Golden Age Goodies

by Leolaia 279 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Leolaia

    The pieces are really coming together, very, very interesting. I think I have some resources I can use to sleuth that quotation; meanwhile, are you sure the date is 14 May 1931, instead of 14 May 1932?

  • dilaceratus

    Dear Leolaia,

    The copyright on The Crisis reads 1933, but on p. 24 reads, "If Jesus were to walk into Washington today [June 26, 1932] and mingle with the suffering veterans in their camp he would be denounced by the clergymen as a man of low civilization." I take the quote on p. 10, "From one of these communications, dated May 14, last, . . ." to then mean he was speaking about 14 May 1931. I have been searching the archives of periodicals and magazines of the time for 1930-33, just in case any of these dates are off.

    One possibility has arisen that I had certainly not expected: What if, on this issue of a fascist uprising, Rutherford was not correct, but possibly somewhat reliably informed?

    I had never heard of this incident, and apparently it is one of the more unprobed areas of American history. The problem with connecting it to the Rutherford quote is that the dates are all at least a year off.

    Given their common views on a number of issues, and Butler's career as a lecturer, it does not seem impossible that his story (very strangely, a year or two in advance) made it to Rutherford or one of his operatives. Butler's story has a lot of imponderables to it (why would industrialists pick a noted pacifist, for one thing), so maybe the one he eventually told was one he had been refining for some time beforehand.

    It could also be coïncidence, a typical conspiracy theory running in sync with a genuine conspiracy.

    On the negative side, the hearings for this took place in 1934, and I find it impossible to believe that the Watchtower would not still be crowing about Rutherford having announced a genuine scandal ahead of time... Unless Rutherford's source was disreputable, and would give them a black eye. Also, in 1938 Rutherford was still claiming the "Hierarchy" were out to hijack the constitution.

    Knowing the source of that quote would help a lot in knowing what direction to take this mystery.


  • dilaceratus

    Deeper and deeper...

    "If Jesus were to walk into Washington today [June 26, 1932] and mingle with the suffering veterans in their camp he would be denounced by the clergymen as a man of low civilization."

    I had assumed this was referring to the Bonus Army that were camped in Washington, DC. ( What I didn't know was that Smedley Butler was a defender of the protesters, and spoke before them just a few days before Patton and MacArthur drove them out.

    Were Rutherford and Butler in Washington at the same time? Strange.

  • dilaceratus

    . . . Big Business maintains paid

    lobbyists at Washington, which lobbyists con-

    duct also a bureau of information for the spe-

    cial benefit of their employers. Each week a

    letter goes from that bureau of information to

    the executive heads of Big Business corpora-

    tions. From one of these communications, dated

    May 14, last, I quote the following:

    Dumbfounded later commentators have tended to ask the same question you did: How could America ignore a potential coup? (One plausible answer: fat cats controlled the press.) A more pertinent line of inquiry is: What went on here? The possibilities:

    * Butler was lying, deluded, etc. Nah. Browse through the testimony and you find that the committee did, as claimed, corroborate the essentials of the general's story.

    * A number of U.S. plutocrats really did conspire to depose the president. It's not out of the question. Though the idea of a popular revolt financed by zillionaires seems harebrained now, it was less so in the 1930s. In Europe jobless veterans were a potent political force, and enlisting respected military leaders in right-wing schemes was a common ploy--witness von Hindenburg in Germany and, a little later, Marshall Petain in France. The New Deal polarized the nation; many in the moneyed crowd really did fear FDR was opening the door to Bolshevism.

    * MacGuire was a con artist. Butler himself wondered whether MacGuire was using Clark's paranoia about losing his fortune to wheedle cash out of him.

    * The plot never got further than a small cadre of screwballs. The simplest explanation in my book. Though MacGuire dropped lots of big names, Butler had contact with only three conspirators--MacGuire, Clark, and the other American Legion official who'd tagged along on the first couple visits. Clark had a reputation as an eccentric. MacGuire was well wired, predicting political developments with uncanny accuracy, but that proves little in itself. Maybe the plotters figured if they got Butler on board everybody else would fall into line. Who's to say they wouldn't have? Look at the bridge club's worth of geniuses who got us into Iraq.

