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:// hdl.loc.gov/ loc.mss/ mtj.mtjbib015028).
Thomas Jefferson, “Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia,” The University of Virginia, August 4, 1818 (at: http:// nersp.osg.ufl.edu/ ~ 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 (http://myloc.gov/Exhibitions/creatingtheus/Pages/Interactives.aspx).

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.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/ka0aFra8RfU[/youtube]

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:
WBAmazonComment
 
I then replied:
WTAmazonCom
 
 
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.

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, warrenthrockmorton@gmail.com
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:
[youtube]https://youtu.be/KE495RqCH2E[/youtube]
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.
 
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barton asserts:

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

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

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

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

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

Barton and WND continue:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Challenge to WND

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

No, David Barton, I Did Not Recruit Jay Richards

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

Although World Net Daily lists January 12 as the release date for the second edition of David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies, it is now available on Amazon. I ordered the Kindle version and found a serious flaw within minutes of reading Barton’s response to our book Getting Jefferson Right.

Barton claims that I recruited Jay Richards to in turn recruit Christian historians to begin a campaign against Barton. That claim is not true. After reading Getting Jefferson Right, Richards approached me via Facebook message on May 14, 2012. Before that message, I did not know Richards. Here is what Barton says in The Jefferson Lies:

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

Later in the book’s preface, Barton claims:

In fact, when Jay Richards (the speaker from the Discovery Institute who was enlisted by Throckmorton to find and recruit critics to attack my works) confronted me about what he claimed were errors in The Jefferson Lies, I repeatedly asked him if he had read the book. He refused to answer. But it was clear from his mischaracterization of my arguments that he had not read it (or at least all of it). For instance, he repeatedly asserted that I said that Jefferson was an evangelical, but as is clear in the chapter on Jefferson’s faith, I do not make that claim.

Barton, David (2015-12-22). The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Kindle Locations 613-617). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

In fact, Richards wrote to Michael Coulter and me on May 14, 2012 via the Getting Jefferson Right Facebook page. He thanked us for the book and offered to contact Christian journalists on our behalf. Then, on May 23, Richards wrote to say that he had spoken to two of Barton’s supporters about the historical problems in Barton’s book (see below for the identity of one of them which was revealed by Barton). The next day, Richards alerted me that he had been “commissioned” (it was unclear who did the commissioning, but it wasn’t me) to find six Christian historians to read Barton’s book, our book, and Barton’s DVD lecture America’s Godly Heritage. Richards then approached six scholars who then agreed to provide feedback. Richards did not tell me the identity of the scholars and I still don’t know all of them. The number providing some level of feedback eventually grew to ten.

According to Richards, Barton was also going to be informed that this process was happening.

Barton’s attempt to make me the one pulling all the strings is false and I think he knows it. I say this because on his Wallbuilders’ website, he tells the story differently. About one of the scholars recruited by Richards — The Masters’ College history professor Gregg Frazer — Barton says (see footnote 2):

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

From Barton, we learn that Gregg Frazer was one of the historians recruited by Richards. Richards then gave the critique to Robison (co-author with Richards of the book Indivisible). Then, if Barton’s timing is correct, Robison gave Frazer’s critique to Barton on August 13, 2012, a few days after Thomas Nelson’s move to pull The Jefferson Lies from the shelves became public.

Not only is Barton’s claim about me false, the narrative he constructs appears to be designed to obscure what really happened. The Jefferson Lies was not doomed by political correctness, but rather by the deficiencies identified by conservative critics and reviewers. Conservative scholar Jay Richards came to us due to the merits of our work, not because we recruited him. In turn, Richards did not act alone in the effort to bring peer review to The Jefferson Lies. 

For some reason, those who commissioned Richards apparently did not follow through in a vigorous manner on the information they received. This is a part of the story as yet untold although the removal of The Jefferson Lies from publication was influenced by Richards’ efforts.

This misrepresentation of recent history is just the first of many issues from the second edition of The Jefferson Lies I will explore in the coming months.

New Endorsement of Getting Jefferson Right – John D. Wilsey

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

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

Additional endorsements can be found at GettingJeffersonRight.com.

WND Markets The Jefferson Lies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happily, there is an antidote to this revisionism.