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CHAPTER 29

That Threatened Lawsuit

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Section Titles
The Plagiarism Charge—Part II
Amadon's Article in the Newspaper
Good Men and Bad Memories
An Eyewitness Sees Too Much
The Anonymous Article That Amadon Answered
A Strange Oversight
The Anonymous 1907 Pamphlet
The 1907 Pamphleteer's Statement Analyzed
A Present-Day Critic Speaks
Most Amazing Part of Story
Kolvoord Story Analyzed
The Final “Proof” Examined
Letters Between Haskell and White
All Set to Publish New Edition
The Conflict of the Ages Series
Delays in Carrying Out Plans
W. C. White Discusses 1907 Rumors
Comments on W. C. White Letter
Which Publisher Threatened Suit?
The Facts Regarding Copyright Law
A Publisher of Conybeare and Howson Book Testifies
The Threatened Lawsuit Quashed


The Plagiarism Charge—Part II

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Charge: The publishers of the Conybeare and Howson book on Paul “threatened prosecution” if Mrs. White's book on Paul “was not suppressed,” so greatly had she plagiarized. “Hence it was withdrawn from sale.” “It was suddenly taken off the market.”

“It is foolish and dishonest” for her defenders “to try to make people believe that Mrs. White took this book off the market because she wanted to revise and enlarge it. It was about 1893-4 when the edition was exhausted, and she did not get out the revised edition until 1911.”

The charge of plagiarism is supposed to find its most certain proof and to acquire its most reprehensible quality in this alleged threat of a lawsuit against Mrs. White. Let us trace the origin and development of this lawsuit story, checking it against the available documentary facts. The first fact that stands out is that this story most evidently was not born until the twentieth century. Canright had been one of the “leading brethren,” and therefore most certainly knew the facts about the denomination up to the time of his apostasy in 1887. Yet when in 1889 he wrote his first book against Adventists, which includes three short paragraphs on Mrs. White's alleged plagiarism, he made no mention of a lawsuit story. This book went through fourteen editions in the next twenty-five years. But the plagiarism statement in the book remains the same.*

So far as we are able to discover from any documentary sources, the roots of the now-flourishing lawsuit story draw their nutriment from the black soil of a sorry controversy that occurred in Battle


* This 1889 book was entitled Seventh-Day Adventism Renounced. The 14th edition is dated 1914. The text of the book has remained virtually unchanged through the fourteen editions, though there were a few changes made. Would Canright or his publishers have hesitated at the small cost of remaking a page in the book, if by so doing they could include so sensational a charge as that Mrs. White had been threatened with a lawsuit?


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Creek, Michigan, in 1907. In that year a tension that had been building up between the leadership of the Battle Creek Sanitarium and the elected leadership of the denomination came to a head with the disfellowshipment of a number of persons. In that year, by depressing coincidence, a man who had for long years been prominent in the Review and Herald publishing house, a member of its board, and who had recently withdrawn, entered an unsuccessful suit against it because of some alleged injustice in the matter of royalties.

Such a situation always presents a temptation to a certain type of newspaper to publish defamatory gossip and rumors. Battle Creek in 1907 was no exception.* Thus in the public press there began to appear articles and stories that were sometimes wholly unfounded, sometimes a mixture of half truths.

Amadon's Article in the Newspaper

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One such article, seeking to belittle Mrs. White, discussed her book on Paul with such vigor and venom that George W. Amadon, loyal former employee of long experience in the Review and Herald publishing house, made reply. This reply, which was published in the Battle Creek Daily Journal of May 27, 1907, was entitled “A Few Facts,” and subtitled: “Concerning Mrs. White's Book, ‘Sketches From the Life of Paul.’” The article opens thus:

“About three weeks since there appeared in a sheet printed in Battle Creek, a quite lengthy article concerning Mrs. E. G. White, calculated to injure her reputation as an author, and to humiliate the Seventh-day Adventist people before the public. More than probable the article in this respect was something of a success, and so its inspirers have had a brief space in which to gloat over what they have achieved….

“And first, in reference to the book ‘Sketches from the Life of Paul.’ This little work of 334 pages was not gotten up by the Review and Herald, but was written, planned and printed at Oakland, California, in 1883. A set of the stereo plates were shipped to Battle Creek, and from these a small edition was soon published. But hardly had the covers been placed on the books when it was discovered that an unfortunate mistake had been made in the


* In fact, until very recent decades the American press, in general, too often permitted itself to indulge in rumors and gossip in its allegedly news pages.


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publiction. In preparing the volume, free reference had been made in the publication. In* but by some unaccountable oversight, while numerous passages had been made use of, no credit was given for the same. This should have been done in a suitable acknowledgment in the preface, or by marks of quotation, or by footnotes, or by all.

“Now what did the publishers at this juncture do? They promptly withdrew the volume from the market, and no more books were printed. The demand for them was great, very great, but the books could not be had. As an illustration of this the writer had a daughter, a missionary in Cape Town, South Africa, for a number of years. She had a copy of this book. A young English lady wanted the same for her father, and she got a copy of it in this way. Being expert with the pen, she transcribed the entire volume from the title page to the last sentence in the work. That was certainly a unique edition of just one book.”

