The Way of Improvement Leads Home know, David Barton's book The Jefferson Lies portrayed Thomas Jefferson as a benevolent slaveholder, if not an abolitionist, who would have freed his slaves if it were not for those pesky Virginia laws that forbade him from doing it. The book has been universally panned by historians and Thomas Nelson Publishers took the book out of print as a result of its many errors.
Now it looks as if questions are being raised about Henry Wiencek's recent biography of Jefferson: The Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves. Over at Slate, Annette Gordon-Reed, a scholar who knows a thing or two about Jefferson and his slaves (have I mentioned she will be at Messiah College in a few weeks?), has written a pretty scathing review of the book. She writes that Wiencek's book "fails as a work of scholarship." Here is a taste of her review:
Suffice it to say that the problems with Master of the Mountain
are too numerous to allow it to be taken seriously as a book that tells
us anything new about Thomas Jefferson and slavery, and what it does
say is too often wrong. It is, instead, a book about Henry Wiencek—with
Jefferson, enslaved people, and the mountain thrown in for scenery. As
he seeks to destroy Jefferson, Wiencek seeks to put himself in the place
of the “Master of the Mountain” and become the true protector
of the enslaved people of Monticello. He injects himself into the
narrative, touring Monticello, walking the grounds that Jefferson
walked, cataloging the injustices to the enslaved people as if they had
finally, after all these years, found a champion.