    That MacGuire had significant financial backing behind him seems clear,
    considering the substantial bank savings books he showed to Butler. What
    remains unclear is whether the names MacGuire dropped (other than Robert
    Sterling Clark) were really involved, or whether MacGuire was a con man.

    MacGuire's claims and financial resources alone did not convince Butler that
    such a conspiracy actually existed. The fulfillment of a series of startling
    predictions by MacGuire did finally persuade Butler that there was more than
    just hot air involved. MacGuire knew in advance of significant personnel
    changes in the White House. He correctly predicted the formation of the
    American Liberty League (the major conservative opposition to Roosevelt),
    and the principal players in it.
    Especially disturbing was that many of the
    supposed backers of the plot were also members of the League. MacGuire's
    claim that the League ("villagers in the opera" of the scheme, in MacGuire's
    words) was part of the plot could not be easily dismissed.

    The American Liberty League was a successor to the highly successful
    Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, the lobbying organization
    responsible for the repeal of the "Noble Experiment." From its formation in
    1918 until 1926, the AAPA made little progress, at least partly because it
    had little money. But in 1926, money poured into the AAPA from some of
    America's wealthiest men, including Pierre, Irenee, and Lammot du Pont, John
    J. Raskob, and Charles H. Sabin. The AAPA spent its new found wealth on
    distribution of literature, and on the formation of a bewildering number of
    associated organizations. These associated organizations gave the impression
    of a grassroots movement, rather than a collection of millionaires feeding
    press releases to friendly newspapers. The AAPA also rapidly took control of
    the Democratic Party, with one of their supporters, Al Smith, receiving the
    1928 Democratic Presidential nomination. While AAPA had powerful friends
    within the Republican Party, they never achieved control of it.

  • Leolaia

    Oh yes, I remember the matter of the Bonus Army....Penton talked about it in his recent book:

    "Apart from individual politicians, Rutherford in particular had a deep hatred for Great Britain and the United States -- a fact that in 1932 led him to become involved in a serious political controversy in Washington, D.C. In the spring and summer of 1932 a 'Bonus Army' of many thousands of unemployed American veterans of the First World War and their families descended on the American capital. In the midst of the Depression that had struck the United States and the world in the fall of 1929, millions were destitute and suffering terribly. Thus the veterans -- many of whom were among those millions -- demanded that the federal governement immediately pay them a bonus of $500, which by law they were supposed to receive in 1945" (p. 116). Penton then goes on to describe the settlement of Bonus Army members in Washington, D.C., and the efforts of the Army in July 1932 to force the veterans to leave, with some tragic results. He then relates how Rutherford involved himself in this affair:

    "A month earlier, J.F. Rutherford had involved himself in the Bonus Army affair. On 26 June he had come to Washington and delivered a lecture -- better stated, a jeremiad -- to the veterans. This was broadcast over a chain of radio stations in the United States and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. That speech -- 'Can the American Government Endure? -- was vintage Rutherford and was a blistering attack on American society and especially on capitalism. In it he asserted that 'Big Business' controlled practically every economic, political, and religious entity in the United States: 'Every branch of government is contaminated and improperly influenced by Big Business. It controls the two major political parties of America and names and elects at will the public men to office who will best serve its selfish interests. Big Business controls the army and the navy, the guns and the ammunition, and the police power of the nation.' Following these remarks, he stated: 'Big Business either directly or indirectly owns or controls agencies serve as propagandists for Big Business and for their immediate political and religious allies. The same selfish interests own and control the professional clergymen, and these men make merchandise of the World of God in order to keep the people in ignorance and in subjection to the ruling powers.' Moreover, he held that there was a corporate plot to establish a dictatorship in the United States, which he felt would come about within the year: 'I venture the opinion that before the end of the year the American government will be ruled by a dictator, aided by a company of advisors that are selected and directed by the chiefs of Big Business. Such will be a military role and one which the people will be compelled to submit to.'