The remainder of the article presents Amadon's views about Mrs. White's being an honorable woman, the writer of many helpful volumes, et cetera, but contains nothing further that is really relevant to the charge before us. Note carefully what Amadon wrote as to how soon the “mistake” concerning quotation marks was discovered: “Hardly had the covers been placed on the books” when the discovery was made. What does he say the publishers did: “They promptly withdrew the volume from the market, and no more books were printed.”

When publishers speak of withdrawing a book they mean only one thing, taking it off the market. This is done, first by refusing to sell further copies, and then, of course, by making no further printings. Now Sketches From the Life of Paul was published in June, 1883. Amadon's statement would demand that certainly no later than the opening of 1884 the book would have been withdrawn and no more copies available for anyone. But is there any evidence that this was done? None whatsoever!

If this book was thus summarily withdrawn, the fact would have been common knowledge to no small number of the Review


* The text here given is copied from a photostat of the original article. At this point there is a typographical error quite common in linotype composition—a line of type reset to correct an error is inserted in the wrong place. The line “had been made in the publication. In” was apparently intended to correct the error “publiction” above, but it was mistakenly substituted for another line, which of course was discarded. Just what the original wording of the passage might be we have no way of knowing. However, with the opening word “In” deleted, the sentence makes sense.


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and Herald workers. The books would have to be disposed of in some way, probably as waste paper, and workmen would have to do the disposing, which is another way of saying that the incident was one which could not, in the very nature of the case, have been kept quiet. Canright, who wrote so critically from 1889 onward, certainly would have known the matter as promptly as anyone. We have already noted his silence, at least up to the year 1914.

But is it a fact that the publishers “withdrew the volume from the market” before the covers were hardly placed on the books? No, it is a fact that the book was sold for several years, just how long, is not certain. A present-day critic says that it was sold until the edition ran out. He gives this date as 1893-94. Amadon speaks of his daughter who was a missionary in South Africa and of her acquaintance with a young English woman who wanted a copy of this book, which could not be secured. But his daughter did not reach South Africa until early in 1894.* How long after that she met the woman from England we do not know. Hence Amadon's reference to his daughter is irrelevant to his statement that the book was “promptly” withdrawn from circulation. How “great” was the “demand” for the book will be reasonably clear when certain letters of the 1880's are examined.

Good Men and Bad Memories

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We give these facts regarding the primary errors in Amadon's statement, not to indict his honesty—we think he was a most honorable man—but simply to show the undependability of his memory. That part of his reminiscence which is capable of verification is proved inaccurate, a fact that will be doubly evident as this chapter progresses. We may therefore rightly raise a question concerning the rest of it. And again we say, we may question without impugning his honesty or the high motives that prompted him to reminisce. He was an old man when he wrote this, in his seventy-sixth year, and was recalling from memory an alleged incident of twenty-four years before. Memory plays strange tricks with all of us. At best


* Miss Grace Amadon sailed from New York, December 20, 1893, for Africa. She would thus reach her mission post, Claremont Union College, no earlier than January, 1894. See Review and Herald, Jan. 2, 1894, p. 16; Seventh-day Adventist rear Book, 1894, pp. 46, 86.


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our memory of happenings twenty-four years before is highly undependable, and if an event of a quarter century ago becomes entangled with a current rumor, the whole memory of the incident may become hopelessly distorted, and thus worthless.

The reader will recall that in an earlier chapter we took note of a letter that Uriah Smith, editor of the Review, was said to have written to Canright in the 1880's, concerning certain past events, including a statement that he had not seen the pamphlet, A Word to the “Little Flock” since the early 1850's. We then quoted from an editorial by Smith in the Review and Herald of 1866 in which he discussed that leaflet and quoted from it by page number. The best of people may have the worst of memories.

An Eyewitness Sees Too Much

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A writer in the Review in 1887 gives, in retrospect, his eyewitness account of the falling of the stars in 1833, when he was seven years old. Childhood memories are generally considered to be the sharpest. But his account of the falling of the stars includes descriptive statements that obviously belong to the account of the darkening of the sun, which occurred in 1780, or 46 years before he was born. (See Review and Herald, Feb. 22, 1887, p. 115.) In a case like this the explanation is evident. Not only had he seen the falling of the stars; he had also read and heard much of the darkening of the sun, for Adventists often discuss the two phenomena together. Through the years the two incidents had become intermingled in his mind. Those who knew no facts regarding either heavenly event would probably have had little reason to question his story. Why should they? Was he not giving an eyewitness account?

