Monday, April 30, 2012

The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson By David Barton

In this book David Barton tries to convince the reader that Jefferson was an extremely religious man and that all of his decisions were based on divine intervention (not really, just me exaggerating).  It is really disheartening to see this "Jefferson debate" taking place.  It seems that the atheists want to paint him with the "I am a secular" brush and the religious fanatics want to pain him with the "I am  a Saint" brush.  Neither one suits me at this point in time.  I believe that Jefferson was a religious person as is proof by his own words on many letters he personally penned. It takes away from the other many Jefferson accomplishments. With that said, Jefferson was a complicated person in the sense that he was a well read person and a person with many interests and talents. He was a deep person that was a thinker.  He wrote to his nephew, "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear." However I think that Mr. Jefferson did not want a government to be tied to any religion or any religion tied to a government. 

The premise of this book is to prove the "myths" of Jefferson to be false. Although I agree with some of Mr. Barton's assertions, it seems he took the liberty to interpret certain things through a religious prism were it probably should not have been.  The book however does whet the pallet to read addition works of Mr. Jefferson.  One of the books recommended to me when I commented on a review at Amazon is "Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson" by Alan Pell Crawford.  I am interested in researching the many phases of this remarkable man, specifically his religious beliefs and how they changed through out his lifetime and/or how they stayed the same. 

Critics are harsh of Mr. Barton asserting that references in the book are not primary-source references.  Honestly, I have not looked at all of them as more than 30% of the total pages (via Kindle) were bibliography.  However, I did look at some and they appear to be "creditable".  I plan to go back and review it (on the Kindle it is difficult to do though).

The book tries to dispel the myth regarding Jefferson fathering the son of one of his slaves.  Mr. Barton points to media bias where false information regarding  DNA results in the late 1990's was leaked and all media outlets ran with the story.  A couple of weeks later, the source admitted that the information was false.  The retraction did not get the same fan-fair as did the former story.

Other myths included: Jefferson starting a secular college (University of Virginia) in 1819, The writing of the "Jefferson Bible" which we know he did, and why he actually did it, also the myth that Jefferson hated clergymen.  These are just a few.  If you like Jefferson, I recommend the book at a minimum for contrast to other works about Jefferson.  An author I know said "..Barton starts with his conclusions and then tries to prove them."  this is true.  If you are opened minded and take it as a contrast piece, you should be OK.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 10, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595554599
ISBN-13: 978-1595554598

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