Barton’s Revisionist Jefferson Exposed

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Religious Right faux-historian David Barton’s new book, The Jefferson Lies, is an attempt to portray the third President as an orthodox Christian. Barton has a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University. Two professors, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, from Grove City, a private Christian institution north of Pittsburgh, have written an e-book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President, wherein they expose Barton’s revisionism.We shall look at the “In the Year of Our Lord Christ” claim of Barton about Jefferson and give you a flavor of the kind of “evidence” that suits Barton’s purpose.

The phrase “In the Year of Our Lord Christ” appears on sea letters, or passports as they were then called, that allowed merchant ships safe passage when entering certain ports. Barton notes a passport for the Herschel on its journey to London and explains:

Many official documents say “in the year of our Lord,” but we have found very few that include the word “Christ.” However, this is the explicitly Christian language that President Thomas Jefferson chose to use in official public presidential documents.

From the accompanying image, it can be seen that Jefferson did indeed sign the passport that allowed safe passage for the Herschel. However, Jefferson did not “choose” the “explicitly Christian language.”

In 1782, the Treaty with Holland, the second country after France to recognize the independence of the new United States, proscribed the form of the passport. As can be seen from the image, the treaty explains how the document is to be worded.

Jefferson did not “choose” to use the phrase, the phrase was an obligation of the treaty. In the image of the sea letter it can be seen that “In the Year of Our Lord Christ” is preprinted and Jefferson, or more likely one of his scribes, inked-in the date.

This is the dilemma the Religious Right has with Jefferson. They can either downplay Jefferson’s role and importance in the founding of our country, or they can try to portray Jefferson as one of them. Both tactics have been used. Both have failed. Barton’s revisionist history demonstrates their desperation for their religion to get credit for America’s founding.

It would be kind of pathetic if they didn’t want to destroy the secular foundation of American Exceptionaism.

H/T: Americans United,, Warren Throckmorton.

*********** Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger ***********

42 thoughts on “Barton’s Revisionist Jefferson Exposed

  1. Nal,

    Some people want to see things the way they want to see them…. Nothing else will suffice until it is their way….. The passport requirements were initially set up by Franklin…..based upon the Articles of Confederation….. Which meant each of the several States could and did isuue there own….I believe it was not until the late 1850’s that a unified system was enacted……

  2. David,

    This is informative of the increasingly weird attempts made by the Christian Right to redo the intent of our Constitution by re-framing the founding fathers.
    In addition to everything else the Founding Fathers were politicians, as much as they were men of “The Enlightenment”. In that era and with the beliefs of the populace as a whole, the use of “God”, “Jesus”, “Christian”, etc. were expected social conventions. However, when one sets out to find what they are already convinced is there, they will grasp at any tenuous straw of”fact” i order to prove their point. I hate to say it, but I suspect the education someone receives at Oral Roberts University is less than edifying.

  3. “Barton has a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University.” Nuff said.

  4. I’ve heard Jefferson described as the “Apostle of Experience.” I would also say “Experiment.” And I believe more a humanist moral philosophizer than Deist. The last link is his “Bible,” but presented in a manner that one my take note of his deletions as well as what he retained.

    Remove the asterisks




  5. Nal:

    “It would be kind of pathetic if they didn’t want to destroy the secular foundation of American Exceptionaism.”


    No, it’s still pretty pathetic but not unexpected as Jefferson himself pointed out:

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
    — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

    The only question is in which category do we place Barton.

  6. By the end of 1791, every state had ratified the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Six years later the U.S. Senate ratified a treaty which contained the following language —

    “Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

    “Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary”, ratified by the U.S. Senate, June 7, 1797.

    John Adams was the President in 1797. Anyone recall the name of the Vice-President?

  7. Oro Lee,

    I began to differ….For decades thereafter, passports were issued not only by the Department of State but also by states and cities, and by notaries public. Passports issued by American authorities other than the Department of State breached propriety and caused confusion abroad. Some European countries refused to recognize passports not issued by the Department of State, unless United States consular officials endorsed them. The problems led the Congress in 1856 to give to the Department of State sole authority to issue passports.[7][8]

  8. I view these sorts of efforts to “Christianize” Thomas Jefferson as an insult to the intelligence of any, even moderately, educated American.

    I also view these attempts as intentionally subverting and thus dangerous to our nation as a whole. Mr. Barton needs to be identified as such and called to account by Jefferson scholars everywhere..