Such confusing of two historically recorded incidents is not uncommon. And it is because of this fact that a grave suspicion is cast on the dependability of memory, especially when a historical incident must be recalled through a fog of distorting stories. If we might be permitted, we would like to refer once more to that most sensational exhibit of groundless stories that quickly gained credence among honest people throughout America—the ascension


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robe story! In the light of the fact that good people, with no desire to deceive or defame, recalled in books of reminiscences that Millerites had worn such robes, though the documentary evidence of 1844 is overwhelmingly against it, we have no trouble in understanding how Amadon might have confused some facts with current fiction to produce the statement he made.

His article in the Battle Greek Journal seems to be the foundation on which the forbidding-looking edifice of a lawsuit threat is reared. The onlooker is permitted, or encouraged, to believe that underneath is a subfoundation of hard, flinty facts that support the lawsuit charge. Would the book really have been withdrawn from circulation unless there was a lawsuit threat?

This much can reasonably be assumed regarding the scurrilous article to which Amadon replied: If Mrs. White and the Review and Herald publishing house had really been threatened with a lawsuit, the fact would be known to the leaders of the dissident group—one of them had until a short time before been a member of the Review and Herald board of trustees. His connections with the publishing house extended back through the years. And would those who openly sought to defame Mrs. White, along with other leaders, have failed to capitalize on the sensational possibilities in a lawsuit threat? The answer to this question is so evident that the failure of the scurrilous article to present the lawsuit story would rightly provide the strongest evidence that the story was a myth.

The Anonymous Article That Amadon Answered

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And what does that article say? We have never seen it quoted by the critics. Whether this is because they have not wished to or could not secure it, we know not.* Patently, the article is of prime importance in the investigation of the lawsuit charge. We publish it now, in full, as it appeared in the Battle Creek Moon, April 29, 1907. It is entitled “Testimonies Under the Limelight:”


* We think that current critics have not seen it. One of them declares, though without offering any proof, that it appeared in the Battle Creek Journal, but makes no further reference to it. He quotes Amadon's reply at length and proceeds to build his lawsuit story on it.

There are three subtitles: “Mrs. Ellen G. White's Prophecies Show Evidence of Plagiarism. Seems to Have Been Inspired By A Trinity College Professor at Cambridge. More Than 200 Passages Are Copied From a Single Book Without Sign of Credit.” Next is displayed a dictionary definition of plagiarism. Then follows the text of the article.


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“Prophetess Ellen G. White, alleged mother of Seventh Day Adventism, is a plagiarist. Instead of receiving her inspirations from On High, or even from Holy writ, the latter of which is deemed scarcely necessary in her case, she seems to be receiving them or at least a portion of them from a book published back in 1855 [correct date 1851-52], and long since out of print.

“The volume wherein she copied from it, without quotation or credit is also out of print, but a few copies of each remain. A Moon reporter, after having been denied an interview by several followers of the prophetic Ellen, determined to do a little investigating for himself, and in reviewing her ‘Sketches from the Life of Paul,’ found a striking similarity to something which he had read long ago. Comparison told the tale.

“Her book published by The Review & Herald Publishing Company, of Battle Creek, in 1883, and soon suppressed, contains over two hundred borrowed sentences, from the ‘Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul,’ by Rev. W. J. Conybeare, of Trinity College, Cambridge, and published in 1855 [sic].

“No credit is given to that author, no quotation marks are used. In fact, quotation marks are never used by the prophetess. Her plan of authorship is to pick up the pen, and the Lord guides it. The publishers of ‘Mother’ White's ‘Sketches from the Life of Paul,’ preface her work by putting it this way: ‘This is the distinctive feature of the book, and is that which makes it particularly valuable. The writer, having received especial help from the Spirit of God is able to throw light upon the teachings of Paul and their application to our time, as no other authors are prepared to do.’

“And the rank and file of ‘Mother’ White's followers look upon all her writings and sayings, in practically that same light. Criticism of her or any of her doings, is considered an insult to the Creator, because she ‘seeth with his eyes, speaketh with his tongue, and writeth with his pen.’ Attempt to interview one of them about her, and they will elucidate upon her wisdom in much the same language as the Apostles were prone to elucidate upon the wisdom of Christ. Hence, the recent difficulties in the West End [of Battle Creek].

“The ‘Great’ prophetess hath spoken, and her followers have listened with the same nervous tension as though it had been Gabriel's trumpet.

“The exodus which followed her tirade against the Sanitarium and Battle Creek, makes an exposition of her inspiration of more than local interest. Her book was probably suppressed because the clumsy copying she had done, was brought to the attention of the Review & Herald, and it was feared that for it to fall into the hands of the learned and scholarly world would mean a siege of muckrakism that might disrupt the entire Adventist church. Accordingly they called in as many of the volumes as possible in order that they might


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continue to use Mrs. White as the ‘Voice of God’ to humbug a superstitious people.

“It would be impossible and perhaps not interesting, from a newspaper standpoint, to give all of the 200 sentences ‘stolen’ by Mrs. White from the work of the Rev. Conybeare. Let it suffice to say, that practically chapter by chapter she has followed his book, with slightly changed headings, even following his paragraphs, sometimes almost in toto. The Rev. Mr. Conybeare, when he wrote his book in 1855 [sic], undoubtedly never dreamed that it would one day be mistaken for the ‘Spirit of God.’

