Was Rutherford a good lawyer? Or was he Bluffing?

by VM44 28 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • stev

    I recently examined some original ZWT issues from the year 1916, but failed to see any pilgrim notices for Rutherford, although I did not examine every issue of that year and could have missed them. Rutherford wrote his Ecclesiastical Battle defending Russell (1915?), and engaged in the debate with Troy in 1915(?), and his name was still listed on Russell's Will, I don't remember whether for the Board or Editorial Committee. He was the chairman of the Los Angeles Convention in the year 1916 shortly before Russell's death. One could conclude that Rutherford was still in good graces with Russell, however there is no sign that Russell had anointed him as his successor, nor for that matter, anyone. Russell expected the time before the kingdom to be very short, a year or two, until perhaps 1918. He likely did not consider appointing a successor necessary, and that his WIll and Testament was sufficient considering his expectations of the impending Armageddon, glorification of the church, and the establishment of the kingdom.

    However, it appears that Rutherford was living in California at the time of Russell's death. How long had he been living there? Is there any information on how he got there? Did he live at Bethel before then? What was the circumstances of his departure? Even if the Bible Student information is true, it doesn't necessary mean that Russell dismissed Rutherford.


  • Oroborus21


    While I agree with you that Russell apparently never really expected his own death until the very end, as seen by the fact that he never updated his Will after one of the principal witnesses, Mae Land, left his association just a year after its execution.

    Yet, it is clear first, that your research is deficient as Rutherford was not only a Pilgrim, he also was vested with a lot of authority by Russell. Rutherford was appointed Chairman of many conventions and the annual business meeting. Rutherford was sent as a special representative to many foreign destinations and in the U.S. and canada. He served as stenographer on many occassions for Russell and also served as Russell's lawyer in the Brooklyn Eagle libel case as well as in other official capacities. And of course Rutherford was an active member of the Board of Directors, the Editiorial Committee when this was activated and wrote in defense of Russell, this latter work being referred to very favourably in the ZWT and spoke in defense of Russell.

    In short he was well situated to become the Second President of the incorporated organization.

    The following are just a few excerpts which demonstrate the above:

    In a remarkable coincidence Russell prints Rutherford's first letter to him which tells of how Rutherford came to hear the Good News...

    R1646 : page 127

    GENTLEMEN:--Enclosed herewith please find Exchange on $6.00, for which please send me 'S WATCH TOWER one year and copies of MILLENNIAL DAWN. By way of explanation for ordering this amount of books, I desire to say that, about two months ago, two young ladies came into my office selling those books. I was very busy when they presented their card; and, seeing that they were ladies selling books, I bought the three volumes, thinking that by so doing I was helping them out. I have s ince concluded that these ladies brought to me "glad tidings of great joy." I took the books home, and thought little of them, until a few weeks ago, when I had some spare time, I began reading the first volume, and it was so very interesting that I could not stop. The result is, my dear wife and myself have read these books with the keenest interest, and we consider it a God-send and a great blessing that we have had the opportunity of coming in contact with them. They are indeed a "helping hand" to the study of the Bible. The great truths revealed in the study of this series have simply reversed our earthly aspirations; and realizing to some extent, at least, the great opportunity for doing something for Christ, we intend to take advantage of this opportunity in distributing these books, first, among our nearest relatives and friends, and then among the poor who desire to read them and are unable to purchase; and for that reason we desire these extra copies.

    As soon as these are exhausted, we will order more, and try to do what we can in this way, be it ever so little.

    Yours, etc., J. F. RUTHERFORD.

    ZWT April 1894

    The following speakers gave longer or shorter addresses, and some of them several: Brothers W. M. Hersee, I. Hoskins, R. E. Streeter, J. Harrison, W. , J. F. Rutherford, P. S. L. Johnson, F. W. Williamson, O. L. Sullivan, G. Draper, J. H. Cole, L. W. Jones, T. E. Barker, , J. Hutchinson, W. J. Mills, W. E. Page, C. A. Dann, J. G. Kuehn, A. C. Wise, and the Editor of this journal. ZWT October 1907 This excerpt shows that Rutheford supported the infamous Vow.

