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"The Jefferson Lies" Controversy

So this has really put historian David Barton in the hot seat this week. What do you all think of David and what are your thoughts on the new controversial book that was recalled by the publisher after public outcry from ironically enough, the religious right.

Video of David Barton appearing on GBTV for an exclusive interview:

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Truths and Untruths

I think both Throckmorton and Barton have pieces of the truth in their arguments, but overall, I'm a bit more in the Barton camp. The evangelical right too often tries to demonize Jefferson because he didn't view Christianity in their prescribed way.

I did my master's thesis on Jefferson and have read a great deal of his original writings. I find that many people come to the Jefferson discussion with so many extreme biases that it is hard for them to put Jefferson in context or see him as a human being rather than a caricature or an icon.

They also don't look at the economics of history. For instance, one thing that is blatantly missing from the "freeing his slaves" debate is the issue of debt. Jefferson inherited both slaves and a huge debt from his father-in-law. The story of this debt is long and complicated, but the fact of the matter is, those slaves were considered to be collateral for the debt. Right or wrong, slaves were considered property, just like a house. And just like you can't get rid of your mortgage by giving your house away, slaves being used as collateral couldn't be freed regardless of your beliefs about slavery. When discussing Jefferson's financial problems and slavery, the collateral issue is inevitably left out of the debate.

Thomas Jefferson was a man who lived in difficult and complicated times. Overall, I think he was a great (though not perfect) man who we are all indebted to.

Well Said!

I've wrestled with this and suspected economic factors were at play, but have never heard it articulated so well. Researching it has been a lower priority for me, so until I do, I hope you don't mind if I use your explanation.

p.s. I feel Barton is an honest man and is getting a bad wrap, because his narrative is often misunderstood and taken out of context.