Warren Throckmorton, who’s been doing excellent work debunking David Barton over the last few months, catches him in a whole new lie — ironically, just as Barton publishes a book called The Jefferson Lies, which our own Chris Rodda is working on now as well. He gives this transcript of a conversation between Barton and Kirk Cameron:
Kirk Cameron: What are these?
David Barton: This is a family Bible done in 1798.
Barton: 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.
Cameron: Funded by signers of the Declaration…
Barton: and Constitution
Cameron: and Constitution
Barton: yeah, Gunning Bedford, signer of the Constitution, John Dickinson, signer of the Constitution, you had so many of the signers who were part of this, you had Alexander Hamilton helped fund this Bible.
Cameron: Because they wanted families to gather around the Bible…
Barton: They wanted the Word of God out to every family.
Cameron: Because they believed that would make for a better country.
Barton: Makes for a better country, makes for a better faith. And again, this is a product of our atheist, agnostic, deist Founding Fathers, or at least, that’s who we’re been told they were today, 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? Why would they fund a Bible that you can take and give out to your neighbors, and evangelize them, it doesn’t make sense. Now, on the other hand, if these guys happened to be Christians, that makes a lot of sense.
And Throckmorton did some research and found out which exact Bible he was talking about, though at the time he couldn’t be certain that he had the right one. And it turns out, to no one’s surprise, that the claim that Jefferson and other founders “funded” the publication of that Bible because they “wanted the word of God out to every family” is absolute nonsense.
The only Bible of that size published in 1798 that I can locate is the Thompson Hot Press Bible. At the time, it was the largest Bible printed in the new nation and it was the first hot press Bible published. The ink and type were heated and then seared — hot pressed — onto the page, making a very clean impression.
The 1798 Bible was issued originally in 40 sections starting in June 1796 at half a dollar a number. One of the sources I consulted indicated that Thomas Jefferson paid $5 in February of 1798 as a payment on a subscription of $20 for a hot press Bible. Jefferson’s name is listed among the subscribers.
Buying a Bible by subscription was common then and was a way to provide the printer with some idea of how many copies to print. An analogy today might be to think of a magazine subscription is a purchase of a year’s volume of issues. You are committing to pay one price but might pay in payments instead…
Barton says the Bible was “funded by about a dozen signers…” However, the 1798 hot press Bible had, by my count (I have the two page subscriber’s list), 1272 subscribers. Some of the signers of the Declaration and Constitution were on that list, but they were subscribers just like the other 1200+ people who paid their subscription money to get the entire Bible. Barton’s narrative makes it seem as though the signers mentioned (e.g., Adams, Jefferson, Bedford, Dickinson, etc.) put up money over and above the price of a personal copy in order for the printer to distribute them to others. That is not what happened with the 1798 hot press Bible.
And now that Barton’s book is out, Throckmorton notes that Barton confirms that this was the very Bible he was talking about. He is now working on an e-book called Getting Jefferson Right that will counter many of the false claims made about him, which will certainly be worth reading.