How Exactly Did J.F.Rutherford Wrest Control For Himself Over The Watchtower Society?
By Terry Walstrom (JWN)
By Terry Walstrom (JWN)
On October 31, 1916 Pastor C.T.Russell died on a train in Pampas, Texas. Shortly afterward, a direct long distance call was placed to Judge J.F. Franklin with the information: "The old man is dead."
Pastor Russell left a Last Will and Testament. In this legal document he made specific instructions for who the Directors of the publishing corporation should be: W. E. Page, W. E. Van Amburgh, H.C. Rockwell, E. W. Brenneisen and F. H. Robinson.
Russell's exact words: “the five whom I suggest as possibly amongst the most suitable from which to fill vacancies” as alternates.
The will, along with a number of letters and other statements about the administration of the Watch Tower Society, was printed in the December 1, 1916 edition of The Watch Tower. Inexplicably, the 5 names of alternates turns into 6 with J.F.Rutherford included as alternates: A. E. Burgess, R. Hirsh, I. Hoskins, G. H. Fisher, J. F. Rutherford and Dr. J. Edgar.
Page and Brenneisen declined to serve. They were replaced by Hirsh and Rutherford from the alternates list. Hirsh was the first substitute named in Russell’s will, and therefor a natural first substitution, but Rutherford was only mentioned fourth, yet took the second vacant position!
What had Russell done about his controlling shares in the Corporation?
Russell’s portion of the shares that gave legal control of the Watch Tower Society was distributed to five loyal female Bible Students who would be “trustees for life.”
Alexander H. Macmillan, who served as manager of the Watch Tower administration, a de facto interim president along with P.S.L. Johnson (personal friend of Russell) had a lion's share of votes due to the purchase of those shares after incorporation. These two men pushed Rutherford over the top at the election in January of 1917.
P.S.L. Johnson was an egotistical crackpot with wild ideas whom Russell had fondly tolerated. The board and executive committee shipped him off across the Atlantic to "encourage the Bible Students". Upon arriving, Johnson sought to take control of the Society's finances and disrupted activities there in short order by claiming the HE should be the successor of Pastor Russell!
Russell's will made explicit that no NEW writings were to be published; only reprints of Russell's.
When the Editorial board sought to enforce this they were opposed by Van Amburgh, Macmillan and Rutherford. Conflicts arose. Rutherford demanded P.S.L.Johnson return from London.
In secret, Rutherford had supervised the writing of a new publication, the seventh volume of Russell’s series Studies in the Scriptures. The book, titled The Finished Mystery, was written by George H. Fisher and another Rutherford supporter, Clayton J. Woodworth, loosely based on notes and statements made by Russell. The plan was to release this as a posthumous Russell volume completing the series.
Rutherford had no patience for opposition to his plans. He sought a legal pretext to remove everybody but Himself as Director and sole authority!
How exactly did J.F.Rutherford wrest control for himself over the Watchtower Society?
According to the charter of the WTS, a Pennsylvania corporation, all directors had to be reelected annually in that state.
(This had not happened since the headquarters moved to New York). Because of this technicality, the four ....claimed Rutherford...were not legally elected.
The removed Directors, Rutherfords opponents , objected that if the directors were not legally elected, neither was Rutherford.
Rutherford responded that he was a legal officer! Of what? Of a subsidiary corporation, called People’s Pulpit Association, (later called The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society which Rutherford used to publish The Finished Mystery.
This Association was legally incorporated in New York to allow the Pennsylvania corporation to operate in New York, and was wholly owned by it. This was Rutherford's finesse.
The directors never took the case to court. Rutherford had the directors and P.S.L. Johnson physically thrown out. Rutherford actually attacked Johnson physically. For some time, the vice-president, Pierson, sided with Rutherford’s opponents, but he eventually landed on Rutherford’s side.
Now, as sole Authority, all the Judge needed to do was find out where all of the bible student's local congregations were, obtain their addresses and gain control of them by pretending to send them a Circuit visitor to "encourage" their local work.
Little by little the Judge changed local operations, installed his own leaders and dropped all bible reading that wasn't using his own proprietary articles and books as reference.
The ‘ousted directors,’ Paul Johnson and their followers formed the Layman’s Home Missionary Society, and others formed a number of different Bible Student movements, some of which still exists and continues to reprint Russell’s writings with nothing new added.
The Proclaimers book follows up demonstrating how cowardly Rutherford turned out to be
when it came to defending his Finished Mystery publication publicly.
“When it had been learned that the government objected to the book, Brother Rutherford had immediately sent a telegram to the printer to stop producing it, and at the same time, a representative of the Society had been dispatched to the intelligence section of the U.S. Army to find out what their objection was. When it was learned that because of the war then in progress, pages 247-53 of the book were viewed as objectionable, the Society directed that those pages be cut out of all copies of the book before they were offered to the public. And when the government notified district attorneys that further distribution would be a violation of the Espionage Act (although the government declined to express an opinion to the Society on the book in its altered form), the Society directed that all public distribution of the book be suspended.” (p. 652)Rutherford published statements in The Watchtower urging Bible Students to buy war bonds, participate in a day of prayer for allied victory and only stopped short of encouraging armed service. (Jan S. Haugland Master Thesis September 26, 2000)