    "The vow is: 'Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. May thy rule come into my heart more and more, and thy will be done in my mortal body. Relying on the assistance of thy promised grace to help in every time of need, through Jesus Christ our Lord, I register this vow. Daily will I remember at the throne of heavenly grace the general interests of the harvest work, and particularly the share which I myself am privileged to enjoy in that work, and the dear co-laborers at the Bible House, Allegheny. I vow to still more carefully, if possible, scrutinize my thoughts and words and doings, to the intent that I may be the better enabled to serve these, and thy dear flock. I vow to thee that I will be on the alert to resist everything akin to Spiritism and Occultism, and that remembering that there are but the two masters I shall resist these snares in all reasonable ways, as being of the Adversary. I further vow that, with the exceptions below, I will at all times and at all places, conduct myself toward those of the opposite sex in private exactly as I would do with them in public--in the presence of a congregation

    R4192 : page 187

    of the Lord's people, and so far as reasonably possible I will avoid being in the same room with any female alone, unless the door to the room stand wide open--wife, children, mother and sisters excepted.'"

    We have received favorable responses from the following:-- H. C. Rockwell, F. H. Robison, R. H. Hirsh, W. H. Bundy, F. Draper, G. Draper, M. L. McPhail, E. W. Brenneisen, J. F. Rutherford, Hayden Samson, J. A. Parker, F. A. Hall, M. L. Herr, J. D. Wright, C. H. Swingle, C. E. Fowler, O. L. Sullivan, John Harrison, Smith Walker, Isaac Hoskins, W. E. Van Amburgh, H. K. Blinn, J. A. Bohnet, A. E. Burgress, J. A. Bauerlein, F. L. Scheerer, A. G. Wakefield, C. W. Hek, A. E. Williamson, B. H. Barton. We wish you all WT June 1908

    Next, as the President of the Bible and Tract Society, we greeted all the dear friends in attendance at the Convention, assuring them all of our Christian love and good wishes and that we were pleased to be in their midst and to receive their welcome and to return to them our cordial greeting. We assured them of the Society's endeavors at all times and under all circumstances to look out for the interests of the Lord's flock and to do everything in our power to aid the dear sheep to a full appreciation of the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of God. We then introduced Brother J. F. Rutherford as the permanent chairman of the Convention, which was opened with a testimony meeting, at which many hearts unburdened themselves, telling of their love for the Lord and the Truth; how in Divine providence the Truth had first come to their attention; how they had been growing in grace and knowledge; how their love for the Lord and for the brethren kept increasing; how they realized the closing of the age and that the harvest would soon be past and the summer of Divine favor soon ended, and how they were striving by Divine grace "to make their calling and their election sure."--2 Pet. 1:10. WT September 1909


    We preceded the excursion party and reached Joseph Saturday morning, July 31. The Convention already been under way two days with Brother Rutherford as chairman. Brother S. D. Senor opening address of welcome, which was responded the chairman. Then followed a most interesting praise and testimony meeting. The friends seemed early in the Convention to reach a goodly degree WT September 1909

    this excerpt shows that the Rutherford's kept their residence in the East. I doubt they moved in the next five years. TOWARD NEWCASTLE

    This was our first visit to this city. We greatly enjoyed it, meeting some new faces and some whom we had met elsewhere previously. Brother and Sister Rutherford entertained us--meeting us (with others) at the

    R4416 : page 184

    station and escorting us to their home, where after refreshments we had a heart-to-heart talk with the roomfull (about 20). Our talk bore on the general plan and WT June 1909

    Before leaving the platform, Brother Russell remarked that Pilgrim Brother Rutherford was present and would doubtless make an excellent Chairman for the business meeting called for the election of the Church's servants for 1909. He said that, unless some objection were made, it would be considered that Brother Rutherford was unanimously approved as Chairman of the session. Silence gives consent, so Brother Rutherford stepped to the platform, Brother Russell stepping down and taking his seat with the friends.

