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

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

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

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

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

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:
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.