The Rev. John Peach was in full Thomas Jefferson mode, from head to toe, while presenting a case to defend the author of The Declaration of Independence and the country’s third president from what Peach said are inaccurate historical accounts claiming Jefferson was a skeptic of the Bible and Christianity.
“I’ve been laying around in the grave for almost 200 years,” Peach said while speaking in Jefferson’s voice.
Peach’s case to “set the record straight” came from his book, “Thomas Jefferson: Roots of Religious Freedom,” as told during his address to ACT For America members during its monthly meeting, Thursday evening, June 29, in Don Delfis Pancake House & Restaurant.
The book is a “biographical novel,” seeking to place Jefferson’s beliefs and actions in a “historically accurate” framework, Peach said.
“You won’t find ‘historically accurate’ in most books about Thomas Jefferson,” Peach added. “There’s a lot of fake news out there.”
However, Peach noted in Jefferson’s voice that the founder of the University of Virginia, Jefferson, was ridiculed “because it was the only school that was not sponsored by a church.
“… I think any child that wants to go to school, he shouldn’t have to have an affiliation with a certain denomination. … We had Baptist chaplains, we had Methodist chaplains, we had Presbyterian chaplains. We had representatives of all different faiths,” Peach said in character.
Among the distortions according to Peach, in Jefferson’s voice, “I read where I was a deist. I couldn’t figure that out because when the Boston Tea Party happened, and we were ready to go into rebellion against England, I called for a national day of fasting and prayer. Anybody who knows anything about deism realizes [a deist believes] God made the world but He just left us all to ourselves.”
Moreover, “We had a day of fasting when I was governor of Virginia,” the character added.
About the Revolutionary War, “God is the one who brought the victory, and that was through prayer,” Peach’s Jefferson said.
Among the University of Virginia archives, “You can get the 10-pound family Bible of Thomas Jefferson. In my writing I’ve got my family tree showing birth dates, death dates,” Peach’s character said. “Also you can go and find ‘The Book of Common Prayer,’ that I owned, in my writing.”
With all of Jefferson’s other books and documents destroyed in a house fire, “I had to have the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer in my possession,” Peach’s character said.
“When I came up out of the grave I went up to Washington, D.C. And they’ve got two rooms up there dedicated to Thomas Jefferson. In one of them is the room that shows how I ‘hated’ the Bible, how I destroyed the Bible … because I had taken all these pages, cut them out of the Bible and put them in documents,” he added about what Jefferson named “The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.”
“I was doing what we do today, we call it ‘cut and paste.’ I was creating a document, not because I didn’t like the other words of the Bible, but I was taking all the words of Jesus. … I belonged to the Virginia Bible Society, and the Virginia Bible Society came to me and said, ‘We would like you to compose and document from the Bible so we can take it to the Indians and convert the Indians.’”
In 1895, Peach said Jefferson’s grandson had that document, but “needed some money, so he goes to the Smithsonian Institute and he sold it to them as “The Jefferson Bible.”
“I started the first church in Washington, D.C., in the Capitol building. They met there for church eight years before we ever had a government,” Peach’s Jefferson said. “ … If I believed in keeping the church out of the state, then I shouldn’t have been there.”
Looking back, “You take 29,000 documents that I wrote through a process of 70 years, you can find all kinds of discrepancies. I may write one thing to Wayne and I might write something totally different to Ed,” the character said. “It didn’t mean I didn’t believe the same thing, except I told it in different ways.
“I wrote about every kind of religion there was. And because I wrote about Unitarians, they said, ‘Oh, you must have been a Unitarian,’” he added.