    R4312 : page 20

    A vote of thanks for the Pastor and Elders who had served during the year was proposed, seconded and passed unanimously. The object of the meeting was stated by the Chairman, and a motion was declared to be in order. Brother Dr. Spill at once arose and proposed that Brother Russell be reelected Pastor of the congregation for the year 1909. He urged that, even though rarely present with the Ecclesia, his election as Pastor would insure to the Church, possibly, a WT January 1909

    This letter from Rutherford and Russell's publishing it shows that Russell valued Rutherford's input on organizational matters... VALUE OF BEREAN SCRIPTURE STUDIES


    You might be interested in the result of some observations made concerning the relative development of members of Bible classes that I have been privileged to visit. The degree of progress seems to be largely influenced by the character of meetings and the method of study adopted. Some of the classes closely adhere to the Berean Studies, as set forth in THE WATCH TOWER. Other meetings are devoted to DAWN Studies, each member of the class taking part therein; and at least one meeting per week to prayer, praise and testimonies, with an occasional discourse. All such appear to be making progress in the development of knowledge and the graces of the Spirit. Other classes do not have Berean studies; do not use the DAWNS at the class meetings, seldom have a prayer, praise and testimony meeting, but instead largely depend upon the leader of the class, who prepares a lesson on some chapter in the Bible and at the meeting states his conclusions, and then calls upon the class for expressions of opinion. Such classes, it is quite evident, make little progress.

    Since all who have come to a knowledge of "present truth" concerning God's Plan, obtained it by the use of the six volumes of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES and other WATCH TOWER publications, it would appear to be a serious mistake, in the class studies, to ignore these God-given helps. No member of the class can grow without an individual exercise of his faculties, and where the leader is depended upon to prepare a lesson and recite it at the meeting of the class, the benefit resulting to the class is reduced to the minimum.

    The Society now publishes, in pamphlet form, the Berean questions on TABERNACLE SHADOWS and on Vol. V., STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES, besides the current Berean questions on Vol. VI. appearing in THE TOWER. No better material can be had for three meetings each week. The majority of the friends are so situated that they can have four meetings per week. Some of the classes thus situated, and which have not used the Berean studies from their inception, are now having for one meeting the Berean questions on TABERNACLE SHADOWS, for another, Berean questions on Vol. V., and for another, the current Berean study on Vol. VI. In this manner the new members, as well as others of the class, get the benefit of all back lessons, at the same time keeping abreast with THE TOWER lessons. The fourth meeting of the week is devoted to praise, prayer and testimonies recounting the experiences and blessings of the week. The result shows it would be profitable for others to pursue a similar course. If you are in harmony with the thoughts herein expressed, you may be pleased to find some way of calling the attention of the friends thereto.

    In the love and service of our King,


    R5337 : page 319




    Brother and Sister Rutherford have just left for Zurich.

    The eight public meetings were quite a success: WT 1915 R5189 : page 62


    MY SUIT against The Eagle for slanderous defamation of reputation has been decided in its favor. A Jury of twelve men have decided that The Eagle was justified in making its vicious onslaughts upon me, notwithstanding the Judge's Charge that, according to the law, the cartoon, at least, was a slanderous, vicious libel in fact. I am urged by my attorneys and petitioned by friends to take the case to the Court of Appeals. I quite agree with Justice Kelby, who said, "The case was presented fairly and squarely to the Jury." The rulings of His Honor seem to me equitable. I very highly appreciate the ability and energy of my attorneys, Mr. Sparks and Mr. Rutherford. I have no complaint, nor murmuring against the Divine providences which permitted what I consider to be a very unjust verdict. In appealing our Case to the Court we have followed the example of the Master, who inquired why He was smitten contrary to Law. (John 18:23.) Likewise St. Paul appealed or such justice as the Law provided. (Acts 25:10.) So I have done; and I, like them, have been refused the to the law, the cartoon, at least, was a slanderous, vicious libel in fact. I am urged by my attorneys and petitioned by friends to take the case to the Court of Appeals. I quite agree with Justice Kelby, who said, "The case was presented fairly and squarely to the Jury." The rulings of His Honor seem to me equitable. I very highly appreciate the ability and energy of my attorneys, Mr. Sparks and Mr. Rutherford. I have no complaint, nor murmuring against the Divine providences which permitted what I consider to be a very unjust verdict. In appealing our Case to the Court we have followed the example of the Master, who inquired why He was smitten contrary to Law. (John 18:23.) Likewise St. Paul appealed for such justice as the Law provided. (Acts 25:10.) So I have done; and I, like them, have been refused the ----- which consisted of Brother Driscoll, representative of the Press Association; Brother L. W. Jones, who served us as stenographer on the Atlantic, and Brother Rutherford, who served as stenographer on the Mediterranean, and who will visit the friends in Denmark, Sweden and Norway while we are in Great Britain WT June 1910


