The Wall Street Journal recently published a review of two books about Thomas Jefferson and the reviewer apparently mentioned Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies as an example of bad history. The Journal gave him space to respond. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that he used that space to tell lies about Jefferson.
Regarding Jefferson and slavery, Barton sticks to his false claims about Virginia law. He says Virginia limited emancipation starting in 1691. In 1723, Barton says Virginia law prohibited freeing slaves. He is correct that in 1782 Virginia allowed emancipation but then takes us down a rabbit trail. He says slave owners had to provide income for young, old or infirm slaves. That sounds like all of them. However, slaves between 18 (females) or 21 (males) and 45 could be emancipated (see the case of Robert Carter who freed all of his slaves). Jefferson freed exactly two of his more than 200 slaves during that period of time, both members of the Hemings family. It not only was legal to do, Jefferson did it twice, and other slave owners freed some or all of their slaves.
Barton then does what he often does. He pulls out something true but fails to tell us when it was true. Barton said the 1782 law required freed slaves to leave the state. Not true. It was not until 1806 that the requirement to leave the state was added to Virginia law, and even then the legislature could exempt a slave upon request. Thus, there was a 24 year period where Jefferson could have freed his adult slaves to remain in Virginia.
Yep, that’s pretty much standard operating procedure for Barton. He also refers to The Jefferson Lies as an “upcoming” book, not bothering to mention that it was already published and pulled by Thomas Nelson because it was so riddled with falsehoods. Inconvenient facts are quickly swept under the rug, as are most facts when they have the misfortune of falling into Barton’s hands.