“A few of these, more than 200, ‘inspired’ utterances, contained in Prophetess White's book, but ‘inspired’ by Rev. Conybeare's previous publication, will be sufficient to convince the casual reader. To save space, the quotations from the latter are marked ‘W.J.C.,’ and those from the former, ‘E.G.W.’ Note the similarity….

[Then follow four parallel passages, equivalent to a page and a half of typewritten matter. They can be seen in the writings of any critic. To save space we therefore omit them here.]

“The Adventists in the West End [of Battle Creek], however, are gradually growing wiser. A considerable portion of them no longer believe that Ellen G. White writes her books, or her prophecies, but that they are the work of her son ‘Willie,’ and often dictated by Elder Daniel's [Daniells] et cetera. Her stronghold is now at Washington, D.C., not Battle Creek, where the Review & Herald, the acknowledged mouthpiece of the Whiteites, is still claiming that such utterances as above quoted were written under the direct guidance of the Almighty, while thoroughly denouncing all who are unwilling to blindly accept the preposterous pretense.”

The defamatory style and tone of this anonymous article leaves no doubt that its author, or authors, would not have hesitated to set forth the lawsuit story if it had then been in circulation and had had even a shadow of plausibility. They specifically speak of the book's being “suppressed,” and of there being “called in as many of the volumes as possible.” For this no proof is offered. How repeatedly we have discovered that critics make the most sweeping charges, but forget to provide the proof!

A Strange Oversight

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The calling in of books that have been scattered over the country in thousands of homes would have been no small undertaking. It would have required notices to be run in the church paper, or a flood of letters to be written, which in turn would precipitate


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no small number of letters in return, and then some kind of settlement, financial or otherwise. Many clerks would be conversant with the facts. We search in vain for any trace of such “suppression” in the records of the 1880's, for the book was allegedly “soon suppressed.”

Note that the writers of this scurrilous article are not even sure why it was “suppressed.” They venture a “probably.” Here was the place for at least a sly insinuation of a threatened lawsuit. What a chance they missed!

Probably most of our readers will be ready to dismiss the whole matter at this point. But so widely has the lawsuit story traveled, so plausibly has it been constructed out of bits of fact and fiction, that we believe it should be completely exposed once and for all to remove whatever questions might still remain in the mind of any reasonable person. Fortunately, there is sufficient documentary evidence and other factual data available to make possible a full refutation of this fantastic story.

The Anonymous 1907 Pamphlet

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The next document that we have been able to find that bears on the matter, was published in October, 1907, in Battle Creek. It is an eighty-nine-page pamphlet. The preface states that “the major portion of this pamphlet was sent May 8, 1907, to W. C. White” with the request that he pass it on to his mother if he thought best to do so. As the subtitle of this pamphlet indicates, it treats of “contradictions, inconsistencies and other errors in her writings.” * We quote:

“I find upon inquiry that your work ‘Sketches from the Life of Paul,’ is no longer in print and can not be had. In conversation with a gentleman who was formerly a member of the Review and Herald Board, I found upon making inquiry that he was of the opinion that the publishers of the Conybeare and Howson's book requested that the Review and Herald stop publishing your book for the reason that it contained so much material which was identical with and similar to that contained in Conybeare and Howson's book. Whether or not this is a fact, I am not prepared to say, but this I do


* See chapter 24, “Did Mrs. White Break a Promise?” for a discussion of the “urgent testimony from Mrs. White.”


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know, that the book is no longer published and that it is very difficult to obtain a copy.”

“It is now nearly a quarter of a century since this book was suppressed. Do you sanction the suppression of the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy?”

The 1907 Pamphleteer's Statement Analyzed

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The anonymous writer of this pamphlet conversed with a man “who was formerly a member of the Review and Herald Board.” This man gave him no certain information, but was simply “of the opinion.” Nor did that “opinion” suggest that a suit was threatened, but only that the Review and Herald had been “requested” to “stop publishing” Mrs. White's book on Paul's life. The pamphlet writer displays the refreshing frankness of admitting: “Whether or not this is a fact, I am not prepared to say.” If this former board member knew nothing more certain than this, how could anyone else ever hope to know anything for certain about the matter. Note, in passing, the pamphlet statement that the book had been “suppressed” for “now nearly a quarter of a century.” In other words, the book would have had to be suppressed almost immediately on publication—from 1883 to 1907 is only twenty-four years. No proof of suppression is offered. Remember, also, that a present-day critic states that the book was circulated until 1893-4, or until the edition was “exhausted.”

The first published story of a lawsuit threat that we have been able to find is in Canright's book, Life of Mrs. E. G. White, published in 1919. Says he: “The publishers of Conybeare and Howson's work threatened prosecution if her work was not suppressed.”—Pages 196, 197. A 1907 anonymous story that it was “requested” that Mrs. White's book not be published, becomes, in 1919, a “threatened prosecution.”

