What really happened around 1918 when WT leaders were imprisoned?

by dubstepped 34 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • zeb
    What happened? Well, one of them had to go without his too frequent libation...
  • lrkr

    And funny how the bible books of Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel were all about that little stint in prison!

    One of the keys to my waking up- those ridiculous books!

  • _Morpheus

    Td, in fairness, the charges were dropped because without the wartime fervor, the case wouldnt have been won. Its not technically an exoneration but it was defacto one.

    The judge in that case was obviously biased. The sentances were extreme to say the least and they were damn near outright railroaded. I hate the org and Rutherford specifically was an ass who deserved prison for his abuses as head of the org, but that particular case was a travesty.

  • TerryWalstrom

    Below I've assembled various items pertaining to the OP questions.
    I've excerpted too from my own book, I WEPT BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON (A Prisoner of Conscience in a Time of War)



    New York Times, May 9, 1918


    People who display patriotism are delusional murderers acting in the very spirit of the devil. Patriotism is narrow-minded hatred of other people.

    1. Prince Bulow, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannermann, Mr. H. H. Asquith, Mr. John Jay and Mr. Elihu Root were peace-loving statesmen under a sky filled with clouds of war.

    2. While 10,000 children in Tokyo were singing loving greetings to our naval officers, the US was gearing up for a war with the Japanese.

    3. The naval experts of Russia are planning a billion-dollar navy even though millions of its people are on the verge of starvation.

    4. The first expenditure of the United States government in the world war (WWI) was $7 Billion, which is 27% in excess of the value of all the crops harvested in the US.

    5. The Germans denounce war, with the exception of the present conflict with England. England condemns war, but excludes from their indictment the present fight against the central empires.

    6. This war (WWI) is the natural product of our unchristian civilization. Its soldiers are grown from greed, imperialistic ambition, and dynastic pride. Our participation in this war is unethical.


    Below is another good source. It tells how Rutherford requested the brothers to remove pages of the Seditious book to be torn out as an attempt to avoid jail time.

    (Paul Johnson)

  • Fencing
    Rutherford & Co were prosecuted under the Espionage Act. The specific charge was interfering with the ability of the United States to raise an army during wartime.

    At issue were a few pages from the book, The Finished Mystery

    Another tidbit that the Society doesn't like to publish, which can been gleaned from the transcripts, is that Rutherford and the Society actually cowered, and removed the offending pages from already-published copies of the book. Hardly the shining example of boldly proclaiming the truth in the face of persecution from Satan's system.

  • TD


    I've acknowledged the wartime hysteria and agree with you that Rutherford and his associates would likely have won (In a retrial) after that hysteria had died down.

    As dropoffyourkeylee points out, the Bible Students were not singled out. There were many such conviction and consequently, I think the term bias loses much of its meaning.
  • Crazyguy

    Yep prosecuted for sedition!

  • TerryWalstrom

    One of the cornerstones of the Watchtower Society's claims about the 1918 trial of Joseph F. Rutherford and seven other co-defendants, is that the trial was a travesty of justice, where the defendants were railroaded off to prison.

    To make their point, the Society has repeatedly stated that Joseph Rutherford and his fellow defendants were "Exonerated" of all charges, and subsequently released from prison fully vindicated. The Society also attributed this 'victory' to Jehovah's hand in matters, restoring the symbolic 'Two Witnesses' spoken of in Revelation, and thereby, reactivating the Kingdom preaching work.

    What actually transpired is that the convicted defendants filed a Petition for a "Writ of Error." (Trial Transcript, pages 1-10, parts 1-30 ) The Writ of Error was allowed by the trial Court, Judge Howe, and granted by the District Court Judge Chatfield, whom the Society earlier objected to and had removed from their trial, because they felt he would not be fair to them.

    What does this mean? During the course of any trial, the defense attorney will take exceptions and objections and note any errors in procedure and practices customary to common law. If the defendants lose and are convicted, the defense attorney can use these 'errors' as a basis for appeal.

    Judge Howe, who presided over the trial of Joseph Rutherford and his co-defendants, was very generous to note defense objections and exceptions, and openly stated in Court several times that he would act to preserve the rights of the defendants, and acknowledged that they could make appeals.

    What then is a Writ of Error and how is it processed? "WRIT OF ERROR, practice. A writ issued out of a court of competent jurisdiction, directed to the judge of a court of record in which final judgment has been given, and commanding them, in some cases, themselves to examine the record; in others to send it to another court of appellate jurisdiction, therein named, to be examined in order that some alleged error in the proceeding may be corrected."

    That is it! In this case, the Writ of Error was granted, and the case remanded back to the United States Attorney as is customary. The prosecuting Attorney then decides whether he wants to re-try the case, correcting errors or let it drop. Such 'errors' do not mean that the defendants are suddenly 'not guilty' or in any way 'exonerated,' but rather that if the case were tried, less the errors, it might possibly have a different result.

    What essentially happened is that the US Attorney decided not to pursue the case, and as a result, in accordance with the Writ of Error, the Defendants were released, and the original charges were not refiled. Double jeopardy does not apply, because this goes to the matter of how the first trial made errors. If they would have had a new trial, that trial would then be treated as the 'correct' trial, and the original trial would be treated as a mistrial.

    Were the errors significant, possibly suggesting that the Defendants did not get a fair trial? So far, from reading much of this 1500 page transcript, I have found nothing that jumps out as outrageous or even unfair to the defense. Most all the objections and exceptions taken by the defense were minor.

    "While I do not have conclusive information as to why the US Attorney backed off and did not pursue a new trial, it appears that after WWI, the nation settled down, and going through this issue again may have seemed pointless to the Government."
    (Amazing-post on JWD https://www.jehovahs-witness.com/topic/28327/j-f-rutherford-exonerated)

    There you have it ... Joseph Rutherford and company were NOT exonerated, but simply let off of the hook because of procedural errors

  • _Morpheus
    Td, i certainly dont mean to imply that witnesses were singled out or in anyway persecuted by satans world ;) but it was nonsense. As terry points out, he cant identify specifically why prosecution was dropped... i can. Its easy. They knew they wouldnt win minus wartime feelings. The charges were a huge reach.
  • Wild_Thing

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