Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation publishes The Daily Signal as a conservative news source which they say is “committed to truth”
and “a reflection of that Jeffersonian notion that the greatest defense of liberty is an informed citizenry.” While a worthy goal, I believe they missed the mark recently in an article about Thomas Jefferson and another one of his notions — the separation of church and state.
In an April 12 article by Lathan Watts on why the left is wrong about Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between church and state, we learn Mr. Watts and The Daily Signal is willing to take liberties with the historical record. Let me examine two points from Watts article.
Did Jefferson Include the Bible in DC Schools?
First Watts claims that Thomas Jefferson wrote an educational plan for the District of Columbia schools which used the Bible and a Christian hymnal for instruction.
While president, Jefferson also served as the chairman of the school board for the District of Columbia, where he authored the first plan of education adopted by the city. His plan used the Bible and Isaac Watts’ hymnal as the principle books to teach reading.*
A close examination of the timeline of Jefferson’s involvement in the D.C. schools finds that Jefferson was out of office and had retired to Monticello when the schools began using the Bible and the hymnal. Furthermore, when Jefferson commented about using the Bible with children he specifically advocated against using it as a tool for teaching. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson wrote:
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.
Did Jefferson Recommend Attendance for Soldiers at Church?
In response to a case involving religion in the military, Watts wrote:
In addition to the bills he signed appropriating funds for chaplains in the military, he also signed the Articles of War on April 10, 1806, in which he “earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers, diligently to attend divine services.”*
Although Jefferson wasn’t theologically orthodox, he often attended church. There is some truth in these statements but the way they are worded, it makes it seem Jefferson personally recommended church to soldiers.
In 1775, Jefferson and John Adams formed a committee to craft Articles of War to guide Washington’s army. According to Adams, he and Jefferson simply took the British Articles of War and recommended them with few alterations. Years later, when Jefferson was president, Congress revised them again and sent them to Jefferson for his signature in 1806.
It is important to note that the British Articles of War which Adam’s referred to required church attendance. However, the American adaptation did not. Although recommended, soldiers were not required to attend. Also, Jefferson did not craft these tenets out of his personal preferences, he simply acquiesced to existing articles, modified slightly to give soldiers some religious choice. Adams wrote that Jefferson did not rise to speak in support of the articles but left the advocacy to Adams. In his autobiography, Adams said:
In Congress, Jefferson never spoke, and all the labor of the debate on those articles, paragraph by paragraph, was thrown upon me, and such was the opposition and so undigested were the notions of liberty prevalent among the majority of the members most zealously attached to the public cause that to this day I scarcely know how it was possible that these articles could have been carried. They were adopted, however, and have governed our armies with little variation to this day.
Saying God or Disobeying Orders?
In addition to taking liberties with Jefferson, Watts leaves out some important details about the cases presented as indicators of religious persecution. For instance, Watts links to the case of Oscar Rodriguez, Jr. and says he was removed from a military ceremony because he referred to God in a speech. However, that isn’t a complete presentation of the situation.
According to the Air Force Times, Rodriquez disobeyed orders to give any speech at the ceremony.
The Air Force Inspector General said in a September 2016 report that Rodriguez was not removed because his speech mentioned God, but because it was unauthorized.
The IG said that Rodriguez had been told multiple times that he could not deliver his speech because the ceremony was an official on-base retirement, and his speech was not the one spelled out in Air Force regulations. He was told he could attend the ceremony quietly as a guest but not as a participant.
Rodriguez ignored those instructions and stood up to deliver his speech. After delivering his opening lines, he was dragged out by four noncommissioned officers while continuing to shout his speech.
While one may debate the wisdom of these enforcement actions, disobedience to a direct order is a factor which Watts did not include in his presentation. Given that Watts wasn’t accurate about his history, I am not inclined to take his word over the Inspector General of the Air Force.
An Informed Citizenry?
Citizens who read the article will think Jefferson did things he didn’t do. If The Daily Signal is “committed to truth” and really wants an “informed citizenry” then this article should be pulled from their website.
*Both of these paragraphs are lifted nearly verbatim without attribution from William Federer’s America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. Once upon a time, using quotes without attribution was considered plagiarism. Especially in Christian popular writing, it seems copying work without attribution is now common place.