Canright does not trouble to cite any authority for his statement, not even a conversation with a former Review and Herald board member!

A Present-Day Critic Speaks

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Finally, a present-day critic restates the lawsuit charge and adds a new time element to the story. He declares that “it was about 1893-4 when the edition was exhausted.” But he also says, “It was


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suddenly taken off the market,” and explains that this was on account of a threatened lawsuit.

There is a fatal discrepancy in these reminiscences and charges. The 1907 Battle Creek Moon article does not even hint that a lawsuit was threatened. But it does say, though without proof, that the book was “suppressed.” Amadon's reply gives no hint of a lawsuit or even of a request that Mrs. White's book be withdrawn from the market. He simply states that it was “promptly” withdrawn, presumably about 1883-4. The 1907 pamphleteer expresses the opinion that the Review and Herald was “requested” to withdraw the book and states that it had been “suppressed” for “now nearly a quarter of a century,” which would carry us back to the date of publication. A critic in 1919 says nothing about the date when it was allegedly Withdrawn, but bluntly states that there was a “threatened prosecution.” The present-day critic lets the book be sold for ten years, and then “when the edition was exhausted” “it was suddenly taken off the market”! In support of his version, he declares:

“Mrs. White had placed an order for a new edition. H. W. Kellogg, manager of the Review & Herald publishing house, notified Mrs. White that they had been threatened and informed her that they would get out another edition if she would give bonds to protect them against the threatened damage suit. She did not produce the bonds and the new edition was never issued.”

Naturally, the question arises: If H. W. Kellogg had to deal with a threatened suit, is it reasonable to believe that the unidentified “former Board member,” with whom the anonymous 1907 pamphleteer conversed, did not know the facts about this suit? And what about those who fed scurrilous articles to the daily press in Battle Creek in 1907? Would none of that whole group, which included a former Review and Herald board member, have heard of this threatened lawsuit? Had the secret been kept inviolate by H. W. Kellogg so that none knew of it?

Most Amazing Part of Story

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That question introduces us to the most amazing and incredible part of the current form of the story, and at the same time reveals the source of the present-day critic's statement. That source, he


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explains, was a man named John Kolvoord, who in the 1890's was editor of a Dutch language paper published at the Review and Herald. In 1926 Kolvoord put the following in print in a little paper published by the critic:

“More than thirty years ago Henry W. Kellogg was manager or superintendent of the Review and Herald. As I passed by his office one day, he was standing by his desk and began a conversation with me, of which the only part worth repeating is contained in the following story:

“Mrs. White, or her agent, had previously given the publishing house an order to print a second edition of her book. No action was taken on that order because the Review and Herald had been notified that legal proceedings would be instituted if the sale of Mrs. White's named book was not stopped. When the second order for a reissue was received the said manager found it necessary to explain the situation to Mrs. White. He informed her that the publishing house had been warned of an impending restraint and claim for damages, wherefore its directors would incur a liability upon themselves for infringement on patent rights. At the same time she was informed that her book would be printed if she would bind herself to assume the consequences. She refused to assume the obligation.”

Kolvoord Story Analyzed

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Note these facts that bear on this Kolvoord statement: He does not date this incident except to say that it was “more than thirty years ago.” That would bring it earlier than 1896. The critic who cites Kolvoord declares that “it was about 1893-4 when the edition was exhausted.” A search of the records for several years each side of 1893-94 reveals that from 1888 onward to 1897, when Kolvoord left the publishing house, Kellogg was at no time manager. He was, for a part of this time, superintendent and also a director, a member of the board. Now, it would be the manager rather than the superintendent, even though a director, who would discuss with Mrs. White this very important matter of a threatened lawsuit. Accordingly, Kolvoord calls Kellogg the “manager.” The present-day critic likewise thus speaks of him.

If it is hard to believe that the “directors” of the publishing house commissioned the superintendent to negotiate so delicate a matter with Mrs. White, it is even harder to believe that these directors would consider it wise to share the knowledge of this


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matter with an employee, Kolvoord, who held only a minor editorial position. If the knowledge of this grave matter was shared with Kolvoord, what reason is there to believe that he was the only employee told? He does not even suggest that he was pledged to secrecy. Hence, human nature being what it is, we should soon expect the whole publishing house to be abuzz with the story, and almost as soon, the whole Adventist community in Battle Creek. Yet neither the writer of the anonymous Moon story in 1907 nor the anonymous pamphleteer of the same year were aware of all this, even though the pamphleteer had talked with a former director!*

Add to this incredible story one more fact and the alleged incident becomes wholly unbelievable, if, indeed, it is not already so. In 1907 Kolvoord was the joint author of a pamphlet that attacked one of the basic doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The preface reveals that his sympathies had departed from the movement some years before. Yet this man, hostile enough to the church in 1907 to join in writing a pamphlet against its beliefs, kept locked within himself the most sensational story of all, and allowed others who were attacking the church to content themselves with pitifully minor charges and incidents! In due time he whispers it in the ear of a present-day critic, and writes it out in 1926, about a third of a century after he had been informed of the allegedly threatening lawsuit!

