David Barton Tells Half-Truth to the Wall Street Journal

David Barton just can’t stop it.
In a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, Barton says his book, The Jefferson Lies, is “upcoming.” He also falsely says that Virginia state law prohibited Jefferson from emancipating his slaves.
On July 2, Fergus Bordewich wrote a review of two books on Thomas Jefferson. At least one of the books mentioned David Barton by name as an example of an author who elevated Jefferson to counterfactual heights.  Barton was offended and so the WSJ allowed him space to defend himself (might require an account to read it all).
First, Barton defends Jefferson against the charge of having children with Sally Hemings. My reading of that material is that one cannot be sure about the truth. Barton is more sure of himself there than he should be.
It is intriguing that Barton calls The Jefferson Lies “upcoming.” Naturally, he failed to mention that another description of the book would be “removed from the shelves” or “debunked.” I have established that Simon & Schuster is not going to publish it so it is now a mystery who will publish the second coming of the book voted by History News Network readers as the least credible history book in print.
Regarding Jefferson and slavery, Barton sticks to his false claims about Virginia law. He says Virginia limited emancipation starting in 1691. In 1723, Barton says Virginia law prohibited freeing slaves. He is correct that in 1782 Virginia allowed emancipation but then takes us down a rabbit trail. He says slave owners had to provide income for young, old or infirm slaves. That sounds like all of them. However, slaves between 18 (females) or 21 (males) and 45 could be emancipated (see the case of Robert Carter who freed all of his slaves). Jefferson freed exactly two of his more than 200 slaves during that period of time, both members of the Hemings family. It not only was legal to do, Jefferson did it twice, and other slave owners freed some or all of their slaves.
Barton then does what he often does. He pulls out something true but fails to tell us when it was true. Barton said the 1782 law required freed slaves to leave the state. Not true. It was not until 1806 that the requirement to leave the state was added to Virginia law, and even then the legislature could exempt a slave upon request. Thus, there was a 24 year period where Jefferson could have freed his adult slaves to remain in Virginia.
In his WSJ defense, Barton reveled in author Andrew Burstein’s reference to him as a “self-taught historian.” In Barton’s case, self-taught means unable to self-correct. He is still making the same mistakes that caused Thomas Nelson to pull The Jefferson Lies from publication.