Point/Counterpoint with David Barton at World Magazine

This morning, World Magazine is featuring an excerpt of Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President along with a lengthy rebuttal from David Barton.  Our section is here and Barton’s article is here.

I have not read Barton’s response yet. I wanted to get the links up in order for readers to have some time to wade through the material.  I suspect some of what Barton has to say will be the subject of separate posts. We will have an opportunity from World to post a rebuttal to Barton in a couple of weeks.

So I invite you to comment at the World site and here.

UPDATE: I have read through Barton’s commentary. Although it may take a month, Michael and I will write a response to it for World.  It is hard to know where to start when there is so much to address.

Do I start with Barton’s claim that he welcomes appraisal of his work? Barton did not seem welcoming when he called Michael and me academic elitists and allowed without comment his Wallbuilder’s staffer Rick Green to say that his critics were using tactics of Hitler and Alinsky.  All that nastiness aside, his tone has improved for this rebuttal.

One of the clearest impressions I have after the first read is how Barton simplified our critique on most of the points. For instance, on the slavery question, we never said Jefferson could free his slaves at any time during his life with ease. We said there was a window from 1782-1806 when the laws had been relaxed to allow voluntary manumission of slaves. Jefferson indeed did free two slaves during that period. In that section, Barton gives a lot of dates for other slave laws but he gives no quotes from them.  Also, he cites examples (e.g., Coles leaving the state to free his slaves) that were outside of the window we identified. Throughout that section, Barton does not provide dates to place the requirements within context.

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  • Mary

    I used to enjoy David Barton. Now with all of this exposure on his poor research methods, I am disappointed. I am dis heartened that another so called Christian is making statements that are not thoroughly reviewed.

  • Scotty G.


    After reading ‘Getting Jefferson Right’ and Barton’s rebuttal, it is now clear to me that you, Warren, wish to keep the United Godly States of America from returning to its Christian roots. You are obviously trying to dismantle our righteous plans to set up a proper Priest King President to usher us into a new Christian millennium, and establish Christ’s kingdom here on earth.

    You seek to avert our ‘calling’ of taking back the Promised Land of America from the liberal heathens, ungodly homos, and barbaric Muslims. Barton makes it clear in his rebuttal that by your suggesting that Christians separated families in the spreading of the Gospel it is clear you hold missionaries and the Great Commission in low regard.

    It is unmistakable when Barton states:

    “Throckmorton sees Christian missionary work among native peoples as atrocity-filled—something that broke up families, coerced faith and western culture, and harshly punished those who committed even minor violations of the missionaries’ inflexible pharisaical beliefs…A further indication of Throckmorton’s generally negative view of Christian Anglo/Indian relations is his claim that it was threats from the white man that kept the Christian Delaware from returning to the lands reserved for them by Congress.”

    Yes I repeat is UN-mistakable by the above statement that it is not Barton that has an agenda but rather YOU.

    It is also clear you hold the Virginia Bible Society in contempt by your blatant antipathy to their membership policies. For what conclusion can there be, other then a personal vendetta on your part, when Barton clearly unmasks you in this statement:

    “Throckmorton may not like the rules of the Virginia Bible Society; he may not like the fact that Jefferson read those rules and contributed accordingly; he may not like what Rice said about Jefferson; but none of that changes the historical facts.”

    And how dare you imply that good king Jefferson, intended to undercut his contemporaries (“John Adams, John Marshall, and other Federalists”) in politics with his neutered..er.. ’abridged’ Holy Bible. Yea, we know you did not list these people specifically in your unmitigated ‘attack’ on Barton’s claims that Jefferson wanted his hacked-up..er..’condenced’ version of the Word used to evangelize Indians, but Barton KNOWS that’s who you meant.

    Now you may think by all this rhetoric regarding your hostility to the concept of America’s Godly heritage in general, and antagonism to Christianity specifically, that Mr. Barton is calling your Christian faith into question, but you mustn’t pay any attention to the man behind the curtain. But, perhaps in your next rebuttal, you should address his overall claims rather then busy yourself with the details about the facts, this way we can dismiss your claim to Christianity entirely.

    And just so you don’t hold onto any illusions that you are preventing our Truth from coming to light, please note how your unadulterated ‘attack’ on Barton has now allowed us to be picked up by a bigger and better distributor; a company that recognizes the greatness of Barton; ‘Glenn Beck Press’..er…Simon and Schuster.

    (end sarcasm)

    • Scotty G – Sir, you have further unmasked me. I am undone.

  • buddyglass

    When evaluating Barton it seems unnecessarily narrow to focus only on the Jefferson issue, when he clearly takes liberties with the truth on many other topics as well. For instance, the “NRA created to combat KKK” thing. Even if Barton can mount a credible response to the criticisms of his Jefferson book (which is not likely), he would still be rendered utterly untrustworthy by virtue of some of his other non-Jefferson claims.

