerous; whilst being altogether voluntary, it would interfere neither with the characteristic peculiarity of the University, the consecrated principle of the law, nor the spirit of the Country.

Instead of securing chaplains, Madison hoped that the students and parents would handle the religious matters themselves voluntarily.
In the new edition of The Jefferson Lies, Barton continues to assert that Jefferson wanted to establish a “transdenominational” school but he leaves out the chaplains story. From the new edition:

As already noted, in 1818 Jefferson and the university Visitors publicly released their plan for the new school announcing that it would be transdenominational and making clear that religious instruction would be provided to all students. But Jefferson insisted on additional steps to ensure that religious training would occur at the university.
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 1997-2000). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

I am surprised that Barton left this story out because in February 2015, Barton told the same story to Jack Hibbs, pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills. He told this story as evidence that he is positively revising errors of academic historians. Watch:

There is no actual academic debate over the eventual presence of chaplains at UVA. Barton’s narrative seems designed to make him look like he is revising history in the direction of accuracy. However, when you know the rest of the story, it is easy to see who engaged in revision.

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

Barton has taken the position that Michael Coulter and I are mostly wrong in our critique of The Jefferson Lies. However, in this case, our accurate telling of the story apparently resulted in a significant alteration in his book. Instead of acknowledging this, Barton and World Net Daily are doubling down on the false narrative that the first edition was killed due to liberal attacks.

What You Need to Know About David Barton's New Edition of The Jefferson Lies (Press Release)

What You Need to Know About David Barton’s New Edition of The Jefferson Lies
Contact Warren Throckmorton,
GROVE CITY, Penn., Jan. 13, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — Yesterday was the official release date of the second edition of “The Jefferson Lies” by Ted Cruz’s Super PAC coordinator David Barton. Published by World Net Daily, the second edition promises to answer Barton’s critics and restore Jefferson’s reputation.
However, there is much World Net Daily and Barton are not telling the public about the circumstances surrounding the new book.
In August 2012, Thomas Nelson confirmed that the first edition of “The Jefferson Lies” had been pulled from publication because the publisher “learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported.” Thomas Nelson stated that it was in “the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”
Many of those historical details are addressed factually in “Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President,” a 2012 book by Christian college professors Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter. With the release of the second edition of “The Jefferson Lies,” the fact checking in “Getting Jefferson Right” is more important than ever.
The new version of “The Jefferson Lies” contains an entire section in critical response to “Getting Jefferson Right.”
In his response, the first error Barton makes is to assert that “The Jefferson Lies” was pulled from publication due to attacks from liberals. However, critics Jay Richards. Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and Gregg Frazer, professor of history at The Master’s College are not liberals. “Getting Jefferson Right’s” authors are not liberals. Many other conservative historians have also expressed negatives reviews of “The Jefferson Lies.”
Members of the media may contact Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter regarding the facts surrounding the removal of “The Jefferson Lies” from publication in 2012, the allegations of liberal bias now and the historical claims made in “The Jefferson Lies” about Jefferson’s life and work.
For more information, see Getting Jefferson Right.
“Anyone who reads  ‘Getting Jefferson Right’ must come to grips with the untruths and suspect historical interpretations that [David] Barton regularly peddles in his books, speaking engagements, and on his radio program.” — John Fea, Chair, History Department, Messiah College
Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Michael Coulter, PhD is Professor of Political Science, both at Grove City College (PA)

Glenn Beck: "Liberal Bastards" Had David Barton's The Jefferson Lies Pulled from Shelves

Even though the book has been available on Amazon for over two weeks, yesterday was the official release of the second edition of The Jefferson Lies by David Barton. To promote the book, Glenn Beck was in typical hyperbolic mode throughout the day on his network. I caught some of the radio segment and watched Barton’s appearance on Beck’s afternoon television show. Prior to Barton’s television appearance, Beck introduced the segment by trashing me as a leftist psychology professor.
Earlier on his radio show, he went further and referred to the “liberal bastards” who got Barton’s book pulled from publication. Watch:
I have debunked idea that somehow Barton’s book fell victim to political correctness. Furthermore, to cast me as a leftist is laughable.

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

To read the book by Michael Coulter and I that addresses many of Barton’s Jefferson claim, see Getting Jefferson Right.

David Barton Tells Listeners Virginia Law Kept Slave Owners from Emancipating Slaves; Admits it Happened in New Edition of The Jefferson Lies

Yesterday, David Barton said again that Virginia law did not allow slave owners to free their slaves. He usually tries to make that case in relationship to Thomas Jefferson, but yesterday on his Wallbuilders’ program, he said George Mason could not free his slaves because of Virginia law.
At about 37 seconds into this clip from the program, Barton says Mason didn’t free his slaves “because in Virginia it was illegal for guys like him to release their own slaves.” Listen:

I have debunked this repeatedly (here, here, here, here, here) but it is worth pointing out that Barton tries to have it both ways in the new edition of his book, The Jefferson Lies. He says Michael Coulter and I are wrong about Virginia law but then he indirectly acknowledges we are correct by citing the case of Virginia plantation owner Robert Carter who began a process of manumitting his 452 slaves in 1791. In the second edition of The Jefferson Lies, Barton invokes Robert Carter’s act to free his slaves.

Perhaps the case of Robert Carter best demonstrates the overall complexity of the Virginia emancipation process. Carter, whose wealth was considerable and who had as many as 500 slaves, emancipated them all in 1791. Yet, due to the difficulties of his executor process, and the intricacies of Virginia slave laws, sixty years later in 1852 (and long after Carter’s death), his heirs were still working to free his slaves as per his original directive. When it came to emancipation, Virginia law was definitely convoluted and restrictive.
Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 588-592). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

In the new edition, he attacks me for being wrong about Virginia slave laws, but in another place he acknowledges that Virginia law allowed manumission. When discussing Virginian plantation owner Robert Carter, Barton acknowledged that Carter started the process of emancipation for his slaves in 1791. Some slaves were freed immediately, minor slaves were freed gradually as they attained adult status. Yesterday, however, he said Virginia prohibited “guys like” Mason from freeing his slaves.
Simply put, Barton originally claimed Virginia law did not allow Jefferson to free his slaves. He has said before and said again yesterday that Virginia law did not allow “guys like” George Mason to free his slaves. Mason lived until 1791 which was nine years after Virginia’s 1782 law allowing private manumissions. It might have been a hardship for Mason to do so but Virginia law did not make it illegal.
We demonstrated in Getting Jefferson Right that not only did Virginia law allow it for a period of time, some slave owners who were contemporaries of Jefferson and Mason did indeed free some or all of their slaves.  Barton even refers to one of our illustrations of a slave owner, Robert Carter III, who used the 1782 law to free his slaves legally but he still can’t admit that he misled his readers and yesterday his listeners.