    The New England and Middle Atlantic States Railroads have joined in a flat rate of 2c a mile in each direction, going and returning via same route. Tickets will be on sale July 23-25 (in New England 24-26), with final return limit August 3. Confer with your ticket agent some days in advance that he may secure the necessary ticket-forms acct. I.B.S.A. Convention.

    The following Pilgrim Brethren are on the Convention Program for public addresses; namely, R. H. Barber, E. W. Brenneisen, J. A. Gillespie, J. F. Rutherford, H. C. Rockwell, C. T. Russell, Menta Sturgeon, W. J. Thorn, R. G. Jolly, R. J. Martin. Other Brethren may be heard also in symposiums. One Part of the "Photo-Drama of Creation" is to be shown each night of the Convention. Board and lodging information is obtainable from the I.B.S.A. Class Secretary, H. E. Spear, 48 Scott Street, Springfield, Mass WT July 1915


    We have pleasure in sending a summarized account of the work of the British Branch for the year 1914. As you will see by the figures subjoined, there is a good work to report. The sales of…Brother Rutherford's extended tour resulted in the selling of over 10,500 volumes of STUDIES, and the follow-up work after the PHOTO-DRAMA is also of very great help. It was believed that sets of STUDIES could not be sold here, but now this has become WT January 1915

    Finally this last excerpt definitely proves that Rutherford was in good stead with Russell and had responsibility as late as one month before his death.... R5976 : page 318


    THE Los Angeles Convention of the I.B.S.A. opened September 2d and closed September 10th. The Chairman of the Convention, Brother Rutherford, declared that, without any exception, it was the finest and most spiritual Convention he had ever attended, and many others voiced the same sentiment. One Sister … …An interesting event outside the Convention Program was an address by Brother Russell in the Park Avenue Christian Church, Los Angeles. The Minister of the Congregation, Brother Anderson, has within the past few months come in contact with Present Truth, and has been feasting upon it. He has also been preaching it to the Congregation, and has had various of the brethren lead Berean Studies and give Addresses. His invitation to Brother Russell to take supper at his home and afterwards to address the Congregation was accepted with appreciation. The attendance crowded the edifice, about 500 being present. The attention was excellent.

    Evidently a considerable number of the Congregation were deeply impressed with the Divine Plan of the Ages, as were also visitors from the neighborhood. Brother and Sister Anderson seem to be very thoroughly committed to following WT October 1916

    -Eduardo Leaton Jr., Esq.

  • jeanniebeanz

    Interesting thread. I wonder how any of the WT 'founders' would fare if their private failings were truly investigated and brought to light. Most likely, as men, there are numerous skeletons in the closets.

    Once you take any position of prominence, you open yourself up to an amazing double standard in the publics view: What people will do in their own lives, and what they expect of their leaders.


  • stev


    Thank you for the quotations concerning Rutherford, and I have now read them. I am well aware Rutherford had been a Pilgrim. However, in order to check out this rumor about Rutherford in 1916 (which has come up before in previous threads), I checked several issues of ZWT in 1916, and failed to see pilgrim notices for Rutherford in that year, 1916. Again, I did not check every issue, and I certainly could have missed seeing them. I was looking to see where Rutherford might have been living, or doing, at that time.

    I also am not sure that the Rutherford in England that are in the quotes from your post is Joseph Rutherford. This has been questioned before on this forum. Was there a different Bro. Rutherford in England? I don't know. Has anyone checked this out, and can verify this?

    I was not aware that Rutherford had acted as a stenographer. I had thought that Malcolm his son had served as Russell's stenographer. But Rutherford did travel on that world tour in 1910, so the Rutherford referred to then must be Joseph Rutherford.

