More Evidence David Barton is Wrong About Jefferson and Slavery: Robert Carter’s Emancipation Deed

I talked about Robert Carter in a prior post. Carter set in motion a plan to free his slaves beginning on August 1, 1791. Fresh from the Northumberland District Court in Heathsville, Virginia, I have copies of the Deed of Gift which Carter filed on August 1, 1791. I will pull out a couple of pieces of it and then provide links to all the pages which you can click through to review.

David Barton wrote in The Jefferson Lies that Thomas Jefferson was unable to free his slaves due to Virginia law. However, in Getting Jefferson Right, we demonstrate that Virginia law changed in 1782 to allow emancipation both during an owner’s life and at his death. The law was in effect for 24 years until it was modified in 1806 to make manumission more complicated for the slaves.

It is one thing to examine the law, but it is another thing to see the law in application. Robert Carter, a wealthy plantation owner who also sat on the Governor’s Council, submitted a deed, in accord with the law, on September 5, 1791. The process would take years and involve other people Carter appointed when he left Virginia.

Carter wrote the Deed of Gift on August 1, 1791 and included a list of 452 of his slaves covering all or part of five pages. Slaves over age 45 would be handled in another manner. Page one is here so you can see the format of the deed:

First, Carter introduced the list, then provided a listing of his plantations and finally a list of his slaves by name, age and location.

The next three pages contained an inventory of human beings and then on the fifth page of the deed, Carter provided his rationale and legal basis for the emancipation.

This section is quite important so I type it out here for easier reading (start at the red slash at the end of the first line):

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.

Virginia law set age restrictions on manumissions and the older slaves would be handled differently. However, this document provides clear reference to the Virginia law passed in 1782 which allowed Carter to do what he listed here.

As recently as last week, David Barton told a radio audience that Jefferson could not free his slaves due to Virginia law. I don’t know how long it will take for someone in the Christian community to hold him accountable for this but the evidence is here that he is wrong.

Some have asked me why this matters. First of all, I would like to think that Christian leaders would not want to put out falsehoods. Second, I recently spoke to an African American pastor who told me that Barton’s whitewash of Jefferson’s record is offensive to him and his colleagues. According to this pastor, lifting up Jefferson as an abolitionist and civil rights champion hinders racial reconciliation within the greater Christian community.

Robert Carter’s entire Deed of Gift (click the links)

Page one, two, three, four, five, & six.


For more on Jefferson and slavery as well as other matters covered in David Barton’s recent book, see Getting Jefferson Right.

Exodus Publicly Backs Away From Reparative Therapy

If you’ve been reading here, you would know this.

An AP story is all over the place yesterday and today with the headline that Exodus has removed reparative therapy books from the website, and is no longer promoting change therapy. According to Alan Chambers, Exodus President, “the ministry’s emphasis should be simply helping Christians who want to reconcile their own particular religious beliefs with sexual feelings they consider an affront to scripture.”

Again, no surprise to anyone who reads here regularly, I think he is on target.

I must admit, this is satisfying. When I first dropped my article in 2005 questioning reparative therapy, I was beaten up pretty badly by those in what was the ex-gay movement at the time. Things have changed. Focus on the Family is out of the reparative business for the most part. Exodus is now working on congruence as a goal, and NARTH is fighting for its life. And the APA has taken a position that congruence as an objective is acceptable.

Speaking of NARTH, the AP article says is “a professional association made up of about 2,000 therapists and others who still espouse such treatments.”

Wait, what? 2,000?

Did they gain 1,000 members in less than a year? In October, 2011, I asked David Pruden at NARTH how many professional members were on the rolls. He told me the number was at 250, with the remaining 750 or so being advocates and laypeople.  Is this puffery or have they gained 1,000 names since last October?

UPDATE: David Pruden just wrote to say that he did not tell the reporter 2k so perhaps it was a misunderstanding.


David Barton Continues the Whitewash of Jefferson as Slave Owner on the Bill Martinez Show

In prior posts, I have demonstrated that Thomas Jefferson was allowed by Virginia law to emancipate his slaves. Barton says he couldn’t do it, but we demonstrate in Getting Jefferson Right that Barton omitted from The Jefferson Lies the citation to Virginia law that proves Jefferson could have done so.

In a June 14 podcast of The Bill Martinez radio show, Barton compounds the problem by distorting the situation even more. About Jefferson and his slaves, Barton tells Martinez starting at 11:10 –

…he [Jefferson] inherited 187 slaves when he was back at 13 years old. Guess what? Virginia state law makes it illegal to free your slaves, period. So Jefferson  has 187 slaves he’s inherited, he cannot free them. Now George Washington found a loophole and freed his slaves on his death and the legislature said, ‘would you look at that, we missed that’ and they came back and fixed the loophole so you could not free your slaves on your death. So a lot of Thomas Jefferson’s neighbors moved out of Virginia, took their slaves with them, cause they wanted to free slaves and you couldn’t do it in Virginia, and Jefferson choose not to leave Virginia, so he stayed with family, he stayed there. What he did was he had these slaves working for, he paid them, if they caught fish, if they hunted game, he paid them, which is one of the reasons he died broke. Find me another slave owner who paid slaves.