After Barton’s book was pulled from publication in 2012, he claimed Simon & Schuster would republish it. That never came to pass. Then WorldNetDaily put it out claiming that Christian publisher Thomas Nelson pulled the book due to “political correctness.” Barton’s buddy Glenn Beck claimed that “liberal bastards” were behind the effort to discredit the book. These claims came even though most of the recent critics were Christian college professors. In short, none of these excuses hold water.
Thomas Nelson said at the time that they lost confidence in the books facts and pulled the book due to historical errors. I outlined what I know about the situation in a previous post. In fact, philosopher and college professor Jay Richards recruited 10 Christian scholars, mostly historians, to read our book and then Barton’s. On the whole, the scholars came back to Richards with the feedback that Barton had turned Jefferson into a figure unrecognizable to them. It wasn’t long afterwards that Thomas Nelson took the extremely rare step of pulling the book from publication.
Yesterday, like presidents before him, President Trump issued a proclamation commemorating Thomas Jefferson’s work in writing Virginia’s
Statute for Religious Freedom (full text here) which was adopted by the Virginia legislature on January 16, 1786. The law ended the establishment of the Anglican church in Virginia and recognized freedom of conscience in the state.
Jefferson meant for that freedom of conscience to extend beyond Christian denominations to all religions or none. However, ultra-conservative Liberty Counsel does not appear to recognize the breadth of Jefferson’s work. In their press release, the Statute on Religious Freedom is described as follows:
Religious Freedom Day is celebrated in America each year on January 16 to commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the passing of the 1786 passage of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom that ended the state-established church in Virginia, finally protecting religious rights for all denominations. The Anglicans had fined, persecuted, jailed and murdered Christians who were not part of the state-established church. However, Jefferson, a lifelong fervent advocate for the rights of religious liberty and religious conscience, worked hard to protect and defend those Christians. (emphasis added)
Liberty Counsel’s presser refers to denominations of Christianity and to Jefferson’s work to defend Christians. In the past, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver has questioned the status of Islam as a religious worthy of First Amendment protection. Staver is also of the David Barton school of thought regarding the First Amendment — that the purpose of it was to prevent a Christian denomination from being established. In other words, when the First Amendment says religion, it means Christianity.
The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally past; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Islam], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.
According to Jefferson, the effort did not succeed. He meant his religious freedom bill to cover all people, of all religious ideas or no religious ideas.
What Religious Freedom Really Means Now
Ultimately, religious freedom at this particular time for this particular group means the freedom to discriminate against people, usually GLBT people in providing public services. In general, I think those who provide services to the public should provide them to GLBT people, even if they personally disagree with some aspect of those they serve.
But that’s just me and my beliefs. I know others believe differently, and the beauty of this nation is that they are free to believe it. What we will find out over the next few years is if they are free to discriminate based on that belief.
Oh, how I have missed me some Wallbuilders!
In a stunningly simplistic video, Tim Barton, son of David Barton, holds up a copy of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and asks if Darwin was a racist. Why would he wonder this? The full title of Darwin’s book is: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Because of the phrase “favoured races” Barton says Darwin was racist and evolution shouldn’t be studied in school. Watch:
Did Tim Barton Forget the Constitutional Convention Slavery Deal?
Barton invokes the Declaration of Independence to suggest that the founders didn’t believe in “favoured races.” He said at about one minute: “The founding fathers even wrote in the Declaration, ‘All men are created equal.” There’s not favored races.”
Really? Has young Mr. Barton forgotten about the subject that nearly ripped the Constitutional Convention apart? The favored race was represented in Philadelphia while the African slave was sold out by our founding fathers. How can you tell the story of America without the story of favored races?
What Then Should We Teach?
After insinuating that Darwin was a racist, Barton questions the teaching of evolution. If that is the standard, then we will have to question the teaching of Christianity. Although less so now, in the past many Christians used their religion as a basis for racist attitudes. One major divide during the Civil War was theological between abolitionists and those who believed Christianity supported or even mandated the superiority of whites. One of the clearest illustrations of this is a speech given by the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens in 1861.
MR. STEPHENS rose and spoke as follows:
Mr. Mayor, and Gentlemen of the Committee, and Fellow-Citizens:- . . . We are in the midst of one of the greatest epochs in our history. The last ninety days will mark one of the most memorable eras in the history of modern civilization. . . .
