Barton Wrong on Jefferson? Throckmorton and Coulter Debunk ‘The Jefferson Lies’

My recent oath to exclude politics and destructive rhetoric from my blog notwithstanding, I am still an historian who feels it important to point out when someone is getting something abhorrently wrong.

David Barton’s recent book about Thomas Jefferson–The Jefferson Lies–is something which needs to be refuted.

In their book–Getting Jefferson Right–Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter attempt to do the serious refuting needed for such an historical monstrosity. A review by Paul Harvey (obviously not THAT one) puts their attempt into these terms:


They find without fail that the claims fall into one of the following categories: 1) complete falsehoods (there are plenty of those); 2) misleading falsehoods (such as the story about wanting Christian imagery on the national seal – true, but on the other side of the seal, had Jefferson gotten his wish, would have been a pagan story); 3) true, but entirely irrelevant and ultimately misleading statements (such as signing documents with “the Year of our Lord,” which he did because pre-packaged treaty forms had that language, and had about as much meaning as signing “Dear” in our salutations in letters to complete strangers); 4) statements with a “kernel” of truth but blown so far out of proportion as to end up being false (such as Jefferson wanting federal funding for Indian missions, when in fact the titles of the bills simply took on the name of already existing religious societies; 5) baffling assertions that are so far out of the realm of reality as to be neither “true” nor “false,” but simply bizarre (such as Barton’s defense of Jefferson’s views on race, which were disturbingly ugly even by the standards of his era).


The current battle to remember our shared history is a tough one. David Barton is putting his considerable assets behind his effort–both monetary and artifactual. But, as I’ve said before…just because you own the facts, doesn’t mean you know the truth.

As you’ve already seen today, I have finalized my summer reading list. However, I’m hoping to get to it if I finish everything else.



Paul Harvey Review

Thoughts by Martin Marty


*EDITOR’S NOTE: Tried to find positive reviews of Barton’s book, but it proved to be difficult without looking at the comment sections of various websites.

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