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#thomas jefferson

“Jefferson was not ashamed to call the black man his brother and to address him as a gentleman.”

– – Frederick Douglass

Defending The Jefferson Lies; David Barton Responds to his "Conservative" Critics [.pdf] w/ 10 pages of annotation at the end »

#1: Background and Prologue

"I am no stranger to criticism, but The Jefferson Lies ignited a small media firestorm that eventually led Thomas Nelson to pull the book. Why? One possibility suggested by some observers was the entrance of conservative critics who echoed Throckmorton’s claims. For instance, the editor of a conservative national news magazine observed: Left-wing historians for years have criticized Barton. We haven’t spotlighted those criticisms because we know the biases behind them. It’s different when Christian conservatives point out inaccuracies.2

It is true that some conservative Christians have criticized The Jefferson Lies, although it may no longer be accurate to describe Throckmorton as a conservative. But who are these conservative Christians and, more importantly, are they in a good position to criticize the book? In August 2012, several media outlets reported that Jay Richards, a philosopher and theologian with the Discovery Institute who was also a public endorser of Throckmorton’s book, had asked “10 conservative Christian professors to assess my work.” It was reported that their responses were “negative.” However, some of the ten listed by him had flatly refused to participate in his quest but yet were still listed as providing “negative” responses against me. And in direct conversations I had with Richards after he coordinated these attacks, he openly confessed to me that he knew very little about history. Only four of the ten scholars contacted by Richards actually provided any critiques of my work: Glenn Moots, Glenn Sunshine, Greg Forester, and Gregg Frazer. Of these four, only Frazer specializes in religion and the American founding, but his critique did not even address The Jefferson Lies, and it is not clear that he even bothered to read it. Instead, he watched and criticized a twenty year old video entitled America’s Godly Heritage. 3I am not a journalist, but it seems to me that if media outlets are going to rely on expert criticism that the experts should specialize in the relevant subjects and should take the time to read the work in question.”

"Clearly, Thomas Nelson’s public statements about the reason for pulling the book are incongruous with the above facts, so was there perhaps some other reason behind their announcement? Quite possibly, for only two weeks prior to suddenly dropping The Jefferson Lies, Thomas Nelson had been taken over in an acquisition by Rupert Murdoch and HarperCollins Publishers.6"

#2: Who is Warren Throckmorton?

"But Throckmorton seems to have made significant philosophical changes since that time, especially regarding conservative beliefs on religious and moral issues such as traditional marriage and sexuality. For example, whereas he previously defended the movement of ex-homosexuals who left the gay lifestyle (see his 2004 documentary “I Do Exist”), he now repudiates that position as no longer being “what I believe to be accurate about sexual orientation.”15 And in Sexual Identity Therapy,16 he recommends that therapists find out what their client personally believes about his or her own sexual identity and then counsel the client on that subjective basis, disregarding objective Biblically-based standards of right and wrong. Recently, Throckmorton even endorsed same-sex civil union legislation.17

Interestingly, the issue of homosexuality seems to have become a trigger point of change away from his former conservative philosophy. Consequently, there is now a long and growing list of moral conservatives who have become the object of attacks from him – attacks that can be characterized as nothing less than vicious, condescending, and demeaning. A characteristic common to his new targets is that each believes homosexuality is wrong. ”

#3: Thomas Jefferson and Negotiated Treaties

"Many of Throckmorton’s criticisms of my work overemphasize the significance of certain limited claims or are simply a matter of semantics. Consider, for instance, Throckmorton’s complaint about a reference I made to Jefferson’s role in the 1803 treaty with the Kaskaskia tribe: 

Another key claim related to spreading the Gospel to Indians in The Jefferson Lies is Barton’s assertion that Jefferson negotiated and signed “a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians that directly funded Christian missionaries, and provided federal funding to help erect a church building in which they might worship.”37 

Notice that Throckmorton describes the reference to Jefferson and the Kaskaskia treaty as a “key claim” in The Jefferson Lies.38 But this brief reference was only one piece of evidence presented in a chapter arguing that Jefferson did not support an absolute separation between church and state. In fact, the treaty was just one item from a list of more than a dozen similar ones; so even if the reference to this treaty were completely removed, the overall point made in the chapter remains unaltered.

In fact, I make only one brief reference to this treaty in chapter 5, and of my book’s 6,417 lines, only 16 concern this treaty. In other words, it is hardly a “key claim.” Many of Throckmorton’s criticisms are of this nature. He regularly insists on ignoring the major point under discussion and instead seeks to focus attention on a minor corollary point he wrongly labels a “key claim.” Even though my reference to this treaty is not key to my argument, do Throckmorton’s criticisms have merit? Hardly.”

#4: Jefferson and Emancipation

#5: Jefferson, Congress, Missionaries, Indians, & Christianity

#6: Jefferson and A Bible for the Use of Indians

“Surprisingly, Throckmorton strongly objects to the commonly accepted view that Jefferson intended the 1804 Bible to be used by native Americans. He writes that:

Jefferson may have had a fleeting interest in using his 1804 work with Indians, but we doubt it. The evidence is overwhelming that he did not share it with anyone and had no abiding interest in sharing it with Indians or missionaries.126 

This claim is particularly odd given the title that Jefferson himself penned and placed on that 1804 work:

The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. Extracted from the Account of His Life and Doctrines Given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Being an Abridgement of the New Testament for the Use of the Indians, Unembarrassed [Uncomplicated] with Matters of Fact or Faith beyond the Level of their Comprehensions.127 (emphasis added)

Jefferson’s title certainly indicates that he had an interest in sharing this work with native peoples, yet notice Throckmorton’s response to this seemingly obvious fact: 

[T]he reference to Indians on the title page of the 1804 version is puzzling and seems to support claims that Jefferson’s work was designed for some kind of outreach to native people. Although is it possible that Jefferson entertained this purpose for a brief time, we doubt this …128

Throckmorton finds it inconceivable that Jefferson would actually mean what he said about his own work; and since Jefferson’s words do not agree with the conclusion Throckmorton has already reached about Jefferson’s beliefs, he simply dismisses contradictory evidence – such as the title of the work itself.”

