Thursday, December 23, 2010

The "No Mr. Beck" Series

Chris Rodda is guest co-blogging at Dispatches From the Culture Wars. Check out her latest No, Mr. Beck, Jefferson Did Not Date His Documents "In the Year of Our Lord Christ."

A taste:

Now, Barton claims in his description of the form on his website that "this is the explicitly Christian language that President Thomas Jefferson chose to use in official public presidential documents," and said on Glenn Beck that "Jefferson added in the year of our lord Christ." This is a flat out lie. Actually, it's two lies. Jefferson absolutely did not choose the language on this form, and he was not the only president who signed these forms that were dated that way. So did Washington and Adams before him, and Madison and Monroe after him. While the ship's papers form remained virtually the same from 1793 until well into the late 1800s, the name Christ was eventually dropped from the date on it, but that didn't happen until somewhere in the 1820s or 1830s.

The reason Barton lies about Jefferson being the only president to sign these documents is pretty obvious. As he claims in his presentations, other early presidents only dated things "in the year of our Lord," but Jefferson -- the least religious of them all -- the man who coined the phrase "separation between church and state" -- well, he went even further and added the name Christ! And his audience, of course, believes him.


Tom Van Dyke said...
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, this one has been bouncing around here at American Creation since last March.

I had assumed it was a form letter, and it is, but this form was specifically printed with Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States at the top, as folks can see for themselves.

I find Barton's locution

"...this is the explicitly Christian language that President Thomas Jefferson chose to use in official public presidential documents."

an exaggeration; however, it cannot be strictly said to be false, or a "lie." In some real sense, Jefferson "chose" to use and sign the form letter printed with his own name on it.

It appears David Barton himself replied [we can't tell for sure] on this blog back in March in a note to Chris Rodda

"I also want to address the portion of this video clip where Glenn Beck and I very briefly mention the 1807 Thomas Jefferson letter. I did not have the time in that segment to go into detail but if I did, I certainly would have put it in context. I don't presume to think that Mr. Jefferson was a Christian. But I do think it is abundantly clear that he was not an atheist as many history revisionists claim."

I meself continue to consider this entire issue of small importance, more a product of the culture wars and delegitimization than any sincere search for historical truth, since it revolves around Barton's use of a single word, "chose."

Like any advocate, Barton shades the facts toward his preferred light; however, as we see above, he does not claim Jefferson for Christianity.

There are far bigger fish to fry. For instance, I haven't nor will I quote Barton on this blog: his previous errors and stance as an advocate have rendered him poisonous to any "neutral" historical discussion. But I did find of interest his take on the often-cited, seldom-discussed 1797 Treaty of Tripoli and its takeaway line

The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.

However, perhaps there's more to it than the takeaway line.

It's been on my to-do list to fact-check the above essay independently, but I haven't got around to it. Any comment or info would be appreciated. It's surely of far higher importance than the word "chose."