I was remarking, that we are passing through one of the greatest revolutions in the annals of the world. Seven States have within the last three months thrown off an old government and formed a new. This revolution has been signally marked, up to this time, by the fact of its having been accomplished without the loss of a single drop of blood. [Applause.]
This new constitution, or form of government, constitutes the subject to which your attention will be partly invited. . . .
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other — though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.” Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind — from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just — but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal. (emphasis added)
Darwin or Jefferson?
Below I briefly discuss Darwin and race. However, no matter what Darwin thought about it, it is incredibly hypocritical for Tim Barton to brand
Darwin as a racist on the basis of the title of Origin of Species while father David Barton elsewhere lauds Thomas Jefferson as an “advocate for equality.” In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson said about African slaves:
It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expence of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race. — To these objections, which are political, may be added others, which are physical and moral. The first difference which strikes us is that of colour. Whether the black of the negro resides in the reticular membrane between the skin and scarf-skin, or in the scarf-skin itself; whether it proceeds from the colour of the blood, the colour of the bile, or from that of some other secretion, the difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and cause were better known to us. And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of colour in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immoveable
veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race? Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant symmetry of form, their own judgment in favour of the whites, declared by their preference of them, as uniformly as is the preference of the Oranootan for the black women over those of his own species. The circumstance of superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man? Besides those of colour, figure, and hair, there are other physical distinctions proving a difference of race. They have less hair on the face and body. They secrete less by the kidnies, and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odour. This greater degree of transpiration renders them more tolerant of heat, and less so of cold, than the whites. Perhaps too a difference of structure in the pulmonary apparatus, which a late ingenious experimentalist has discovered to be the principal regulator of animal heat, may have disabled them from extricating, in the act of inspiration, so much of that fluid from the outer air, or obliged them in expiration, to part with more of it. They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labour through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present. When present, they do not go through it with more coolness or steadiness than the whites. They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection. To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed in labour. An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep
of course. Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous. It would be unfair to follow them to Africa for this investigation. We will consider them here, on the same stage with the whites, and where the facts are not apocryphal on which a judgment is to be formed. It will be right to make great allowances for the difference of condition, of education, of conversation, of the sphere in which they move. Many millions of them have been brought to, and born in America. Most of them indeed have been confined to tillage, to their own homes, and their own society: yet many have been so situated, that they might have availed themselves of the conversation of their masters; many have been brought up to the handicraft arts, and from that circumstance have always been associated with the whites. Some have been liberally educated, and all have lived in countries where the arts and sciences are cultivated to a considerable degree, and have had before their eyes samples of the best works from abroad. The Indians, with no advantages of this kind, will often carve figures on their pipes not destitute of design and merit. They will crayon out an animal, a plant, or a country, so as to prove the existence of a germ in their minds which only wants cultivation. They astonish you with strokes of the most sublime oratory; such as prove their reason and sentiment strong, their imagination glowing and elevated. But never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture. In music they are more generally gifted than the whites with accurate ears for tune and time, and they have been found capable of imagining a small catch. Whether they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody, or of complicated harmony, is yet to be proved. Misery is often the parent of 267–
the most affecting touches in poetry. — Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love is the peculiar ;oestrum of the poet. Their love is ardent, but it kindles the senses only, not the imagination. Religion indeed has produced a Phyllis Whately; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism. The heroes of the Dunciad are to her, as Hercules to the author of that poem. Ignatius Sancho has approached nearer to merit in composition; yet his letters do more honour to the heart than the head. They breathe the purest effusions of friendship and general philanthropy, and shew how great a degree of the latter may be compounded with strong religious zeal. He is often happy in the turn of his compliments, and his stile is easy and familiar, except when he affects a Shandean fabrication of words. But his imagination is wild and extravagant, escapes incessantly from every restraint of reason and taste, and, in the course of its vagaries, leaves a tract of thought as incoherent and eccentric, as is the course of a meteor through the sky. His subjects should often have led him to a process of sober reasoning: yet we find him always substituting sentiment for demonstration. Upon the whole, though we admit him to the first place among those of his own colour who have presented themselves to the public judgment, yet when we compare him with the writers of the race among whom he lived, and particularly with the epistolary class, in which he has taken his own stand, we are compelled to enroll him at the bottom of the column. This criticism supposes the letters published under his name to be genuine, and to have received amendment from no other hand; points which would not be of easy investigation. The improvement of the blacks in body and mind, in the first instance of their mixture with the whites, has been observed by every one, and proves that their inferiority is not the effect merely of their condition of life.