The Final “Proof” Examined

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Only one further “proof” in support of the lawsuit story remains to be considered. It is a fact that the book went out of


* In thus exposing the unreliability of Kolvoord's story we are not necessarily casting any aspersion on his character as an honest man. This may simply be another case of where a man's memory of the long ago has played tricks with him. We are not concerned with determining the degree of reliability of men, but of evidence. And we think it is clear that the evidence submitted by Kolvoord will not stand up under examination.

Technically, there is still another “proof” that is submitted. A present-day critic quotes Clinton Rhodes as declaring in a letter to Sumner A. Whittier: “It is true that the publishers had to stop the printing of the LIFE OF PAUL or face a law-suit.” What the context of this brief quotation is, we know not, for it is not given. Is it possible that Rhodes introduces the quoted part with some such phrase as “I believe,” or “it is my opinion that”? That was the way the anonymous board member introduced his statement to the anonymous pamphleteer in 1907. Nor are we informed as to when the letter was written. Was it while events were fresh, or long after? Inquiry of the critic as to so important a bit of evidence as this brought the reply that he had not preserved the letter, and was quoting from memory! We do not believe the reader wishes us to use his time or ours in seriously discussing such “proof,”


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print probably not later than 1893-4, possibly before, and that the book by Mrs. White which took its place, Acts of the Apostles, was not published until 1911. Now, say the critics, it is unreasonable to believe the explanation offered by W. C. White for not printing further editions; namely that his mother wished first to add to the book before it was reprinted. She could not possibly have been planning that in the early 1890's, for she did not produce the new book till 1911.

We have waited until this closing “proof” to bring on certain documentary evidence in refutation of the whole collection of proofs. We preferred to let the critics first present their case in chronological sequence. The letter files of the Ellen G. White Publications cover a wide range of denominational incidents and activities, particularly as they relate to the writings of Mrs. White, and fill in gaps in the publishing history of the denomination that were created by the disastrous fires that destroyed both the Review and Herald and the Pacific Press, with all their records, in the early 1900's. In the period covered by the letters we examined, W. C. White was a most influential and active leader in the Adventist organization. To him came letters from General Conference presidents and other key men which discussed every kind of denominational problem. These letters, not written for publication, naturally give a far more intimate picture of the denomination than any published writings could do, and discuss frankly the problems and crises as well as the progress and glories of the work. And could there be any greater crisis than that of a legal threat to Mrs. White's writings!

Do these files throw any light on Mrs. White's 1883 book on Paul? They do. Do they discuss or even hint at a threatened lawsuit? They do not. Do they even darkly suggest that the book was “suppressed” for any reason? They do not. Finally, do these letter files discuss plans for a revised work on Paul's life? They do.

From June 1883 onward for several months the letters to and from W. C. White reveal that Mrs. White's work on Paul was being given intensive promotion in camp meetings and in Sabbath schools as not only a good book for devotional reading but as a


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special help for the Sabbath school lessons on the Acts of the Apostles. The book was also being promoted as a premium with Review and Herald and Signs of the Times subscriptions. We would naturally expect that under such promotion the market for the book among the church membership would shortly be saturated.

Letters Between Haskell and White

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On April 2, 1884, S. N. Haskell, a key leader in the denomination, and particularly in the Tract Society work, wrote to W. C. White * and raised this question: “Now if it [Mrs. White's book on Paul] has had its run among our people would it be policy to try it for a canvassing book?” Evidently he thought the Adventist market was saturated. He discusses the possibility of resetting the type, using heavier paper, etc., in order to make a book that would be attractive for sale by colporteurs.

In 1907, Amadon, trying to recall the events of twenty-four years before, declares not only that the book was “promptly” withdrawn, but that such withdrawal was made despite “very great” “demand” for it. Haskell, writing at the very time when this withdrawal is supposed to have taken place, not only fails to hint of such a step, but suggests a further edition, which might be used by colporteurs. So far from thinking that the Adventist demand for the book was then “very great”—and remember, he was one of the leaders in book promotion in the denomination—he suggests that probably the book “has had its run among our people.”

Incidentally, if the book had “had its run” there would hardly be much point to using space in the Review for special advertising of it. That probably explains why the advertising promotion of it in that journal ended with the close of 1884. However it continued to be promoted in the Signs of the Times, as a premium, during most of 1885.

But let us go on with our examination of the Haskell letters.

On April 7, 1884, Haskell writes to White from Battle Creek,


* The letter is dated, “Wellsville, N.Y.,” and opens thus: “I am on my way to Ohio and stopped over one train here.”


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Michigan, and again raises the question of preparing a special colporteur edition. This time he suggests that the book should be illustrated. He evidently feels that the colporteurs are needing a new book, because he adds: “If you think it not best to make that use of your mother's book then I will try R & H [Review and Herald publishing house] on [Uriah Smith's] U. S. in Prophecy.”