  • MessengerBoy

    Keep up the good work, Warren. You’re helping all Americans by teaching actual history instead of a fantasy that has been carefully crafted to push a specific and possibly ungodly agenda. Thank you for answering the call.

  • James Ferguson

    It seems Barton is pretty much a red herring. The problem lies in the general conservative view of America that has led to polemicists like Barton resurrecting opinions long held by conservatives, such as Samuel Wordsworth Bailey, from whom Barton draws unsubstantiated quotes on the founding fathers. There was also the Dunning School at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries which successfully rewrote the way we were supposed to think about Reconstruction, leading to such books as The Klansman, which was made into The Birth of a Nation, which Wilson screened in the WH and gave it a thumb’s up. What we have today is simply the latest and perhaps loudest group of conservative pundits, demagogues and polemicists trying to rewrite American History to suit their narrow-minded vision. The one who worries me the most is Antonin Scalia, who actually sits on the SC bench, publishing his pathetic views on the original intent of the constitution and then getting all huffy when Breyer calls him out on it.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Well let’s hope Beyerbkeeps calling him “on it”

    Speaking of Scalia, did you know his son, a Catholic Priest was at one time Chairman of the Catholic Ministry called “Courage”? I don’t want to overstate things I’m not 100% certain of the details on but I believe it is a ministry to help Catholics who are not heterosexual. I’m not sure if they promotes sexual orientation change efforts or simply try and support non heterosexuals to live a celibate Catholic life. But Scalia’s son was at one time Chairman of that ministry.

  • Teresa

    Hey, SGM, nice to see you commenting here.

    The Catholic ministry, Courage, is for gays who want to live a chaste life. It has operated much like most ex-gay ministries. Courage was heavily involved in promoting NARTH, at one time (not surprising because I think many of its members are Catholic). It appears because of the lack of success stories of ‘change’ from gay to str8, and being hit on that point without any place to run and hide, they’re not pushing that angle as much as before. However, the annual Courage Conference has many presenters who are psychologists, social workers, therapists who give talks. So, it’s unclear where they’re heading.

    I’m not sure, SGM, about Fr. Scalia, an Opus Dei priest, and your reference to him as Chairman. Fr. Scalia was/is the chaplain of one Courage group in the D.C./Maryland area, if I’m not mistaken. The head of Courage is Fr. Paul Check.

    BTW, SGM, I believe we may have run across each other in another Blog. Not sure, though.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Interesting comments on this post, Warren. I don’t hold you responsible for them, exc 4 encouraging ScottyG’s. I don’t blame you for doing that either—we’re all human. But ugly attracts ugly, and then it multiplies. Ug not, lest ye be ugged. The ScottyG thing was ug.

  • David M.

    SGM, good to see you post again here. I have little of significance to add. But for the sake of conversation, I tell my little story. Some years ago, trying to reconcile my faith and sexuality, I joined an online Courage group. I had to leave before long though, when the whole group seemed bent on declaring themselves heterosexual by default, since they (generally) weren’t having regular gay sex. I couldn’t stand the doublespeak, but suspected some in the group were trying to navigate the Vatican’s barring anyone who considered themselves as gay, even if celibate, from the priesthood. I don’t know if Courage is still claiming to be a group of heterosexuals or not.

  • ken

    I never got through the whole Barton response, but he appears to be using the same evesion/misdirection tactics he usually does. Ex: he claims your arguments about Jefferson and slavery are “minor ” points, but never addresses the fact he misquoted the law.

    Then he makes a lot of claims about how you are wrong regarding the Delaware Christians and cites a lot of references, but I suspect if I bothered to followed they would show he is again mis-citing history (so I’ll leave the heavy lifting to you and Michael 🙂 )

  • dosthart

    First time reader here. That’s what comes from retirement, I guess; we start reading blogs rather than finishing the books we’re writing. I have 2-3 comments. To James Ferguson: Wilson was not a Conservative; he was a Progressive. Self-styled so, I believe. So his watching Birth of a Nation with approval is sort of irrelevant to your point. Most Conservatives I’ve ever known have viewed that film with disgust. Second, your bringing in Scalia got this whole discussion off-topic. Suddenly, instead of talking about David Barton, we’re talking about gay and straight. Irrelevant to this discussion. Third, back to Barton: As one, perhaps the only one here besides Throckmorton, who has actually read Jefferson Lies, I will be interested in reading Throck’s pointing out of Barton’s lies. I mean after all, that’s what we’re supposed to be about, isn’t it–finding out the truth? II am not interested in defending Barton, but I am astounded at all the ad hominem involved in every discussion I’ve read about him. Don’t we all know that ad hominem is one of the deadly logical fallacies? Let’s stick to the facts: What did Jefferson say, when did he say it, did he contradict himself at different stages of his life? Is Barton cherry picking the documents or quotations from documents? If our disagreements with him are in matters of interpretation, then how do we decide whose interpretation is most accurate? That’s what I’m interested in. And let’s stop calling Barton a “pseudo-historian,” as if people who do not have PhDs in history from Princeton or Harvard or Yale cannot read primary documents and make decisions about them. I mean, after all, Warren Throckmorton is not only not a “pseudo-historian,” he’s not even a historian. He’s a professor of psychology, not history. That doesn’t mean that he can’t be right–or wrong. Let’s see what he says.

