Student criticism of Jefferson shouldn’t be ‘taken seriously’

By WND Staff

Jefferson

By Paul Bremmer

Inspired by the successful removal of a Jefferson Davis statue at the University of Texas, a few students at the University of Missouri are demanding administrators take down a campus statue of Thomas Jefferson.

But one scholar who has studied Jefferson says the Missouri students are showing a lack of gratitude for the many positive things Jefferson did for America – in fact, his work for the very rights that allow them to object to the campus display.

“These students are spitting on the man who wrote and inspired the declaration that birthed the very rights he essentially gave them,” said Joshua Charles, author of “Liberty’s Secrets: The Lost Wisdom of America’s Founders.”

Charles also coauthored, with Glenn Beck, the No. 1 New York Times bestseller “The Original Argument: The Federalists’ Case for the Constitution, Adapted for the 21st Century.”

Missouri student Maxwell Little started a Change.org petition two months ago asking university officials to remove the Jefferson statue. In the petition, Little wrote, “Some individuals may not see Thomas Jefferson’s statue in the quad as a form of oppression, but in higher education settings where highly conscious students are present, it is relatively easy to see and read such nonverbal messages.”

The petition went on to charge Jefferson with grievances including that he talked about the abolition of slavery but never freed his own slaves, that he believed free blacks and free whites could not live under the same government and that he raped 16-year-old slave Sally Hemings.

“Thomas Jefferson’s statue sends a clear nonverbal message that his values and beliefs are supported by the University of Missouri,” Little claimed. “Jefferson’s statue perpetuates a sexist-racist atmosphere that continues to reside on campus.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had 72 signatures.

Historian David Barton, founder and president of WallBuilders, said the petitioners are ignoring some of Jefferson’s other, more positive values and beliefs.

“The statue of Thomas Jefferson on the University of Missouri’s campus is a proud reminder of Jefferson’s personal commitment to both education and equality – honorable values for any university student to treasure,” said Barton, author of “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson.” “Sadly, students are seeking to have the statue taken down because of misplaced historical views.”

Barton said the students should not equate Thomas Jefferson with Jefferson Davis. He believes the University of Texas was correct to remove its statue of Davis, who presided over a breakaway nation that defended slavery tooth and nail. But Jefferson’s view of slavery was far different.

“While Thomas Jefferson did own slaves, he was also one of the nation’s loudest voices for emancipation,” Barton explained. “Despite state law not allowing him to free his own slaves, his anti-slavery record was well-known by previous generations. One of Jefferson’s first acts upon entering Virginia’s legislature was introducing a law abolishing slavery. He argued against slavery in court multiple times.”

Barton asserted that had Jefferson been from a Northern state, his anti-slavery proposal likely would have passed and he would have become a national civil rights hero.

Charles, whose column can be found at WND, made clear Jefferson was not a completely pure figure, but he pointed to some of the achievements Jefferson made for posterity.

“Show me a man who so thoroughly advanced the ball down the field of human progress as Thomas Jefferson,” Charles said. “Show me a man who as convincingly and consequentially advanced human rights and liberty as Thomas Jefferson. Show me a man who did more for the cause of mankind generally as Thomas Jefferson.”

The Missouri students did not stop at a petition. Last week they held a protest in which they encouraged fellow students to cover the Jefferson statue with sticky notes. The notes contained written messages such as “racist,” “rapist,” “slave owner” and “misogynist.”

But Charles noted many prominent figures in the abolition and civil rights movements praised Jefferson. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. looked to Jefferson’s ideas as the guarantor of equal rights for blacks. Frederick Douglass praised Jefferson for his role in advancing liberty. And of course, Abraham Lincoln invoked Jefferson’s “all men are created equal” during the war that led to the abolition of slavery.

“And yet, these students, ignorant of true history, and schooled only in its hopelessly distorted and confused variants, are too good for this man?” Charles asked. “They, barely hatched from the egg of their own confused and ignorant youth, have the right to supersede Douglass, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King?”

Barton also took time to debunk the students’ assertion that Jefferson raped Sally Hemings.

“Despite the publicity given to the sensational story in the journal Science in 1998 about Jefferson fathering Hemings’ children, the story was amended only eight weeks later,” he said. “Jefferson’s brother Field may have fathered Hemings’ children, but Thomas Jefferson was practically eliminated as the father.”

Barton expressed hope that the petitioners would eventually learn the truth about America’s third president.

“I applaud these students for their interest in history and hope their studies continue and that they discover the historical truth about Thomas Jefferson rather than the modern misportrayals of it,” the historian said.

Charles, for his part, asserted that the petitioning students can’t hold a candle to Thomas Jefferson’s accomplishments:

“When it is they who are resorted to as the banner carrier of human rights; when it is they who are appealed to and their words emblazoned as creed on the shields and swords of all of freedom’s defenders throughout history; when it is they who advance the cause of human rights to a greater degree than the imperfect, hypocritical and thoroughly human Thomas Jefferson, then, and only then, do they deserve to be taken seriously.

“Until then, they are nothing but scoffers, spitting into the face of the man who gave them the intellectual and moral nutrients that allowed their pathetic little mouths to produce spit in the first place,” he said.

 

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