Nearly everything said there is wrong. Jefferson inherited 20 slaves at age 14 when his father died. He acquired the remainder of his slaves via inheritance from his father-in-law and additional purchases and births throughout the remainder of his life. By 1822, Jefferson had 267 slaves. We have all the details in Getting Jefferson Right.

The loophole Barton refers to is the 1782 law on manumission which allowed owners to free slaves while the owner was alive and at death. As we have pointed out, Barton omitted from The Jefferson Lies the section which allowed owners to free slaves, but on the Martinez show, he says the rest of the law was a “loophole.” The Virginia legislature knew what was in the law, and they encountered many petitions from slave owners to revoke the law over the years it was in effect. However, the law was used by owners like George Washington at death and Robert Carter while alive to free their slaves. Even in 1806 when the law was tightened, emancipation was still possible. However, freed slaves were required to leave the state within a year after their freedom. With that restriction, some slaves preferred to remain near family rather than become emancipated.

Barton says Jefferson was broke because he paid his slaves. I just returned from Monticello and agree with the many historians who point out that Jefferson’s lifestyle was most likely the reason he was chronically in debt. Jefferson bought and sold slaves during the period of time when he could have freed them. While he was a kinder master than many, he certainly viewed his slaves as property.

Rather than expose a myth, Barton elaborated one that he first told in his book.

Did we parrot our professors to write Getting Jefferson Right?

Yesterday, on his Wallbuilder’s radio show, David Barton took another swipe at Getting Jefferson Right. More precisely, he said:

The book we recently did on the Jefferson Lies, there’s two professors who came out with a book rebutting it before I’d even released the book! We don’t have to read this stuff, we know it all false.

I know of no other book by two professors which rebuts The Jefferson Lies, so I am pretty sure he is referring to our book. As RightWingWatch blogger Kyle Mantyla points out in his write up of Barton’s show, we announced the May 1st release of our book on May 3rd. Barton’s book was officially released on April 10, 2012.

Stranger still is Barton’s contention that we (including other Christians who have critiques Barton’s writing) are all parroting our secular professors. RightWingWatch has the audio, but here is the relevant portion:

…what’s happened is all these secular guys have been training students that were Christians, but now these Christian kids have been trained with a secular philosophy, they’ve become our professors and they’re just parroting what they heard. It’s not that they went back and check for themselves, they just assumed that their professors were right- they really like their professors, they were nice guys and they were really educated and had three Ph.Ds and they told me all the Founders were atheists. And so now you’ve to Christians repeating exactly what they’ve been taught rather than what truth and what history actually is.

In my case, I took undergraduate history from professors at Cedarville University, a pretty conservative Baptist school. None of my professors there told me that the founders were atheists. Beyond that, I don’t remember much of what they taught, except that the founders were a pretty diverse bunch. In my psychology and counseling graduate training, I don’t think I ever heard anything about the founders.

Mike Coulter is a graduate of Grove City College with his graduate work from the University of Dallas, a pretty conservative Catholic school. We both teach at GCC which is pretty well established as a conservative school, not known for parroting a liberal position.

Mr. Barton, that dog won’t hunt.



Fired Alabama Public Television CEO May Sue Over Dismissal

Co-author of Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President, Michael Coulter, was interviewed for this article which goes in depth about the firing of Alabama public TV executives. One fired executive suggested that the firings related to refusal to air David Barton’s DVD series about the founding era. The current APTV board says the firings were unrelated to disagreements over programming. After reading the article, I think there is room for skepticism about that denial.

Please read the entire piece, but here is some of the money:

Pizzato [fired CEO] asked a group of APT staff members to watch the Barton videos and give him feedback in April, according to Howland, who participated in the review process. The programs “talked about how our government forefathers were very religious men,” Howland said, “how the country was founded on religious principles and how we need to go back to that.” The content “was very much advocating that position.”

Pizzato and his staff had “grave concerns” that the Barton content was inappropriate for public broadcasting due to its religious nature, Howland said.

Pizzato also sought advice from the station’s attorney in Washington, D.C. Todd Gray of Dow Lohnes confirmed he spoke with Pizzato about the Barton programs but he declined further comment.

In a brief interview with Current, Pizzato declined to discuss the programs or describe how he responded to the commission’s request that APT broadcast the Barton videos.

But minutes of the June 12 meeting, which have not yet been formally approved by the commission, reveal that he proposed a different set of programs for broadcast. Pizzato unveiled a new show, In the Public Interest, which would “tackle issues that have been of some concern to the Commission.” Pizzato also offered to run a 1992 documentary on creationism, Voices for Creation. Creationism also was a potential topic on In the Public Interest,Pizzato told commissioners.

Soon after, the minutes say, commissioners went into executive session to discuss Pizzato’s “general reputation, character and job performance.” About an hour later they returned to announce that they had voted to oust Pizzato and Howland.

According to the article, Pizzato appears to be preparing a suit against the Alabama PTV board. Discovery will be intriguing if it gets that far.