  9. “Religious Right faux-historian David Barton’s new book, The Jefferson Lies, is an attempt to portray the third President as an orthodox Christian”…whose Bible completely dissed all miracles including the resurrection.

    So, can the manipulators have it both ways???? Not so much….

    ‘And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
    His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
    Weave a circle round him thrice,
    And close your eyes with holy dread,
    For he on honey-dew hath fed,
    And drunk the milk of Paradise.’

  10. To repeat: “Barton has a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University.” Nuff said. (ora lee)

    I’ve visited Monticello and Poplar Forest (Jefferson’s “retreat” in Bedford Country). If anything, the slant presented on Jefferson is that of a scientist, humanist, and, at most, a deist. I haven’t been back in a while. Who knows, the fundies from Liberty U. may sneak in after dark and plant little crosses everywhere.

  11. Blouise
    1, June 17, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Ah, the opium assisted muses of Coleridge. The imagery is both beautiful and frightening.
    and doesn’t it just harken to the destruction that is innate in all dominance driven creative endeavor!

  12. David Barton shown to be a pantsload again?

    Color me whatever color represents “completely not surprised”.

  13. MSNBC Exposes David Barton’s Twisted History

    For years, David Barton, the Texas evangelist, has been promoting a version of history supporting Christian nationalism. Barton was a consultant in the Texas textbook changes, is on the board of directors on the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, which heavily promotes Barton’s version of history on its website and which has made its way into 2,086 high schools in 38 states, and has been invited by Rep. Michele Bachman (R) to teach at her Tea Party classes in Congress.

    Barton became much more well known to the public with his appearances on the Glen Beck show. Potential GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee joked at the Rediscovering America in God conference last month that he wished “that there would be a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced — forced at gunpoint, no less – to listen to every David Barton message and I think our country would be better for it. I wish it would happen.”

    In Barton’s view, there is no separation of church and state.

    People for the American Way has published a report, Barton’s Bunk: Religious Right ‘Historian’ Hits the Big Time in Tea Party America, which provides an overview of Barton’s increasing influence in politics, his lack of academic credibility, and his use of the Bible to support bigotry against immigrants, labor, gays and religious minorities.


    In Huckabee’s Christian Nation, all Americans Would be Forced — Even at Gunpoint — to Listen to History Revisionist David Barton

    At the Rediscover God in American Conference in Iowa on March 24, David Barton proclaimed that the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence were a compilation of sermons preached from the pulpit.

    He said that 29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence had seminary or Bible school degrees and that “more than half these guys were trained ministers […] these guys believed that the Bible applied to every aspect of life. It was 11 years later that they did the Constitution and it’s not surprising that so much of that document has so much Bible throughout. You look at the clauses and you take the Bible and you take those clauses and that’s the same language, all the way through, phrase after phrase, concept after …”

    Unlike the Bible, the Constitution does not reference God or Jesus.

    As Chris Rodda, author of Liars for Jesus and senior researcher at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has pointed out time and time again, seminary degrees at the time were nothing more than college degrees and were not necessarily related to theology majors. She writes at Talk2Action,

    Barton cleverly uses the word ‘seminary’ to dupe his followers into thinking that 29 signers of the Declaration of Independence had theology degrees and were ministers, when in reality the word ‘seminary’ just means college, although its use today is almost always to refer to a theological seminary. The truth is that only four of the 56 signers of the Declaration went to college to study theology, and only two, John Witherspoon and Lyman Hall, stuck with it and became ministers, but Hall was booted out of his church for some moral indiscretion and decided to become a doctor instead of a minister. Of the other two, one became a lawyer and the other became a merchant.

    Over a decade ago, an extensive list of Mr. Barton’s misrepresentations was compiled by Bob Boston in Church & State in 1993.

  14. Ah, the opium assisted muses of Coleridge. ”

    Ah, what would they have to say about Jefferson packing his pipe with home grown marijuana?

  15. “and doesn’t it just harken to the destruction that is innate in all dominance driven creative endeavor!” (Woosty)

    (chuckle) … yep

  16. “Ah, what would they have to say about Jefferson packing his pipe with home grown marijuana?” (shano)

    That he was experimenting with the results of crop rotation … and rope-making?

  17. Actually, the attempt by the religious right and their ilk to create the fiction that our nation was founded as a Christian one goes much deeper than that.

    If you ask most Americans where our country began, they can tell you all about the Puritans, Pilgrims, and Plymouth Rock, but almost NONE of them know a thing about Jamestown.

