Barton Reuses His Own Fake Quote

Barton Reuses His Own Fake Quote January 14, 2013

Many years ago, after being lambasted for passing on numerous fake quotes from the founding fathers, David Barton put out a document on his website admitting that many of the quotes he used in his first book were “unconfirmed.” One of those quotes was this one from Thomas Jefferson:

” I have always said and always will say that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make us better citizens.”

Barton admitted that the first mention of this quote is a book written in 1869 and that “we have not found it in a primary source.” And while we still see those fake quotes used all the time, Warren Throckmorton catches Barton himself using the quote above in an email to his followers.

The researchers at the Monticello site track the quote to a letter from Daniel Webster in 1852, quoting something he claims Jefferson had said 27 years earlier. But the quote simply is not consistent with many other things Jefferson said about the Bible (which is what Barton presumes he meant by the “Sacred Volume”). First, he called the God of the Old Testament “cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust” — not exactly a fountain of morality in Jefferson’s view. And he rejected almost everything in the New Testament, calling the gospel writers a “band of dupes and impostors” and calling Paul the first great corrupter of the views of Jesus.

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  • I’m only, but I’ve never met a christian who was not a liar and a hypocrite.

    “Sell ALL that I hath and give to the poor? You must be nuts!”

    “Visit the imprisoned? Minister to the sick? Clothe the naked? I’d rather be a goat!!”

  • “Hate my family?” Well, “Jesus”™ didn’t mean THAT.”

  • John Hinkle

    And if Barton responds to this, it’ll probably go like:

    My detractors are non-Christians who don’t have the qualifications to criticize me! I have thousands of primary historical sources! I can’t tell you how many Ph.D.s were in the room with me! Those who criticize me have an axe to grind, they hate me for being Christian, for showing people that this is a Christian nation! I’m the victim here! I’M BEING PERSECUTED!!!

  • thisisaturingtest

    If he defends this, it’ll probably be along the lines of his usual fall-back: “It may not be exactly what he said, but it’s consistent with the spirit of other things he said”; when, in fact, as Ed points out, it actually directly contradicts other things he said.

  • slc1

    Ah yes, Thomas Jefferson that good believing Christian who rejected the Virgin Birth, the miracle tales in the scriptures, the divinity of Yeshua of Nazareth, the Resurrection, and the Trinity. End snark.

  • Jane Roe

    Even if Jefferson did use a term like “Sacred Volume,” he presumably didn’t mean the Bible but something like the “Book of Nature,” in the deistic sense Thomas Paine had in mind when he wrote (in The Age of Reason) that if we want truth we should look for it not in the Bible but in the “revelation called the Creation.”

  • Barton is just going green by recycling his lies.

  • eric

    Barton has used so many fake quotes he probably doesn’t remember which quotes are the fakes any more.

  • Eric:

    That’s actually easy to determine. All of his quotes are fake.

  • sbh

    Daniel Webster, who once argued before the Supreme Court that no charitable bequest was valid unless it was christian, was active in the sunday-school movement in the mid nineteenth century. In 1852 he wrote a letter to a “Professor Pease”, apparently also interested in the movement, in which he cited Jefferson as having told him decades before “that Sunday Schools—(he did not use our more correct term, Sabbath)—presented the only legitimate means, under the constitution, of avoiding the rock on which the French republic was wrecked”. (These words are presented as Webster’s paraphrase, not as Jefferson’s own.) In the process Webster quoted the words as Jefferson’s that Barton and other Christian Nation folk like to repeat.

    In the late 1850s this letter was given to the press to counter the idea that Jefferson “ignored all religion but that of nature, and lived in the atmosphere of a blank and cheerless atheism” (as the National Magazine for August 1858 put it). How accurately it was printed, or how complete the transcript was, is unknown. Subsequent reprints are based on this late 1850s published transcript.

    On 24 July 2009 I emailed David Barton to give him the correct sources for three of his “unconfirmed” quotations (the fake Patrick Henry “religionists” quotation from 1956, the fake Franklin “primitive christianity” quotation by Mallet du Pan, and this one). I’ve never received any reply, but he presumably has the information.

    Relatively recently (it was still up last October) Barton apparently took down his “unconfirmed quotations” page at the Wallbuilders site. Possibly (as Warren Throckmorton speculated) he’s making changes. Maybe he finally figured out what Wikiquotes has known for over a year–that his John Quincy Adams “indissoluable bond” is only a slight misquotation from a genuine letter. And maybe he’s decided to go ahead and claim this Jefferson quotation as legitimate on the strength of Daniel Webster’s letter. After all, he’s still claiming that Jefferson said that religion was “deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our own experience to be its best support” when his own footnote shows that he’s learned better. (Jefferson of course was writing of religious liberty, not religion.)

  • sbh

    In addition to the links Ed gave above to Warren Throckmorton’s piece and the Monticello site, this article by Chris Rodda is worth reading on the subject of this Jefferson attribution.

    Here is a link to page 178 of the National Magazine for August 1858, where Daniel Webster’s letter appears along with the phrase I quoted in my previous comment.

    And finally, this is a link to a piece I wrote briefly describing the true origin (when known) of each of Barton’s “unconfirmed” quotations.

  • eoleen

    Well, actually, there IS something to be said by that “quote”. Serious study WILL make us better citizens. It will show us just how deluded those who BELIEVE in that actually crap are, and how careful we must be when we select candidates for various public offices. After all, if they can read Deuteronomy and still say that their God is “A God of Love”, or read Mathew, Mark and Luke and actually believe in the Crucifiction and Resurrection of the Son of God…

    Well, it should at least make us more cautious in our selection of those who we vote for, if not causing us to evaluate our own beliefs and actions.