It is completely understandable for scholars… to challenge conventional wisdom in regards to Thomas Jefferson. Revisionist historians have won the battle to craft discourse on the Jefferson narrative. Gone are the scholarly works of Dumas Malone and Merrill Peterson; unceremoniously replaced by the pseudo-history of Annette Gordon-Reed while the spectre of Fawn Brodie’s shabby scholarship (Garry Wills’ classic review linked here) haunts all students of history. The Jefferson debate is in the post DNA phase, Gordon-Reed with full support of the Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, have used the inconclusive 1998 test as the catalyst to proclaim their conjectural dribblings as fact….and America listens. David Barton’s ridiculed book was just one of many neo-revisionists studies to hit book shelves trying to redeem Jefferson’s sullied character. Barton had an alternative agenda, something beyond the “Sally accusations.” While there is plenty of evidence to refute the Sally allegations, Barton stooped to the amateurish levels of Brodie to argue the Sage of Monticello was an evangelical.
- The Jefferson Bible exists- Barton stretches quotes far beyond reasonable context to argue that the book now on display in the Smithsonian American History Museum is really a secular deception. His source material is misquoted from a dubious secondary source. Check out Jefferson’s correspondence with Dr. Benjamin Rush to see his true intent in compiling the morals of Jesus.
- Jefferson did not lead church services- Barton makes plenty of hay out of Jefferson attending religious services held in the Senate chamber during his administration. Conveniently, he ignores the obvious documentation proving his attendance was for the sake of his daughters (who were Christians.) Jefferson scholar Clay Jenkinson, not a revisionist by any means, cannot understand why Barton would waste so much intellectual energy on such misguided assertions.
- Why Jefferson? Barton’s frustration with revisionists is understandable, but terribly misguided. He never intended the book to be a scholarly examination, but rather an evangelical manifesto- rally the religious right to the most influential of our Founders kidnapped by secularists. Ignore the mountains of evidence to the contrary, focus on miniscule passages or quotations taken entirely out of context, cite questionable sources- when all else fails, make stuff up. Founders who were professed Christians such as; Patrick Henry, Benjamin Rush, Alexander Hamilton, even George Washington, all would have been better topics for Barton’s efforts.