    Jamestown was NOT founded as a religious enterprise, but a commercial one full of settlers who: desired to get out of England; were prisoners forced out of England; became bond servants to escape; etc. Religion had very little to do with it.

    However, find it in your US History book- if you can. There may be a mention, but only a mention, while PAGES go on about the Pilgrims.

    Give me BREAK!!! Most of our Founding Fathers came from the OTHER colonies, not Massachussetts, but you’d think they were the first an most important Virginia’s House of Burgesses and system of government, as well as its Constitution, also had a PROFOUND effect on our government, whereas the repressive government formed in Massachussetts took some time to catch up to the freedoms afforded in other colonies.

    You never read about that in the history books, only about the lie.

    Until ALL of it is exposed for what it is, our kids will continue to believe the lies because it goes unexposed from the earliest pages of their history books.

  18. oh , I forgot, they just banned those studies of European migration in America in Arizona high schools.

  19. “… also view these attempts as intentionally subverting and thus dangerous to our nation as a whole. Mr. Barton needs to be identified as such and called to account by Jefferson scholars everywhere..”

    Could we have him cited as a terrorist or supporter thereof and have Obama fix him?

  20. And why don’t we take that all-seeing eye off the top of the pyramid on the dollar bill?
    Or is that the one belonging to the surveillance system of tomorrow.?

  21. Mr. Barton got a degree in teaching Sunday School. Nevertheless, he is the official historian of the religious right. Is it any wonder that Republican social policy lacks depth and intellectual rigor?

  22. David Barton is just a plain liar. He is not even very good at it.
    This constant business to try to make the United States a “Christian” country is just an attempt to make their religion “the” national religion. Isn’t that why the colonies were started in the first place?

  23. Unless they reinvent history they’ve got nothing legitimate to hang their hats on in their crusade to remake this country into an old testament paradise. Just calling him/them on their lies won’t stop them, just like the President producing his birth certificate won’t stop the birthers. Reality doesn’t enter into the equation.

  24. agrippamom,

    Something that we don’t learn about the New England immigrants is that the folks coming to New England came as indentured servants of corporations as well. The Mayflower had, in addition to the Pilgrims, a number of “strangers”, people added to the ship by the corporation. The contract they were presented with before they left had them working 4 days for the company, 2 days for themselves, with Sundays for worship. After they were settled, their contract was modified such that they were to work 5 days for the corporation and 1 day for themselves, with one day for worship. The Pilgrims had religious freedom in Holland but they were concerned that their children were becoming Dutch.

    It seems to be fairly well known that in spite of their desire to worship as they pleased the New Englanders were intolerant of those who chose to worship differently and drove them out of their communities. Some things never change.

  25. I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments, but I think one can learn a lot about how Jefferson felt towards religion by the simple fact that he put together his own bible. Jefferson put his bible together by cutting out all of the teachings of Jesus and putting them in a new book, while leaving all of the supernatural and dogma out of it.

    Plain and Simple, Jefferson believed in the teachings of jesus, the falibility of organized religion, and had a vague belief in a higher power.

  26. Fun Jefferson fact: The total amount of money he spent on wine while President:$10,955.90, or roughly $175,000 in today’s dollars.

  27. Citing ‘Lost Confidence,’ David Barton’s Publisher Pulls Book On Jefferson
    AUGUST 17, 2012

    In 2005, David Barton was riding high. The Texas native had been serving as the state’s GOP co-chair for eight years, and he had just been asked by the Republican National Committee to liaise with social conservatives during the run-up to the 2006 elections. Meanwhile, the self-styled historian, who had founded his WallBuilders publishing organization in 1988, was pushing an ever-increasing amount of texts, amicus briefs, and books that sought to stamp an undeniably Christian slant on American history.

    It all led to Barton being named one of the nation’s top evangelicals by Time — a fact, and a rise, made all the more remarkable by Barton’s lack of a historical background.

    Now, however, Barton’s star seems to have dimmed. Thomas Nelson Publishers announced this month that it has ceased publication of The Jefferson Lies, Barton’s latest work.

    Casey Francis Harrell, the director of corporate communications at the publishing firm, said that, due to a spate of recent complaints, Thomas Nelson had “lost confidence in the book’s details.” The Jefferson Lies, a New York Times bestseller, has been pulled from Thomas Nelson’s website, and the company has asked online retailers to cease offering the work to the public. The cessation came only two days after NPR’s “All Things Considered” ran a stinging commentary of Barton’s work.

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