David Barton’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, has at last acknowledged that the lies are Barton’s and ceased publication and distribution of the book.
Citing a loss of confidence in the book’s details, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson is ending the publication and distribution of the bestseller, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson.
The controversial book was written by Texas evangelical David Barton, who NPR’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty profiled on All Things Considered Wednesday. The publishing company says it’s ceasing publication because it found that “basic truths just were not there.”
This is wonderful news. It won’t discredit him much amongst the yahoos, but he’ll do no additional damage. The book included a forward by Glenn Beck, by the way.
Here is the book promotion information at Barnes & Noble:
America, in so many ways, has forgotten. Its roots, its purpose, its identity―all have become shrouded behind a veil of political correctness bent on twisting the nation’s founding, and its founders, to fit within a misshapen modern world.
The time has come to remember again.
In The Jefferson Lies, prominent historian David Barton sets out to correct the distorted image of a once-beloved founding father, Thomas Jefferson. To do so, Barton tackles seven myths head-on, including:
Did Thomas Jefferson really have a child by his young slave girl, Sally Hemings?
Did he write his own Bible, excluding the parts of Christianity with which he disagreed?
Was he a racist who opposed civil rights and equality for black Americans?
Did he, in his pursuit of separation of church and state, advocate the secularizing of public life?
Through Jefferson’s own words and the eyewitness testimony of contemporaries, Barton repaints a portrait of the man from Monticello as a visionary, an innovator, a man who revered Jesus, a classical Renaissance man―and a man whose pioneering stand for liberty and God-given inalienable rights fostered a better world for this nation and its posterity. For America, the time to remember these truths again is now.
In order of the provocative ‘truths’ Barton proposes to set the record straight about:
Did Thomas Jefferson really have a child by his young slave girl, Sally Hemings? Almost certainly. DNA tests performed in the late 90s established that the descendants of Sally Hemings have DNA that matches Jefferson’s descendants. Most historians think that settles the question, but others point out that the common DNA may have entered the family line through the Randolphs, Jefferson’s wife’s family. The Randolph descendents have refused to submit to DNA testing and so, strictly, the matter is unresolved.
Rumors of Jefferson’s relationship with Hemings were a commonplace during his lifetime, however, and it is undisputed that there were a lot of red-headed slave children running around Monticello, and that Hemings and her children received privileged treatment in Jefferson’s will.
Did he write his own Bible, excluding the parts of Christianity with which he disagreed? The truth is more complicated than the question implies. Jefferson was an admirer of Jesus, but skeptical of the magic-man persona and the miracles. Jefferson cut-and-pasted the gospel narratives into an order he thought more coherent than in the traditional Bible, and omitted the miracles.
Jefferson was carefully ambiguous about his religious beliefs, which, given his Enlightenment temperament, probably signifies agnosticism or deism.
Was he a racist who opposed civil rights and equality for black Americans? Jefferson wanted to send the slaves back to Africa, and intimated toward the end of his life that he thought slavery might someday lead to exactly the civil war we got. It’s not clear whether he was a racist per se, so much as that he believed the race problem was irreconcilable and dangerous to the union. He was instrumental in the colonization movement that culminated in the founding of Liberia.
Did he, in his pursuit of separation of church and state, advocate the secularizing of public life? Yes, emphatically so. Though his public pronouncements on religion were few and ambiguous, his private letters speak plainly and often of his contempt for the clergy.
There is much to admire in Jefferson, and even his flaws are not so bad when we consider his time and place. To recreate him as some sort of American saint is dishonest, though, and it is gratifying that Barton’s revisionism has fallen with such a clunk.