    • dosthart – While waiting for our response to Barton’s rebuttal, I recommend you read our book since we take claim after claim and provide the evidence. It is unfortunate that Barton chose to simplify our arguments and not present them completely or fairly in his World article. People who have not read our book will not understand what he has done.

  • Scotty G.


    My post was written with a little sarcastic levity to highlight the underhanded backstabbing fashion in which Barton’s rebuttal was presented; at least from my perspective. I presume from Warren’s response as well as the update to his original post that I was not alone in this perception.

    For all the ‘Thanks for the input’ verbiage at the beginning of Barton’s post, what followed was a less then subtle ‘who are you and how dare you judge my work’ stance.

    The bigger problem I have with the Bartons of this world is their aloof attitude regarding Christianity, and their desire to turn this into a ‘Christian Nation’ The debilitating affect such a prospect would have on this nation of Liberty and Justice for ALL is disturbing enough. What I think is more chilling is the affect such a mind-set has on the face of Christianity itself.

    While Christ walked this earth he stated that we as Christians would be persecuted in his name. I think the early Christians (and some present day Christians in foreign countries) experienced that persecution like no other; and like the Christian Indians sighted in one of Warren’s critiques, they faced that persecution with an otherworldly grace. Thus ‘Persecution’, being a ‘strong’ word, must be looked at through the lens of what happened to those early Christians. What passes today in these United States as ‘christian persecution’ is, comparatively, a colossal joke.

    I think the freedom the first amendment provides, coupled with the natural predominance (until relatively recently) of Christianity in early US history, has unfortunately created a sense of entitlement in American Christians.

    Christ never called us to be entitled.

    What Christ’s calling requires is that when someone sues you and takes away your coat, the Christian response is to give them your cloak as well. If someone strikes your left cheek, the Christian reaction is to present the other cheek to also, potentially, be struck. In other words, like Christ, you give until it hurts, and then you keep giving.

    Mainstream American Christians are seeing themselves being sued and their proverbial cheek being ‘struck’ and the only thing at stake are their sensibilities, not their lives, privacy, or livelihood. Yet at such perceived injustices, the predominant ‘Christian’ response has so far been to rewrite laws specifically designed to codify their sensibilities, and they’re obviously not above rewriting history to justify this course of action and take it further. So much for ‘love not demanding its own way’.

    Early Christians called on God in the hour of their persecution. American Christians, in the hour of their ‘persecution’, call on Uncle Sam.

    I wonder how it would look if an early Christians and contemporary Christians were able to present, side by side, their claims to persecution.

    Early Christian 1: ‘I was disemboweled in front of a cheering audience.’

    Early Christian 2: ‘I was imprisoned for half my life.’

    Early Christian 3: ‘I was crucified.’

    Contemporary Christian 1: ‘I had to provide same sex couples with marriage licenses’.

    Contemporary Christian 2: ‘I wasn’t allowed to wear my Leviticus 18:22 shirt in school’.

    Contemporary Christian 3: ‘I had to allow two women to get married at my banquet hall.’

    If today’s vocal Christians are truly being persecuted by these current events, their response has been anything but Christian.

    Scripturally speaking, I believe Christ meant for us to see persecution, not as a hindrance, but rather, an opportunity. An opportunity to show a world that did not have the privilege to walk in the company of God himself, a small taste of what that was like. Persecution presents those of us who have seen Christ through the eyes of our faith, an opportunity for the world to witness Christ’s compassion for a world that scorned Him. Such behavior does not glorify us, (usually quite the opposite) but it unmistakably glorifies God. Such behavior does more to further the kingdom of God then any constitutional amendment could ever do.

    And when you really think about it, if such ‘persecution’ is already causing mainstream Christians to stomp their feet in an impudent tantrum, how are we going to handle it when the real persecution starts?

    Put simply, the World is looking for direction like never before. Christians are to point out that direction by being set apart, countercultural. This is not accomplished by dressing different, being perfect, carrying a bible everywhere, picketing pride parades, going to church every Sunday , being heterosexual, etc. We demonstrate this difference in how we treat others. We teach best by what we do to others, not by what we say to others. Unfortunately, far too many Christians today are squandering the opportunity to be the light on a hill in order to insure they get their ‘fair share’ of respect. After all, ‘America is a Christian Nation; everyone else is just living in it’. And so the World remains lost because the Christians they see look no different from themselves.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Scotty G

    I completely agree with you about the childish whinging of those who say they are persecuted basically because others don’t agree with them; indeed it is the case that such whinging is a travesty when one considers the genuine persecution faced by Christians in places like Iran, and gay people in places like Uganda.

