BARTON’S LIE: It was Jefferson who introduced the measure in the Virginia legislature calling for a day of fasting and prayer in 1774.
THE TRUTH: Jefferson was just one of a number of the younger members of the Virginia legislature who formed an impromptu committee that, as he put it, “cooked up” a proclamation for a fast day. And, it wasn’t Jefferson who introduced the fast day in the legislature. Why? Because the committee members were concerned that the suggestion of a fast day might not pass if it came from them. They knew that nobody was going to buy that these young radicals, not even the quite religious Patrick Henry, were proposing this fast day out of genuine religious devotion. It would be obvious that they were merely using a fast day as a way of jolting the people of Virginia into an awareness of the seriousness of what was going on in Massachusetts. So, they got an older member of the legislature to introduce it, one who Jefferson described as having a “grave and religious character” that was “more in unison” with the tone of the proclamation that he and the younger members of the legislature had cooked up.