    "This was incendiary language. In the circumstances, it could have incited to violence many of the veterans, who were bitter over their plight. But Rutherford protected himself from charges of outright sedition by telling them that a revolt would be useless and that they should wait for Jehovah himself, who would soon be acting to destroy the government of the United States and all that it stood for. He proclaimed: 'The American government has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Together with all other nations, it soon shall fall.' The day before Rutherford delivered his lecture, three hundred Jehovah's Witnesses appeared in Washington to contact members of the Bonus Army and to deliver pamphlets and books throughout the city. The police, the government, and the Electrical Power Company at first tried to stop them, but a number of veterans supported the Witnesses' efforts, and the Dictrict of Columbia police chief decided to let them carry on with their activities. Thus they were able to invade public buildings in droves to press their message on government officials and government workers. Some of the workers were terribly frightened, thinking they were being invaded by members of the Bonus Army" (pp. 117-118).

    Note that this address on June 26 is the very same one mentioned in The Crisis. BTW, I don't think the letter in question was dated May 14, 1931..if Rutherford was citing it on June 26, 1932 as "May 14, last", that indicates a date "May 14, 1932". This is a convention I've seen many times before with reference to a letter or incident that occurred "last month".

  • Midget-Sasquatch

    Although I've got nothing to contribute, I want to thank both of you for all this historical research and fleshing out the likely influences on Rutherford's conspiracy theories.

  • rebel8

    All very fascinating!

    most of the friends were poisoned. In such a crowd, who knows but there might have been one of Satan's imps present, trying to destroy the Lord's people in that way.

    Hilarious--he believed Satan, in all his power, chose e-coli as his weapon against the JWs. Mentally ill indeed.

  • dilaceratus

    Update: I have not had time to devote to this topic, but did manage to read Jules Archer's The Plot to Seize the White House (1973), which is the story of Maj. Gen Smedley D. Butler, Gerald MacGuire, and the alleged "business plot" of the Morgans, DuPonts, the American Legion, and other industrialists to install a fascist government to replace Roosevelt in 1933. Fortunately, the text of this long out of print and quite rare book is available online ( Unfortunately, it is a painfully written hagiography of Butler, and lacks footnotes. Also of interest is John L. Spivak's 1935 article for New Masses magazine, which first brought to light the censored testimony of Butler and MacGuire before the 1934 McCormack-Dickstein Committee (HUAC), the full text available online
    (, a quick viewing of which revealing its inherent biases and flaws. A curiosity is Butler's book[let?] War is a Racket, which is also available online (

    Whether there even ever was a genuine plot in 1933, or whether it was all an elaborate con played by unknown persons for unknown gain is entirely debatable. My reading of the Butler plot was that it was constructed from day one begging to be revealed. Who might have benefited from a revelation of a fascist putsch involving big business is open for speculation, but there was surely a battle going on for Roosevelt's attentions, with both the far left and far right pulling. There were at least three high-level Soviet spies in the Roosevelt White House who might conceivably have been able to give the inside information to MacGuire that convinced Butler that the plot was real.

    That said, I think a convincing case can be made that the "fascist plot" Rutherford described in June 1932 bears a strikingly complete resemblance to the plot described by Smedley Butler as having been revealed to him in the fall of 1933. What is most remarkable about this is that, although his "prediction" of a fascist takeover occurring within the next year didn't take place, in 1934 this story was the center headline of the New York Times-- the one time Rutherford came close to getting something kind of right, and yet it doesn't seem to have been mentioned again. This is grossly atypical behavior, and highly suspicious. Under what type of threat would Rutherford keep his mouth closed?

    There are so many nebulous plots within plots here that it is hard to make sense of what any of this means. Based on not much more than my own prejudices, I suspect that Rutherford was being scammed by somebody, with the purpose of revealing this plot, and this was likely the same person or group who tried the same method a year later with Butler.

    The largest questions presently:

    1.) Why, even if his connection to the Butler affair was entirely coïncidental, after humiliating failure after humiliating failure, if Rutherford predicted something essentially correctly, would he not have brought this victory up at least eighty thousand times?

    2.) Why did Rutherford address the Bonus Army at all?

    3.) Why did Rutherford bring up the Gold Standard in this speech? (Asking the General to endorse the Gold Standard at the American Legion convention was the first play MacGuire made for Butler.)

    4.) What letters are Rutherford speaking of in his address?

    5.) Where did Rutherford get this information?

    6.) Who, or what, entity would have benefited from the exposure of such a plot, and been able to keep Rutherford quiet about its particulars afterwards?

