One of the lies that David Barton tells in his appropriately titled book The Jefferson Lies is that Jefferson wanted to free his slaves but couldn’t because Virginia law forbid what was called manumission. It’s been debunked many times, but Warren Throckmorton catches him telling the same lie twice in recent weeks.
In our book on Jefferson, Getting Jefferson Right, Michael Coulter and I demonstrated that slave owners were allowed to manumit (free) slaves after Virginia lawmakers passed the 1782 Law on Manumission. However, Barton keeps spreading the misinformation.
In February, Barton told Charis Bible College students George Mason was not allowed to free his slaves (at 1:38 into the video). Prior to 1782, slaves could only be freed by the Virginia legislature due to some meritorious service by the slave. Mason died in 1791 so his window of opportunity to free his slaves came near the end of his life. However, despite his strong rhetoric against slavery, he did not manumit his slaves in life or at his death. Barton told the Bible college students Mason didn’t free his slaves “because in the state of Virginia, it was illegal to free your slaves.” Not so.
More recently, he told the pastor of Calvary Chapel Jack Hibbs that Virginia law didn’t allow manumission. It is beyond me why he keeps saying this when it is an easy to look up Virginia’s manumission law as well as the many deeds of manumission which were filed after 1782 (Utah State’s Michael Nicholls is the go to person on this). In prior posts, I have pointed out the amazing story of Robert Carter III who began a process of manumitting more than 450 slaves beginning in 1791.
I don’t know why this is beyond his ability to understand. The answer is quite simple: David Barton is a liar, one of the most shameless I’ve ever seen. He will tell any story, make any claim, no matter how blatantly false, as long as it supports the narrative he’s trying to sell to his audience.