Friday, May 11, 2012

Getting Jefferson Right: When did Jefferson question the Trinity?

I was about to write this post, but I see Professor Throckmorton wrote it for me. Here.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Do you have a transcript of the July 25 1788 letter to Derieux? Here's an image that's hard to read

and one account had Jefferson confessed having "difficulties" with "Union" of the father & son. I can't find anything like that in this particular letter, although I confess I can only make out about half of it. Mebbe somebody with a better cmptr monitor can help.

I can't find any precision on this "smoking gun" letter on the internet, just one author repeating another, most of them quoting Jefferson indirectly, not directly.

Any help would be appreciated.

At this point, I can see claiming that Jefferson confessing longstanding doubts about the Trinity in 1788 and therefore not wanting to stand as godfather, but this is not enough to call Barton completely wrong, that by 1788 Jefferson had "rejected" the Trinity.

Everybody's responsible for their own share of precision. If they're going to nail Barton to the wall [and sometimes they do], that's fine, but you don't just shoot a nail gun at his foot.

If I can find a diamond in Barton's dunghill, even Warren Throckmorton will have to allow that there is very little in the way of explicit denial of the Trinity from Jefferson until 1813, which is a rather interesting point if we leave out the anti-Barton culture war part.

Again, any precision on the Derieux letter would be appreciated. But pending exact and direct quotes from Jefferson, "rejected" would be an unwarranted exaggeration of "difficulties."

jimmiraybob said...

In his letter to Derieux, Jefferson states that he had never been able to make sense of the Trinity and has had to previously decline "sponsoring" children of friends. He apparently never gave his assent to the idea of the Trinity. Here's my stab at deciphering some of Jefferson's handwriting.

“The person who becomes sponsor for a child, according to the church in which I was educated makes a solemn profession, before god & the world, of faith in articles, which I had never sense enough to comprehend and it has always appeared to me that comprehension must precede assent. The difficulty of reconciling the ideas of Unity & Trinity have, from a very early part of my life, excluded me from the office of sponsorship, often proposed to me by friends,…”(1)

- Thomas Jefferson to J.P.P. Derieux (July 25, 1788)

1) transcription form

jimmiraybob said...

Oh yeah, I should have added, based on my extensive morning research while waiting for the coffee to brew, I dare to declare that the Barton is completely wrong on this. Apparently a hater just has to hate. Now, coffee.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'm about to reproduce a page from Lenny Brenner's book via iPhone.

Tom Van Dyke said...

As I said, "rejected" would be an unwarranted exaggeration of "difficulty." But do pls ignore what I wrote above, that the precious little of Jefferson on the Trinity prior to 1813 is interesting. The important thing is nailing David Barton.

What we see here is people quoting and re-quoting "rejected" from each other without consulting the original source for themselves. Not as egregious as some of Barton's second-hand sourcing, but a caution to the glib would-be scholarly defenders of Truth.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, and JRB, thx and a mighty HT for rolling up your sleeves deciphering the letter. Props.