Response to World’s Coverage of the David Barton Controversy

I am getting good feedback on the excerpt of Getting Jefferson Right at World Magazine. There are many questions that are floating around among evangelicals about this matter and for good reason. Michael Coulter and I are now working on a response to Mr. Barton’s rebuttal to GJR. For now, I posted a comment at World on both articles. Here it is:

 

“I want to thank World for hosting this exchange of views. Michael Coulter and I have read Mr. Barton’s rebuttal and plan a response to it which World has agreed to publish. Mr. Barton’s response sounds convincing, especially when one has not read our book, but there are numerous concerns which we will address. For instance, it is unfortunate that Mr. Barton does not address completely his or our position on Jefferson and slavery. In The Jefferson Lies (pg. 92), Mr. Barton omitted the section of the 1782 law on manumission which allowed owners to emancipate their slaves while the owners were alive. He simply omitted it from his presentation of the 1782 law leaving the impression that owners could only free their slaves via a will at death. We have asked Mr. Barton why he chose to omit that section with no reply.

Regarding our position in Getting Jefferson Right, we do not claim that Jefferson could have freed his many slaves at any time during his life. We identify a 24 year window (1782-1806) when Virginia law was relaxed and allowed for emancipation of slaves by owners. We acknowledge that freeing slaves was more difficult (although still possible) after 1806. Please note that Jefferson did not make his statement about the laws not allowing emancipation until 1814. Furthermore, Mr. Barton, in this current World article, acknowledges that security bonding was required only for “certain emancipated slaves” (page 3). This is an important clarification, but it is not news to us; we document these requirements in our book.  Adult slaves under age 45 and older than 18 (women) or 21 (men) could be freed with a deed of manumission without financial guarantee from the master. Jefferson owned many such human beings.

In our book, we do not say that Jefferson could have freed all of his slaves, but we document that he could have done more to put into practice the words, “all men are created equal” than he did.

There are other instances of the kind I have described and we will address them in our response.”

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  • David Cary Hart

    What Barton is cleverly doing is creating so much noise that people will conclude “well, he might be right.” While historical truth is a binary concept, Barton likes to create shares of grey.

    This is a bit of jiu-jitso because the prevaricator (Barton) benefits from knowing that his adversary is a truth-teller (WT). While Barton may create all manner of inventions, he knows – word for word- what the response will be. He’s not stupid. He knows what the truth really is. If he can keep the banter going back and forth, he muddies the waters which is exactly what he is trying to do.

    Before responding, I would urge you to formulate a strategy. Barton is like the litigant who is who is wrong on the facts and the law but who buries his adversary in legal papers.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    We identify a 24 year window (1782-1806) when Virginia law was relaxed and allowed for emancipation of slaves by owners. We acknowledge that freeing slaves was more difficult (although still possible) after 1806…

    This is an important clarification, but it is not news to us; we document these requirements in our book. Adult slaves under age 45 and older than 18 (women) or 21 (men) could be freed with a deed of manumission without financial guarantee from the master. Jefferson owned many such human beings.

    This is actually interesting as history in its own right, a pity it’s diminished and fouled by merely being part of the Barton circus.

    For it applies also to GWash [d.1799] and James Madison, Madison being a fellow who totally slips the hypocrisy noose.

    James E. Best’s

    http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/09/tempest-at-dawn-who-wrote-us.html

    a fictionalization of the Constitutional Convention, poignantly frames that difficulty when the narrator visits James Madison in retirement, and presses him about his flaccidity about slavery–indeed that Madison never freed his own slaves either.

    In the current political climate, Madison’s stock is up, for his genius as the Father of the Constitution. But he hath his own feet of clay, eh?


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