All Set to Publish New Edition

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On June 17, 1884, Haskell writes from South Lancaster, Massachusetts, a brief note to White. All that it contains regarding the book is this: “R & H [Review and Herald] just sent me a dummy for Life Sketches of Paul which they propose to print after the sample for 27 cts. for 5000 copies. All that is wanting is plates. Is this move all right?”

Amadon, writing long after the event, and in the midst of a swirl of stories about the book's being “suppressed,” wrote that it was withdrawn “promptly.” But Haskell's letter reveals that a year after the initial printing the Review and Herald in Battle Creek was awaiting only the approval of W. C. White before printing another and larger edition, this one for colporteurs, we judge, in view of the preceding letters!

And why should the publishers wait for approval from W. C. White? In those days Mrs. White's office generally carried the initial cost of launching a new book by her, and owned the plates. The royalty rate was set accordingly. W. C. White cared for his mother's business affairs.

We do not have a copy of his reply to Haskell. Not until 1885 did the White office begin to use typewriters, and thus to keep copies of correspondence. Evidently his reply was negative, for we find him writing thus to Haskell on March 11, 1885:

“I am sorry that we did not go ahead and publish sketches of ‘PAUL,’ when you first suggested it. There seem to be serious obstacles in the way, and now that times are so hard, and we are bending all our efforts to put an illustrated edition of ‘Vol. 4’ [The Great Controversy, 1884 edition] upon the market, it may be best to wait a little longer.”

Perhaps the initial cost of placing The Great Controversy on


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the market as a colporteur book had proved too heavy to warrant an investment in another book. Possibly, also, the colporteur army was too limited in those days to justify bringing forth these two books for them at the same time, in addition to other books that they were selling. Besides, there is evidence that the leading brethren thought that Mrs. White's The Great Controversy, just off the press, was the book that then merited the special attention of the colporteurs.* Furthermore, times were hard.

Here, indeed, was the place for White to add one more to the list of “obstacles.” Did he not know that the book was supposed to be “suppressed”? But no shadow of such an idea creeps into any of the correspondence.

The next few years saw the 1884 Great Controversy enjoying an unexpectedly good and increasing sale by colporteurs. As the advertising promotion for Mrs. White's work on Paul ended in the Review and Signs, promotion for The Great Controversy took its place. This ran for several years. The interesting feature of these advertisements is that many of them refer to the author of this new book as being also the author, among other works, of Sketches From the Life of Paul.

Even more interesting is this fact: Beginning with the first edition, The Great Controversy carried several pages in the back advertising a number of works by Mrs. White and other writers, dropping some of her books and adding others, but continuing to include Sketches From the Life of Paul. This was direct advertising of the book for sale as late as 1887, in the editions of The Great Controversy being sold by colporteurs to non-Adventists. As early


* An important feature of the colporteur work in the 1880's was the taking of short-term subscriptions to the Signs of the Times in combination with a premium book. The premium, however, was not tree; the cost was added, thus making a sales item of sufficient amount to he worth while to the colporteur.

W. C. White, writing to A. J. Breed, on Feb. 20, 1885, speaks of the discussion that some of the “leading brethren” had had as to the book that should be used in a recanvass for longer term Signs subscriptions, and of their conclusion that the book should be the 1884 edition of The Great Controversy. White speaks of having had a certain “plan” in mind, though he does not name it, but of his being “convinced” that the plan of the brethren is best. Then he adds: “Elder Haskell argues that there is nothing more important to be placed before the people than the contents of ‘Vol. 4,’” that is, The Great Controversy.

It would seem that one of the “serious obstacles” in the way of the formerly proposed colporteur edition of Sketches From the Life of Paul was this focusing on The Great Controversy.

The advertising of Great Controversy, with mention of Mrs. White's authorship of the work on Paul, first appeared, so far as we have been able to find, in the Signs, March 19, 1885, p. 191, and in the Review, March 8, 1887, p. 159.


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as 1886 these editions listed, under her name on the title page, some of her books, including Sketches From the Life of Paul, with the statement that she was the “author of” these. This practice was followed for a number of years. The mention of Sketches From the Life of Paul on the title page of The Great Controversy can be traced at least to 1892 in printings in the United States.* Editions published by the Seventh-day Adventist publishing house in England carry the mention of Mrs. White's book on Paul at least as late as 1907. What a strange way to “suppress” a book!

This evident desire on the part of the publishers to keep Sketches From the Life of Paul in the memory of all who might read Mrs. White's works, seems almost to be sufficient in itself to expose the absolutely unsupported story that the book had been “suppressed,” even to the extent of calling “in as many of the volumes as possible,” and that this suppression had actually taken place almost immediately upon publication, as the 1907 pamphleteer declared. Even Amadon's well-intentioned statement in the press that same year becomes quite incredible.

So successful was the colporteur promotion of the 1884 Great Controversy (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4), that, as mentioned in the earlier historical sketch, Mrs. White revised and enlarged it in 1888 to meet the larger non-Adventist audience. Her traveling in Europe and her writing of this enlarged work had kept her from giving attention to the possible enlargement of others of the four volumes known as Spirit of Prophecy. Reference again to the historical sketch reveals that they dealt in part with certain periods of sacred history, even as volume 4.

