Would David Barton Vote for Thomas Jefferson?

ba98f-david-bartonI have no idea how to answer this question. David Barton lives in the 21st-century. Thomas Jefferson lived a long time ago.  Moreover, Jefferson was chosen POTUS by the Electoral College.  The people did not vote directly for presidential candidates back then.

But we can still have fun with it.

Recently David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies was republished by World Net  Daily, a conservative web site with a press.  As many of the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home know, the first edition of this book was pulled from publication because it had so many factual errors.  This story has been well-told, here and elsewhere.

Barton wants all of his followers to know that Thomas Jefferson used federal funds to promote Indian missions, that he wanted to establish a theological professorship at the University of Virginia, that he was much closer to an orthodox Christian than many scholars suggest, that he did not believe in the separation of church and state, that he did not father children with Sally Hemings, and that he believed in the inspiration of the Bible and sought to promote the Bible through an involvement in the Virginia Bible Society.

All of these claims have been debunked.  The best refutation comes from Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter’s book Getting Jefferson Right: Face Checking Claims About Our Third President.

Barton wants to bring Jefferson into the fold of the 21st-century Christian Right and its quest to return America to its apparently Christian roots.  Barton likes to use the founders to promote his political agenda.  I have a strong hunch that Barton did not write Jefferson Lies because he wanted to produce a solid work of history.  Some have said that Jefferson Lies  is “bad history.”  I wouldn’t even go that far.  This book is not history.  It is a political tract.  Barton did not write this book out of the kind of intellectual curiosity that motivates a historian to follow the trail of evidence wherever it leads.  He knew what he wanted to say in this book from the very beginning.  If he was an honest historian, there would be no way he could come up with the conclusions that he did.

Barton and World Net Daily are now using Jefferson to “restore” America to a Godly nation.  But I wonder how far they are willing to go with this.

What if someone with Jefferson’s beliefs ran for president today?  As I argued in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction, Jefferson did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he was a defender of religious liberty to the point that he rejected Patrick Henry’s attempt to forge a generically Christian establishment in Virginia, he did not believe in the inspiration of the Bible, and thought that Jesus was a great moral teacher, but not God. Would Barton vote for such a man?

Maybe this entire exercise is moot since Barton disagrees with these well-established historical facts about Jefferson.  But it is fun to ponder.

One thought on “Would David Barton Vote for Thomas Jefferson?

  1. It’s difficult to see Barton voting for the author of this letter to John Adams: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-07-02-0083

    It contains not only Jefferson’s notorious comparison of NT exegesis to “pick[ing] out diamonds from dunghills,” but also his condemnation of certain “pious frauds” and others in the Anglo-American legal tradition who have erroneously declared that “the dogmas of their religion . . . make a part of the law of the land.”

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