    No doubt Rutherford was one of the prominent Bible Students, but not pre-eminent. Russell had not appointed a successor, and no one at that time was acknowledged as second to Russell. He was no doubt better qualified than many, if not most, and very likely was still in good standing with Russell when died. It would be interesting, though, if the contrary rumor could be confirmed.

    You write: I think initially Rutherford was sincere and later the desire for prominence and power eventually corrupted him and played into his character flaws (like Anakin Skywalker).

    I believe Anakin turned into Darth Vader. Are you making that comparison as well? If so, what point in time marked Rutherford's fall?


  • VM44

    Russell thanked his attorneys, Mr. Sparks and Mr. Rutherford for the work they did for him in the Brooklyn Eagle libel case.

    Quite awhile ago I read the news articles published by the Brooklyn Eagle while the case was in progress.

    If I remember correctly, the articles mentioned both Mr Sparks and Mr Rutherford being the lawyers for Russell, but only Mr Sparks spoke before the judge and jury.

    The jury found against CT Russell, that the Eagle did not libel him by publishing the cartoon showing him with his "Miracle Wheat" along with the "Onion" bank (actually the Union bank) scandal.

    It is interesting that during the trial, Russell and Van Amburg were ordered to bring the financial books for The Watchtower to court, in order to show how Russell was hurt financially by the bad publicity from the cartoon. Russell and Van Amburg refused and did not bring any financial documents to court, saying that the order was not specific enough.

    So here we have an early example where The Watchtower (or Russell, as at this time he had complete control of it) will not give details of its finances.


  • stev

    Regarding the books:

    There was a post on the forum, quoting Maria Russell, that she never got to see the financial records while she was Secy/Treasurer of the Society. (Her husband Charles must have seen them however). As I recall, one complaint that ones on the Board had after Russell's death, was that they were not permitted to see the financial records. (Perhaps this can be verified). My memory is not very clear, but it seems Rutherford would not let them see them unless they resigned.

    VanAmburgh must have let Russell see them. Rutherford must have seen them. But it looks very suspicious for a business corporation, especially doing religious work, and selling books in the millions, not to show their financial records to the Board or to the public. Russell certainly was highly competent when it came to money, and knew how to save, spend, invest it. He could easily have been a millionaire in his day. Probably no one on the Board could have had more financial sense than he did. Yet he seemed to be ignorant of the impression that this financial secretiveness gave to the public - that he was using religion as a money-making scheme.


  • West70

    First, J. F. and Mary Rutherford did not live in Newcastle, England. The Newcastle Rutherfords were English Russellites. As I posted in the same thread in which I informed this DB that Malcom Rutherford had served as Russell's stenographer, Newcastle England was also the home of Dr. Adam Rutherford; the famous Pyramidologist. Given the common interest in pyramidology, the Newcastle Russellites possibly may have been relatives of Adam Rutherford.

    Second, J. F. and Mary Rutherford relocated to Monrovia, California probably around July or August 1915, when several of the prominent Bethelites left Bethel due to the drastic dropoff of donations and operations after October 1914.

    Rutherford spent several weeks in California in early 1917 fighting the lawsuit that arose out of the LA Christian Church conversions. He likely stay at his Monrovia home.

    Then, in early 1918, Rutherford again spent several weeks in California. Although I don't know when Mary had came back to Bethel, she was at Bethel at the time, and JFR stated that the main purpose of the 1918 trip was to take Mary back to Monrovia.

    As for C.T. Russell's business acumen, my posts regarding the facts that it was actually William Conley who was doing most of the early financing of the Society's work seems to indicate that the money generated from Russell's five "men's shirts" stores has been as over-exaggerated by Russellites as has much other things about CTR.

  • Oroborus21

    thanks for the clarification West. I wasn't sure if the Newcastle reference was to J.F. or another rutherford. I thought maybe they were just temporarilly while Rutherford was stationed there or something.

    I am not sure of the Monrovia residence. What are your sources for that?

    -Eduardo Leaton Jr., Esq.

  • stev

    In 1882, the books were open for inspection. From ZWT Reprints, page 313:

    To all whose donations have been over one hundred dollars, we have made special reports, and to any donor the books are always open for inspection.

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