Back in August, Glenn Sunshine, one of the evangelical scholars Jay Richards asked to read Getting Jefferson Right and The Jefferson Lies, provided a summary of his reactions to both books on his blog. Better late than never getting it on the blog here.
Prof. Sunshine cannot be accused of being a leftist (check out his blog) and has used Wallbuilders’ materials in the past.
This post is an additional note to our earlier post on Jefferson and the 1798 Thompson Bible. To briefly recap, David Barton says his description of the situation is accurate; we say it is not. Here is what Barton said in The Jefferson Lies about the Bible, followed by what he told Kirk Cameron in the movie, Monumental. First in his book:
Furthermore, in 1798 Jefferson personally helped finance the printing of one of America’s groundbreaking editions of the Bible. That Bible was a massive, two-volume folio set that was not only the largest Bible ever published in America to that time, but it was also America’s first hot-pressed Bible. President John Adams, several signers of the Constitution and Declaration, and other major Founders joined with Jefferson to help fund that Bible.
Then, in Monumental, Barton said:
This Bible was funded by about a dozen signers of the Constitution and signers of the Declaration as well as by President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson. They’re the guys that put up the financial backing to do this Bible.
When you see this stuff, you go wait a minute. These guys…why would any atheist, agnostic, or deist promote the Word of God, fund it and want it distributed to every family and everyone in America?
In our previous post, we noted that Jefferson did not finish paying for his copy of the Bible until January, 1799. In that post, we did not list all three payments. However, after getting some additional documentation, we can put together a little better picture of what probably took place. First, note this broadside dated January, 1798 advertising the Thompson Bible.
Because figure 1 is probably a little hard to see, you can click this link to see the PDF, generously provided by the American Antiquarian Society. We thank them for permission to use this image.
Remember that the first ad for this Bible was placed in the Gazette of the United States in April, 1796, also provided by the American Antiquarian Society. See figure 2 below:
Given the dates of Jefferson’s payments, he either didn’t see this ad or he saw it and did not decide to do anything about it until about two years later.
The date on figure 1 above titled, “Superb Hot-Pressed Family Bible” is January, 1798. Jefferson’s first payment of $5.00 was made the following month on February 26, 1798. He must have seen the ad and it either jogged his memory that he wanted a copy of this Bible or he decided at that point that he would buy one. By that time, the Bible was mostly completed. Consider the text of the ad:
The section in red in figure 3 is especially important: “Happily, what was at that time only contemplated, is now matured, and in a great measure fulfilled; most part of the Work being completed: and the Proprietors only echo the unanimous voice of all who have seen it, when they say, it is the most grand and superb Book ever Printed on this side of the Atlantic.” The Bible was almost complete for the first wave of buyers.
To Jefferson who once said, “I cannot live without books,” this ad must have been irresistible. The Bible was almost complete and the proprietors, rightfully proud of their accomplishment, wanted to offer their “grand and superb book” to a wider audience. Those who had not subscribed at the beginning could still get in on the action. The terms of the purchase were spelled out by Thompson and Small at the end of the broadside (click the image to enlarge it).
Note that a list of subscribers (hundreds by this time – see the full lists in Getting Jefferson Right) was already available for a potential buyer to examine. Then also see the “conditions of publication” in figure 4. Jefferson apparently agreed to the third approach because his first payment of $5 was recorded on February 26, 1798 (“Pd. 5.D. in part of 20.D. subscription for a hot press bible“*) with his second payment of $5 was made on May 26, 1798 (“Gave order on do. in favr. Thompson & Small in part subscription for bible 5.D.“), presumably when “three parts” of the work was done. His final payment of $10 was made on January 5, 1799 (“Gave Thompson & Small ord. on J. Barnes for 10.D. the balance due for a hot press bible.“).
It should be now abundantly clear that Thomas Jefferson did not specially finance or go together with other founders/signers to “put up the financial backing” for this Bible in the manner implied by David Barton in his book and in the movie, Monumental. He purchased one Thompson Bible using a payment plan.
*Citations from Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826, Vol. II, Eds. J.A. Bear & L.C. Stanton, (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1997), pp. 979, 984, 996.
World Magazine has been leading the way on reporting news about David Barton’s controversial book, The Jefferson Lies. This morning Thomas Kidd takes the coverage to one specific question raised in The Jefferson Lies: Was Jefferson an orthodox Christian believer?
The bottom line is that the experts Kidd consulted to weigh the evidence sided with the position we took in Getting Jefferson Right. What is striking about the experts is that they all have significant conservative credibility. Kidd asked Daniel Driesbach, James Stoner, and Kevin Gutzman for their assessments. They all were skeptical that Jefferson’s rejection of orthodoxy began near the end of his life as Barton claims in The Jefferson Lies.
While this is a brief article, it may help to address the concerns of some that our critique of Barton related to semantics. The issues run much deeper and I’m glad this is becoming clearer with each report.
In parts one and two of this response to David Barton’s appearance on Glenn Beck’s show, we looked at Barton’s defense of The Jefferson Lies on the subject of Jefferson’s record on slavery. In this post, we look at the remaining claims regarding slavery made by Barton last week. Here again is the video:
Barton claimed that Jefferson inherited 187 slaves when he was 14 years. On the clip at about 4:37, Barton says:
He [Jefferson] inherited 187 slaves when he’s 14 years old. So why didn’t he just release them? Because Virginia law says if you’re an adolescent, you cannot free any slave you’ve been given, you cannot emancipate any slave. So now he’s got 187 slaves he’s not been allowed to free.