There is serious discussion among scholars about the racial views of Darwin. Some believe he held racist views, others believe he entertained them but eventually discarded them. As an illustration of someone who offers a sympathetic view of Darwin, I offer this video featuring Adam Gopnik on Fora.tv.
Given what Gopnik says about Darwin here (entertained ideas of human being distributed in breeds like animals), perhaps Darwin followed Jefferson’s thinking. I don’t know enough about the intellectual history of that concept to say; Gopnik may be being too charitable. If need be, I can look into that for a future post. However, I hope I have demonstrated that it is sloppy thinking and poor history to try to pin racism on any one view of origins.
Here are a few things I have been thinking and reading about.
Ravi Zacharias, Ligonier Ministries, and His Oxford Thing
UPDATE: As of January 10, the bio has been changed to remove the claim that Zacharias is a senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall.
I thought Ravi Zacharias would be more careful after his brush with controversy over his credentials. However, he is speaking for Ligonier Ministries this summer and they are billing him as a current “senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University.” Problem is, he’s not. Even though Wycliffe Hall is a Permanent Private Hall at Oxford and he once held an honorific title there, he was never considered on faculty at Oxford. I have seen the correspondence from Oxford on the subject and it is clear that he does not have any position now with Wycliffe or Oxford (source, source, source, source).
Since December 19, I have been corresponding with Ligonier about this without any change in the description or response from them. Apparently, false claims aren’t a big deal.
Are Husbands Responsible to Sanctify Wives?
This piece by Sarah Lindsay directed me to this piece by Bryan Stoudt. Stoudt argues that husbands are responsible “to be instruments of his sanctifying work in the lives of our wives.” This means husbands are supposed to correct their wives without being too angry or too passive. Apparently the process doesn’t go both ways. Wives get to be corrected but not to correct.
Trump Supporter Sheriff Clarke Posts Fake Jefferson Quote
Democrats and liberals embrace of criminal illegal aliens by pardoning them to avoid deportation and their disdain of the Constitution reminds me of this Thomas Jefferson quote. We need more of this attitude back. We have it with @realDonaldTrump as POTUS pic.twitter.com/Hb2TuM01Qv
I have always been skeptical about Dissociative Identity Disorder (aka Multiple Personality Disorder). A friend recently pointed me to this 1993 documentary on the subject featuring the work of discredited therapist Colin Ross. One may generalize some aspects of the therapists’ mistakes to what reparative therapists do to falsely consider their techniques to be useful.
Feel free to comment on any and all topics. Add some of your own. What are you reading about? I’ve also been reading articles on free will and determinism, arguments against Calvinism, why there is something rather than nothing, whether or not hydrolized wheat is gluten free, autogynephilia, lost cities of Finland, arguments against an immaterial soul, the Collective Unconscious, the Milgram experiment, the history of Fleetwood Mac, and a few other things.
I might get on some theme soon or then again, I might not.
In this clip, Trump also defends participation in the Unite the Right rally if the participants weren’t white supremacists. He said there were many people who weren’t in that group at Charlottesville in the rally. This line of thought is hard to fathom.
By now, no one should be surprised. Trump’s slow and confusing initial response is consistent with his attitudes.
Trump does not have the ability to think through these things for himself. He doesn’t have the ability to reason through the differences between Robert E. Lee who was committed to slavery as a moral good for African slaves, and George Washington who freed his slaves at his death and didn’t fight a war to maintain slavery.
“They [Louisiana Democrats] purportedly separated themselves from Thomas Jefferson because he owned slaves,” Barton told WND. “However, they ignored the fact that African-American civil rights leaders in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries openly praised Jefferson for his repeated efforts to abolish slavery in the United States, and even around the world. They understood a reality that today’s shallow academics and uninformed activists ignore: Virginia state law did not allow Jefferson to free his slaves, despite his desire to do so. So he worked to free all slaves throughout all of the United States. Those efforts are worthy of commendation – something Louisiana Democrats refuse to do.” (emphasis added)
Barton and the author of the article Paul Bremmer are bothered by Louisiana Democrats because they renamed their annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner. The LA Dems said the move reflects “the progress of the party and the changing times.”
