The ‘Jefferson Lies’ That Weren’t

After selling some 20,000 books, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson is pulling all remaining copies of David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (foreword by Glenn Beck). In his zeal to burnish Jefferson’s image, it seems Barton’s facts weren’t quite up to the argument he was making.

According to NPR, the publisher had a “loss of confidence” in the book’s accuracy:

Since its initial publication, historians have debunked and raised concerns about numerous claims in Barton’s book. In it, Barton calls Jefferson a “conventional Christian,” claims the founding father started church services at the Capitol, and even though he owned more than 200 slaves, says Jefferson was a civil rights visionary.

Additionally, Barton tried to shoo away evidence of Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemmings. When the book was first published earlier this year, Alan Pell Crawford had this to say about it:

A commitment to the notion that Jefferson promoted Christian orthodoxy leads Mr. Barton to misinterpret the early history of the University of Virginia. It was precisely because American colleges were created to produce clergymen that Jefferson established an institution where, he declared, “a professorship of theology should have no place.” … Clergymen who opposed Jefferson’s attempt to hire freethinkers as faculty members he dismissed as “satellites of religious inquisition.”

…No doubt Jefferson has suffered at the hands of glib revisionists. But attempting to make this complex man a simple, reassuring and unambiguously admirable figure does no service to his reputation—or to the American past.

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