    Since the question of the actual character and particulars of the Business Plot are so murky, if there was, truly, an earlier attempt to unclothe this supposed plot through Rutherford, the answers to these questions may not only shed light upon the early motivations and influences of the WTBTS, but also on who was behind the plot to reveal it through Maj. Gen. Butler.

    P.S. It was not at all likely to have been the F.B.I.-- Butler was on highly congenial terms with J. Edgar Hoover.

    Leolaia, thank you for your correction regarding the date to which Rutherford referred. I have apparently not had enough experience with dictating. My searches did include this possibility, however, so I doubt I missed it. As far as finding it, however, the letter Rutherford was quoting really does read as farce, the sort of thing Andy Hardy might have uncovered. If this letter was something (like the eighteen thousand dollar bills MacGuire showed Butler, or the msyeriously uncashed checks he pulled from his wallet to prove his veracity) provided Rutherford by MacGuire (or someone operating in a similar capacity) it won't be found anywhere, though.

  • Leolaia

    dilaceratus....I think points #4 and #5 are the most enigmatic and explosive, if the facts turn out to show that he was tipped off or duped by MacGuire/Butler/others. Where in heck did he get that letter mentioned in his "Bonus Army" talk....was it printed in some extremist newspaper, something mailed to the Golden Age, or passed on to Rutherford in some other way? I wish I could see the Golden Ages dating to May-June 1932, but alas these are not in my purview. I do have at my disposal an archive of political newspapers and magazines from the era, so I might check those out sometime I have time available. Meanwhile, what do you think of this item that Rutherford quoted to support his conspiracy theories? This is an extract from his booklet Fascism or Freedom (1938):

    I can't figure out which L'Aurora he is quoting here....there was an anarchist newspaper with that name (for an Italian audience) published in New Jersey, and there was an Italian Baptist newspaper with that name published in Pennsylvania. Either I guess fits, but it would be interesting if Rutherford had read the anarchist paper.

    And this is also the most extravagent use of ellipses and brackets I have ever seen in a Watchtower publication.

  • dilaceratus

    I'm not sure what L'Aurora was, or who Patrick O'Brien was supposed to be, but here's a 1950 quote from the intensely disgusting (and hardly credible) website of Ian Paisley:

    By her own admission, Rome intends to destroy America, where she is entrenching herself with strength. An article in The Union and Echo, official diocesan organ of the Roman Catholic Church in Buffalo, in December 1950, declared:

    "At the rate of 126,000 converts a year in the United States it would take us too long [to Romanise America]. We must convert [...] Politics, Economics, Sociology, Business, Entertainment, Labour and Management, the Department of State and the Executive Branch of our Government to Christian and hence Catholic principles."

    This was put in no uncertain terms by "Father" Patrick O'Brien quoted in L'Aurora of the same date:

    "We, the Hierarchy of the Holy Catholic Church, [...]if necessary, [...] shall change, mend, or blot out the present Constitution so that the President may enforce his, or rather our, humanitarian programme and all phases of human rights [!] as laid down by our saintly Popes and the Holy Mother Church. [...] We are going to have our laws made and enforced according to the Holy See and the Popes and the canon law of the Papal throne. Our entire social structure must be rebuilt on that basis. Our educational laws must be constructed to end the atheism, the Red peril of totalitarianism, Protestantism, Communism, Socialism and all other of like ilk and stamp, be driven from this fair land. [...] We control America and we do not propose to stop until America or Americans are genuinely Roman Catholic and remain so."

    Assuming these quotes to not be fabricated and then distributed by these hate groups, this doesn't sound like either a Baptist or Anarchist paper-- it sounds like it could have been the self-published rantings of a halfwit. Although this quote is more openly damning of an alleged Catholic dream to control the United States, check out the ellipses use again. Is the Fascism or Freedom quote clipped from some other hate-peddling, ellipses-loving source? (Cf. The Life -- How Did it Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? book's lifting of (among others) the gratingly dishonest Lewontin quote from Impact.)

    "I ... snuggled ... Jos. Rutherford ... [and] ... eskimo [kissed] ... [Nathan] Homer ... Knorr."

    Since this statement has not been repudiated by Rutherford or Knorr, we will have to assume this it has their approval.

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