My point is not to defend the LA Dems; they can do whatever they want with their dinner. Rather, I want to point out again that Virginia law allowed slave owners to emancipate slaves after 1782, and many slave owners did so. With the 226th anniversary of the writing of Virginia plantation owner Robert Carter’s deed of manumission coming on August 1, it is a good time for the reminder.
Virginia’s law on manumission changed the law to allow slave owners to free slaves via a deed of manumission filed at the county court house or upon the death of the owner in a will. The entire Virginia law, passed in 1782, is reproduced at the end of this post (see also the laws of Virginia; scroll to page 39).
Robert Carter used that law to free his slaves. In his deed of manumission (linked at the end of the post), Carter said the following:
And whereas I have for some time past been convinced that to retain them [slaves] in slavery is contrary to the true principles of Religion & Justice, that therefore it was my Duty to manumit them, if it could be accomplished without infringing the laws of my Country, without being of disadvantage to my neighbors & the Community at large: And whereas the General Assembly for the Commonwealth of Virginia did in the year seventeen hundred eighty two enact a Law entitled “an Act to authorize the manumission of slaves” now be it remembered that the said Robert do under the said Act for myself my heirs my Executors & administrators emancipate from slavery all such my slaves in the aforesaid Schedule (as are under the age of forty-six years) but in a manner & form as hereafter particularly mentioned & set forth. (emphasis mine)
In his deed, Carter set in motion a process to free all 452 of his slaves over time. Some slaves were children and had to wait until they were adults or could be released to their freed parents. Others were older and required support. Adult able-bodied slaves were able to be freed the most easily. However, he and other slave owners took advantage of this law that was on the books during Jefferson’s time as a slave owner.
Laws were later changed to make it more difficult and less practical to emancipate slaves but there was a window when many slaves were freed. Given Jefferson’s lavish lifestyle and resultant debts, it might have been difficult to free his slaves but it was not because Virginia did not allow it. For some reason, Barton persists in repeating this error.
If Barton wanted to say it would have been difficult for Jefferson to free his slaves, he could just say so. Instead, he misrepresents Virginia law in
such a way as to remove the responsibility from Jefferson. There were times when Jefferson could have freed his slaves and other times when he would not have been able to, but it is wrong to say Virginia law didn’t allow it.
If Jefferson wanted to free his slaves so badly, why did he send slave catchers after those who ran away? Why did he buy and sell slaves? Why did he revel in the fact that slave women having slave babies increased his investment and wealth? In my book with Michael Coulter on Jefferson, we go into Jefferson as a slave owner in some detail.
For more on Jefferson, slavery, and Virginia slave laws, see the following resources.
An act to authorize the manumission of slaves.
I. WHEREAS application hath been made to this present general assembly, that those persons who are disposed to emancipate their slaves may be empowered so to do, and the same hath been judged expedient under certain restrictions: Be it therefore enacted, That it shall hereafter be lawful for any person, by his or her last will and testament, or by any other instrument in writing, under his or her hand and seal, attested and proved in the county court by two witnesses, or acknowledged by the party in the court of the county where he or she resides to emancipate and set free, his or her slaves, or any of them, who shall thereupon be entirely and fully discharged from the performance of any contract entered into during servitude, and enjoy as full freedom as if they had been particularly named and freed by this act.
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. Provided also, That every person by written instrument in his life time, or if by last will and testament, the executors of every person freeing any slave, shall cause to be delivered to him or her, a copy of the instrument of emancipation, attested by the clerk of the court of the county, who shall be paid therefor, by the person emancipating, five shillings, to be collected in the manner of other clerk’s fees. Every person neglecting or refusing to deliver to any slave by him or her set free, such copy, shall forfeit and pay ten pounds, to be recovered with costs in any court of record, one half thereof to the person suing for the same, and the other to the person to whom such copy ought to have been delivered. It shall be lawful for any justice of the peace to commit to the gaol of his county, any emancipated slave travelling out of the county of his or her residence without a copy of the instrument of his or her emancipation, there to remain till such copy is produced and the gaoler’s fees paid.
