Christian Pseudo-historian David Barton Made Up a Thomas Jefferson Quote to Justify the GOP Agenda

Is Christian pseudo-historian David Barton completely ignorant or a conscientious liar? There’s no shortage of evidence of Barton rewriting history to support his Christian agenda, but investigator Chris Rodda just uncovered a particularly egregious example.

This is Barton lying. We know this because his mouth is open.
This is Barton lying. We know this because his mouth is open.

Here’s what Barton recently said on his Wallbuilders Live radio show regarding how the federal government should handle issues like immigration and health care:

Actually, I pulled up a couple of quotes that I think fairly interesting. First off, with immigration and with healthcare both, it’s kind of interesting to see what the federal role in this — let me read a Thomas Jefferson quote on what the federal government’s to do with this combination of immigration and health care. He says, quote:

“The federal government is to certify with the exact truth for every vessel sailing in from a foreign port the state of health on that vessel, which prevails from which country she sails, but the state authorities are charged with the care of the public health.”

So we are the feds — we get to do healthcare only for ships carrying immigrants coming to the United States and we see what the health conditions were when they left, what they are when they get here, everything else belongs to the states on healthcare. And immigration was very much the same.

To summarize: Barton is saying that, according to Jefferson, the federal government’s responsible for thoroughly vetting immigrants (So thumbs up to Donald Trump‘s Muslim ban), and it’s up to the states to provide people with health care. (Got that, Obamacare supporters?)

The problem with all of that is that Barton completely ignores the context for what Jefferson said. Oh. And it’s not even a direct quotation.

What Jefferson actually said in an 1805 message to Congress was that we were in the midst of a Yellow fever crisis, but he was going to let our foreign trading partners know that there was nothing to worry about. The fever wasn’t going to spread to their nations due to boats sailing in from the U.S., because we were going to verify the health of the people on the ships.

Here’s the relevant excerpt from Jefferson’s message. I know it’s long, but the bold parts are the bits Barton used to make his point.

In taking a view of the state of our country we in the first place notice the late affliction of two of our cities under the fatal fever which in latter times has occasionally visited our shores. Providence in His goodness gave it an early termination on this occasion and lessened the number of victims which have usually fallen before it. In the course of the several visitations by this disease it has appeared that it is strictly local, incident to cities and on the tide waters only, incommunicable in the country either by persons under the disease or by goods carried from diseased places; that its access is with the autumn and it disappears with the early frosts. These restrictions within narrow limits of time and space give security even to our maritime cities three fourths of the year, and to the country always. Although from these facts it appears unnecessary, yet to satisfy the fears of foreign nations and cautions on their part not to be complained of in a danger whose limits are yet unknown to them I have strictly enjoined on the officers at the head of customs to certify with exact truth, for every vessel sailing for a foreign port the state of health respecting this fever which prevails at the place from which she sails. Under every motive from character and duty to certify the truth, I have no doubt they have faithfully executed this injunction. Much real injury has, however, been sustained from a propensity to identify with this endemic and to call by the same name fevers of very different kinds, which have been placed among those deemed contagious. As we advance in our knowledge of this disease, as facts develop the source from which individuals receive it, the State authorities charged with the care of the public health, and Congress with that of the general commerce, will become able to regulate with effect their respective functions in these departments. The burthen of quarantines is felt at home as well as abroad; their efficacy merits examination. Although the health laws of the States should be found to need no present revisal by Congress, yet commerce claims that their attention be ever awake to them.

Didn’t Barton say he was quoting something directly…? He wasn’t.

Jefferson’s statement had nothing to do with immigration, and it sure as hell didn’t say states, as opposed to the federal government, were in charge of healthcare.

Warren Throckmorton, who does an excellent job summarizing Rodda’s research, is appalled by what Barton just did:

Barton added and subtracted words he wanted to make Jefferson say something he didn’t say.

Sometimes Barton’s errors are interpretive, but in this case, he simply took liberties with Jefferson’s words and has presented a false story. Such conduct disqualifies Barton as a historian.

Rodda is used to Barton’s lies — she’s written entire books about them — but she’s more concerned about the Religious Right figures who love to cite Barton to justify their policy decisions.

David Barton, by his blatant butchering of Jefferson’s words to create a fake Jefferson quote about immigration, and further misquoting Jefferson by leaving out the part where Jefferson said that this health crisis was both a state and a federal issue, has, in his typical fashion, created just the kind of perfect (and perfectly bogus) founding fathers’ quote that his disciples, both in Congress and elsewhere, count on him to provide them with.

This is the problem with Christian leaders who say Barton is a great historian. They’re all pointing to one guy who is (purposely?) horrible at the one thing he claims to be an expert in.

Remember: This is the same guy who, for years, claimed to have an earned Ph.D. That, too, was discovered to be a hoax.

David Barton is a liar. And anyone who thinks he’s a credible historian is being duped.

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