    Archbishop Rowan Williams might well agree with you: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/apr/04/rowan-williams-christian-suffering-easter

  • Dave

    @ Scotty G. Brilliant post .. I couldn’t have said it better.

    God bless,


  • Richard Willmer

    And what a difference one letters makes! Here’s a certain ‘Scotty L’ up to his tricks again: http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/01/23/u-s-pastor-accuses-gays-of-persecuting-christians-in-lead-up-to-uk-oxford-union-invtitation/

    IMO, it is a case of the aggressor playing ‘victim’.

    Also interesting is SL’s comment on British history. He says: “The first principle of that venerable human rights document [the Magna Carta] declares that “The English Church shall be free.” This principle, established in the bedrock of British jurisprudence in 1215, stood unshakable for nearly 800 years until the rise of the “gay” movement which has in just the past decade achieved the power to redefine religious liberty as “homophobia” and to crush it under the heels of its pink jackboots.”

    WRONG! The Church of England was effectively placed firmly under the control of the State in 1531 (Act of Supremacy 1531)!

    Oh dearie dearie me … this ‘customization’ of history, to suit the advancement one’s own agenda, really is totally unjustifiable. It is IMO the ‘thin of the wedge’ of totalitarianism. It must be opposed.

  • Teresa

    Scotty G., what an absolutely brilliant, lovely comment you’ve given all of us. I was particularly struck by the part I’ve quoted from you; and, most particularly by the bolded sentence.

    Thank you, Scotty, for sharing this with us. And, what a week to share it, being that it’s the week that has the holiday celebrating MLK. I do believe he saw the persecution of slavery as an opportunity to witness Christian behavior in non-violence … turning the other cheek.

    I do wonder what David Barton, et. al., would have done if they were slaves.

    Scripturally speaking, I believe Christ meant for us to see persecution, not as a hindrance, but rather, an opportunity. An opportunity to show a world that did not have the privilege to walk in the company of God himself, a small taste of what that was like. Persecution presents those of us who have seen Christ through the eyes of our faith, an opportunity for the world to witness Christ’s compassion for a world that scorned Him. Such behavior does not glorify us, (usually quite the opposite) but it unmistakably glorifies God. Such behavior does more to further the kingdom of God then any constitutional amendment could ever do.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    ScottyG, if your snot and sarcasm toward David Barton and his ilk are born of the love of Jesus, I’m just not feeling it.

    You may be right that Christianity is losing its “privileged place” in shaping American society, and is destined to return to being persecuted. At the moment, its devolution in some quarters into a politically correct Beatitudism and holding the coats of its critics while they savage what’s left of it makes it difficult to tell who’s who.

    Or if the distinction between Christianity’s enemies and their Christian enablers is one even worth making.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Tom

    A bit of (very well-expressed) sarcasm is hardly the same as some of the dishonest vitriol churned out (e.g. against gays) by the likes of Lively and Barton.

    And you were hardly ‘polite’ to me a few days ago, were you?! (I seem to remember the words “pathetic bastard” featuring somewhere.) But I don’t mind about that, Tom – you were expressing your convictions, as I was mine; you weren’t threatening me in any way. But with the likes of Barton, it is different – because one thing is certain: as long as we Christians persist in failing to face up to our own dishonesty and hypocrisy, we are doomed – whatever laws might be passed by our respective states.

  • James Ferguson

    Dosthart, not irrelevant at all. Wilson’s views regarding race are well known, and his “progressivism” was largely adopted for political gain, although his administration did represent a turning point in the Democratic Party by supporting women’s suffrage. Wilson bought into the “Dunning School ” completely, and did little to promote civil rights outside women’s suffrage. This despite books at the time that countered these prevailing attitudes in “scholarship.”

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Mr. Willmer, I was quite having a go with the “bastards” stuff re the United Kingdom. Sorry you took it all serious-like. I did have some Burkean point in there somewhere about societies and political philosophy, because I think you’re headed for serious wreckage.

    As for David Barton and gays, I’m like a million miles away from whatever that’s all about. As for ScottyG railing against Dominionists in the name of Christ, I’m not feeling it, not do I think he has a charitable understanding of what they’re about.

    [I am not one, FTR.].

  • Richard Willmer

    As I said, Tom, your calling me (or whomever) names really didn’t worry me – so I’m puzzled by aspects of your reply above.

    I think all western societies have very serious problems at the moment. The core of those problems comprises IMO rampant individualism and unsustainable levels of consumption (something which these ‘religious rightists’ never seem to talk about).