III. And be it further enacted, That in case any slave so liberated shall neglect in any year to pay all taxes and levies imposed or to be imposed by law, the court of the county shall order the sheriff to hire out him or her for so long time as will raise the said taxes and levies. Provided sufficient distress cannot be made upon his or her estate. Saving nevertheless to all and every person and persons, bodies politic or corporate, and their heirs and successors, other than the person or persons claiming under those so emancipating their slaves, all such right and title as they or any of them could or might claim if this act had never been made.
Barton also did this in The Founders Bible, a must avoid collection of historical half-truths surrounded by Holy Writ.
Adams did write those words to Thomas Jefferson but Barton omitted critical parts of the quote. Here is the relevant section of what Adams wrote to Jefferson with the bold letters being what Barton selectively included on his Facebook page.
Who composed that army of fine young fellows that was then before my eyes? There were among them Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants, and House Protestants, Deists and Atheists, and Protestants “qui ne croyent rien.”* Very few, however, of several of these species; nevertheless, all educated in the general principles of Christianity, and the general principles of English and American liberty.
Could my answer be understood by any candid reader or hearer, to recommend to all the others the general principles, institutions, or systems of education of the Roman Catholics, or those of the Quakers, or those of the Presbyterians, or those of the Methodists, or those of the Moravians, or those of the Universalists, or those of the Philosophers? No. The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system. I could, therefore, safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these general principles. In favor of these general principles, in philosophy, religion, and government, I could fill sheets of quotations from Frederic of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Rousseau, and Voltaire, as well as Newton and Locke; not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame.
Barton makes Adams, a Unitarian, sound like an evangelical Christian nationalist. However, when one reads the entire section, Adams was explaining to Jefferson his view that there was a set of general principles shared by Christians and non-Christians which formed a foundation for American independence. Note how Barton dramatically alters Adams meaning by stringing his words together to fit the Christian nationalist perspective.
No competent historian works this way.
*qui ne croyent rien – French for “those who believe nothing.”
Writing for the Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor gets right to the point: David Barton does history wrong. And Taylor recommends my book (with Michael Coulter) Getting Jefferson Right.
That right there is a great post.
The reason for the post is to point readers toward well researched and written sources on America’s founding. For the most part, I think Taylor put together a great list of resources on the religious dimensions of the founding era.
I do take issue with two sentences Taylor wrote:
In fairness to Barton, he has gotten better in recent years in not circulating as many bogus quotes, labeling some of them as “unconfirmed.” However, the source mining and the problematic historiography, where the evidence is forced to fit the predetermined thesis, continue.
In fairness to Taylor, it is hard to keep up with Barton’s shenanigans. However, Barton hasn’t gotten better. For instance, there is the Jefferson quote Barton essentially made up using Jefferson’s words but with a rearranged meaning. Then, there is the Lincoln quote which Barton claimed for Lincoln but did not come from honest Abe. In a WND article, Barton goes for two questionable quotes which can’t be found in original source material. These problems all occurred in 2017.
One more thing Taylor could have mentioned is Barton’s fraudulent doctorate degree. Back in late 2016, Barton blasted progressives for saying he didn’t have an earned degree. Then, when it was discovered that Barton’s earned degree came from a diploma mill, Barton went quiet. Not only does Barton do history wrong, he does academia wrong as well.
I hope Taylor’s post gets distributed widely.
TJ was born on April 13, 1743. So what can you get a founder of our country who is experiencing his reward?
1. You can spread this post around Twitter and Facebook: David Barton’s Jefferson Lies: The Immigration and Healthcare Edition. This post illustrates how far David Barton will go to misrepresent Jefferson to suit Barton’s political views. Barton adds and subtracts words from our third president’s 1805 address to Congress in order to support Barton’s preferred narrative. Jefferson’s not here to set him straight, so you can help out.
In honor of Jefferson’s birthday, Barton should admit what he did and apologize.
2. You can get yourself or a friend a copy of critically acclaimedGetting Jefferson Right authored by Michael Coulter and me (now only $2.99 for the e-book). The book debunks many of key claims of Christian nation advocates (Barton is the most prominent among them) about Jefferson.