It is true that Jefferson inherited slaves at age 14, but Barton gets the number of slaves wrong. Jefferson inherited 20 slaves at that time. In Getting Jefferson Right, we address this matter and get our information right from Jefferson’s Farm Book.
To get the proper accounting, we turn to the primary source of Jefferson’s notes in his Farm Book. In it, Jefferson delineated three categories of slaves he owned as of January 14, 1774. Jefferson titled the entire section, “A Roll of the proper slaves of Thomas Jefferson. Jan. 14. 1774” and then listed forty-one slaves that came through inheritance from his father along with those slaves who were purchased or born before his inheritance from his mother [20 slaves plus 21 who were added via birth and purchase]. He then listed eleven “slaves conveyed by my mother to me under the power given her in my father’s will as an indemnification for the debts I had paid for her.” Finally, he listed the “roll of the slaves of John Wayles which were allotted to T. J. in right of his wife on a division or the estate. Jan. 14. 1774.” Here Jefferson listed the 135 slaves he received by inheritance from his father-in-law, John Wayles.* Adding these lists together, Jefferson owned 187 slaves by age thirty.
It may seem like a small point but for some reason Barton persists in saying Jefferson inherited the 187 when he was 14. Jefferson’s Farm Book (which you can see here; the total of 187 in 1774 is on page 18 at the bottom) says otherwise. While it is true that Jefferson was unable to free slaves when his father died in 1757, this was in part due to the fact that the only reason at that time allowed for emancipation was meritorious service on the part of a slave. The law allowing owners to emancipate slaves was not passed until 1782 (click here to see the text of the act to authorize the manumission of slaves).Barton then says on Beck’s show that someone told him that Jefferson could not free his slaves because they were collateral for his debts. While it is true that the Virginia legislature added a specific requirement in 1792 that freed slaves were required to work off any debts of the emancipator, this requirement actually could have made it an advantage for Jefferson to free his slaves. While the slaves would have had emancipation postponed until Jefferson’s debts were paid, they would have been free afterwards with Jefferson’s debt paid. In other words, Virginia law allowed such emancipations but with rules in place to protect creditors.
Also, on the program, Barton states that we failed to discuss other laws that were related to slavery. On the program, he said that there were a “whole bunch of laws that Jefferson had to deal with.” He then speaks of laws passed in 1778, 1791, 1793, 1795, 1798 and 1802. We are not the only ones not to refer to all of those laws. In The Jefferson Lies, Barton only cites the 1782 and 1806 laws regarding emancipation. We cite the 1782, 1806 and 1816 laws in Getting Jefferson Right.
On the program, Barton didn’t identify what the particular content of those laws were and how they related to slavery, or in what way that those laws might have prevented Jefferson him from freeing even some of his slaves. Our review of those laws do not support Barton’s contention. Male slaves younger than 21, female slaves younger than 18, all slaves older than 45 and slaves not of sound mind and body needed the financial support of their emancipator. All others did not. These parameters were still in place when Virginia amended slave laws in 1819. The bottom line is that we would like to see the Virginia statute or court case that Mr. Barton relies on to make his claim. In his book, the reference he cites concerns Massachusetts law, not Virginia.
Manumission deeds are available for review online. A review of these finds that some emancipators provided deeds for minor children with a promise of freedom at adulthood. Some slaves purchased their freedom. We encourage readers to read through some of the deeds of manumission. See the end of this post for links.
A couple of final points: When Glenn Beck introduced the segment, he said, “They say Jefferson was not against slavery.” I don’t know who “they” are, but we do not make that claim. Jefferson clearly did oppose slavery in principle and he took steps to eliminate the slave trade. However, his personal slave trade continued. In principle, Jefferson favored emancipation connected to deportation away from white society, rather than immediate abolition of the practice.
Last, those reviewing the evidence should ask why Barton omitted a section of Virginia law which would have undercut his basic argument. He mentioned it on the Beck show but did not give any explanation for the omission. Simply listing dates without specifics does nothing to address why Barton did not tell listeners that emancipation of slaves was legal, was done by many slave holders in the period between 1782 and 1806, and that Jefferson emancipated two slaves while he was alive.
Next we move to the segment on the Jefferson Bible.
* Farm Book, 1774-1824, pages 9-13, by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition]. Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2003. http://www.thomasjeffersonpapers.org/
Barton, Green and Lively would love to make the controversy over The Jefferson Lies about me. Lively’s presence on the show can only serve as an attempt to change the subject from Barton’s work to something, anything else. Green and Lively doubled down on the accusation that Christian scholars are using tactics of Alinsky to attack Barton. The Chuck Colson Center is using Alinsky tactics? Jay Richards of the Discovery Center is channeling Alinsky?
For those who want to examine the historical issues relating to The Pink Swastika, see this link.
In any case, the issues being raised now by numerous Christian scholars and observers are not about me or my views on unrelated matters. I call on Mr. Barton and Green to stick to the historical issues and cease the ad hominem attacks.