(July 27, EXCLUSIVE) In a paper released concurrently with this Washington Examiner column, which exclusively reports it as a first (at this link), Heritage Foundation scholar Brenda Hafera writes that “the legacies of the [American] Founders are being distorted or erased” by the groups operating the historic homes of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Fortunately, and unlike the foundations that run Jefferson’s Monticello and Madison’s Montpelier, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has made George Washington’s home “the gold standard” because of its “careful attention to Washington’s accomplishments, dedication to historical honesty and standards, and overall modest tone.”

By contrast, Hafera writes, “Monticello and Montpelier fall short, as they devote little time to Jefferson’s and Madison’s achievements. They expand on each of the Founders’ shortcomings without also providing an adequate account of their contributions. A site should not portray our Founders as exemplary but flawed without first explaining how they were, in fact, exemplary.”

Montpelier, which has experienced gut-wrenching staff and board shake-ups this year , is the worst. Hafera writes, “James Madison’s legacy at Montpelier has been effectively erased, as there are no exhibits dedicated to his significant contributions.”

Montpelier “promote[s] a distorted view of American history, suffused with critical race theory,” she adds. “There is a great deal of overlap between the curriculum developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a political interest group that is widely regarded as extremist .”

Indeed, one SPLC leader is now on Montpelier’s board, and another is on a key advisory committee.

Meanwhile, in a cellar, as part of an overall exhibition on slavery called the “Mere Distinction of Color” rather than as a stand-alone project, there is just one exhibit on the U.S. Constitution, and Hafera says it falls woefully short.

She told me in an interview this morning, “Instead of making that exhibit on the Constitution about Madison and his role in shaping it, or about the remarkableness of that document itself … they instead made the choice to make that exhibit about the Constitution and slavery.” And: “It really seems to be attempting to demonstrate that slavery is the central animating force behind the economy and laws of the United States.”….. [The full column is here.]


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