#7: Jefferson and Miracles

#8: Jefferson and the Virginia Bible Society

#9: Jefferson and Bible Subscriptions

"Incidentally, as an aside to this specific review of Throckmorton’s critique, one of the complaints raised in the media by some critics was that I claimed that Jefferson to be an orthodox Christian. This accusation helps support my earlier suggestion that many critics of The Jefferson Lies have not read the book. Perhaps they were only reacting to a characterization of my argument made by Throckmorton or Richards. (Richards directly accused me to my face of portraying Jefferson as an evangelical Christian; I promptly responded to him that if he believed that, then he had not read The Jefferson Lies, but he was not dissuaded from that claim. Perhaps he made the same wrong characterization to the other scholars that he recruited.) But let me be clear here. In dealing with Jefferson’s faith, I document that he went through several phases in his spiritual life. His early writings, including those during the Great Awakening, were those of a typical Anglican (see, for example, his 1776 “Notes on Religion”), but he later came to reject numerous tenets of orthodox Christianity. In fact, I dedicate some sixteen pages to Jefferson and his quotations from latter years that demonstrate his rejection of basic doctrines of Christian orthodoxy.192 Yet this important distinction did not appear in the media articles. "


I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.  (Thomas Jefferson)


I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
(Thomas Jefferson)

“if a slave can have a country in this world, it must be any other in preference to that in which he is born to live and labour for another: in which he must lock up the faculties of his nature, contribute as far as depends on his individual endeavours to the evanishment of the human race, or entail his own miserable condition on the endless generations proceeding from him. With the morals of the people, their industry also is destroyed. For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.”

– Thomas Jefferson, Notes about slavery on the State of Virginia, 1781

The Contrast


"So we have to pass the Bill to find out what’s in it; away from the fog of the controversy" - Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys.
— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Shelton Gilliam.  June 19, 1808
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood."- James Madison,  Federalist #62  


Jefferson on Politics & Government: Native Americans »

"With [every barbarous people], force is law. The stronger sex imposes on the weaker. It is civilization alone which replaces women in the enjoyment of their natural equality, that first teaches us to subdue the selfish passions, and to respect those rights in others which we value in ourselves." —Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.VI, 1782. ME 2:84

Jefferson on gun Control


  The following quote appears in Thomas Jefferson’s commonplace book. 

 ”Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed one.”  

Jefferson is not the author of the quote but cites it in his work indicating his approval.

 The quote, originally written in Latin, comes from  Cesare Beccaria’s  Essay on Crimes and Punishments (1764).

This is not something Jefferson wrote, but rather comes from a passage he included in his “Legal Commonplace Book.”The passage is from Cesare Beccaria’s Essay on Crimes and Punishments.[1]

A principal source of errors and injustice are false ideas of utility. For example: that legislator has false ideas of utility who considers particular more than general conveniencies, who had rather command the sentiments of mankind than excite them, who dares say to reason, ‘Be thou a slave;’ who would sacrifice a thousand real advantages to the fear of an imaginary or trifling inconvenience; who would deprive men of the use of fire for fear of their being burnt, and of water for fear of their being drowned; and who knows of no means of preventing evil but by destroying it.

The laws of this nature are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. Can it be supposed, that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, and the most important of the code, will respect the less considerable and arbitrary injunctions, the violation of which is so easy, and of so little comparative importance? Does not the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator? and does it not subject the innocent to all the disagreeable circumstances that should only fall on the guilty? It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse, and of the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack unarmed than armed persons.”[4]

The English translation of this passage originally quoted above, and the one most often seen on other Internet sites, is most likely a later translation; it may be taken from a 1963 translation by Henry Palolucci.[5]

“I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

Thomas Jefferson (via edmundmichael)

To Francis Hopkinson Paris, Mar. 13, 1789

“Whereas, our tenet ever was, and, indeed, it is almost the only landmark which now divides the federalists from the republicans, that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated; and that, as it was never meant they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers, so it could not have been meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action; consequently, that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money.”

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1: Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin

“If ever you find yourself environed with difficulties and perplexing circumstances out of which you are at a loss how to extricate yourself, do what is right, and be assured that that will extricate you the best out of the worst situations. Though you cannot see when you take one step what will be the next, yet follow truth, justice and plain dealing, and never fear their leading you out of the labyrinth in the easiest manner possible. The knot which you thought a Gordian one will untie itself before you. Nothing is so mistaken as the supposition that a person is to extricate himself from a difficulty by intrigue, by chicanery, by dissimulation, by trimming, by an untruth, by an injustice. This increases the difficulties tenfold; and those who pursue these methods get themselves so involved at length that they can turn no way but their infamy becomes more exposed.”

–  Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1785. (via philosophicalconservatism)

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but
the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to
exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not
to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.”

– Thomas Jefferson (via moralanarchism)