The Conflict of the Ages Series

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The question would naturally arise: Is Mrs. White going to provide expanded works on the other periods of religious history? And is there to be an expanded work on Paul?


* Reference to Mrs. White as the author of Sketches From the Life of Paul occurs on the title page of an 1892 printing of The Great Controversy, but it may also have appeared later. The dates of these various printings are not always given on the title page. When we speak of tracing reference to Sketches From the Life of Paul on the title page of The Great Controversy “at least to 1892,” we are basing our chronology on the fact that in one particular printing the book Steps to Christ, which was not published until 1892, is listed as one of Mrs. White's works. The actual date of this printing may have been much later.


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A letter raising questions of this character was written by L. C. Chadwick, of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to W. C. White. We quote in full White's reply of July 10, 1888:

“I have your letter inquiring about the republication of ‘Great Controversy’ in four volumes.*

“‘Volume Four’ [The Great Controversy] has been revised and enlarged and will soon be issued with an enlarged page, larger type, and 700 pages. As soon as possible ‘Volume One’ [which in enlarged and revised form became Patriarchs and Prophets] will be published greatly enlarged. I think there will be about twice as much matter as in the first edition. It [Patriarchs and Prophets] will be issued in the same style as ‘Volume Four’ [The Great Controversy], the same size pages as D. & R. [Daniel and the Revelation], and making 700 or 800 pages. We hope this will be ready for sale sometime during the winter.

“Sometime during the coming year we hope to reprint ‘Volume Two’ and a portion of ‘Volume Three’ in similar style, putting ‘Life of Christ’ [which in enlarged and revised form became The Desire of Ages] complete in one book. I cannot tell how long it will be before ‘Life of Paul’ will be incorporated in another volume covering the life of the apostles and making a connection between the life of Christ and the lives of the apostles.”

Delays in Carrying Out Plans

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Here is a picture of long-range plans for the expansion of Mrs. White's earlier works, a four-volume set of subscription books, which finally became five, and is now known as the Conflict of the Ages Series. One of these projected works was to take the place of Sketches From the Life of Paul. Note the time that is suggested for the execution of the plan: Patriarchs and Prophets was to be published as “soon as possible,” which proved to be about two years. It was hoped that “during the coming year,” 1889, The Desire of Ages could be published. It came from the press ten years later, or in 1898. There was no certainty as to when the volume on the lives of the apostles, which would incorporate Mrs. White's 1883 work on Paul, would appear. It was published in 1911.


* The four volumes generally known as The Spirit of Prophecy were also known as The Great Controversy. Both titles appeared on the title page. As volume 4 of this quartet of books was featured for colporteur use to the general public, it dropped the words Spirit of Prophecy from the title page. In due time the title The Great Controversy came to be confined to the fourth volume, particularly when that volume was revised and enlarged in 1888. In the letter under consideration, Chadwick is inquiring about the republication of the four volumes of Spirit of Prophecy.


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A look at Mrs. White's diary, which tells of her arduous labors, her illnesses, and her travels, provides an adequate explanation for the delay in the time schedule of these books.

Three letters written by Mrs. White in the year 1903 throw further light on the matter. All three letters were written from her home near Sanitarium, California. In a letter to “Dear Brother and Sister [W. O.] Palmer” on July 14, she refers to her plans regarding revision of her book on Paul. We quote all that is said on this:

“As you know, I am not always master of my own time; for often I must do much writing without delay. Many letters must be answered, and, besides, I am trying to write some concerning the apostle Paul, preparatory to revising my book, ‘Sketches from the Life of Paul.’ After completing this revision, I hope to add something to the book, ‘Life Sketches’ [in part, an autobiographical work], in order that another edition may be published.” [The revised Life Sketches was not published until 1915.]—Letter 145, 1903.

On July 19, 1903, Mrs. White, in a letter to her son Edson, includes a reference to her work on Paul, which we quote in full:

“I think that a new edition of ‘The Life of Paul’ should be published. I shall make some additions to this book, however, before it is republished.”—Letter 150, 1903.

On August 9, 1903, she wrote to H. W. Kellogg. Kellogg is the man who while still connected with the Review and Herald—he left about 1897—is alleged to have shown to Kolvoord a letter from the Conybeare and Howson publishers threatening a lawsuit if Mrs. White's work on Paul was not taken from the market. We quote all that she says as to her plans concerning this work, placing it in its context:

“I greatly desire to write on the life of Solomon and on the history following his reign. And I desire, too, to write on the life of Paul and his work in connection with the other apostles. At times the thought of this neglected work keeps me awake at night. The writing that I desire to do on my books is greatly hindered because I am obliged to write many letters to those who are endeavoring to establish the work on a right basis, and many letters to those in despondency and sorrow. Then, too, I have to spend much time in contradicting fabulous reports.”—Letter 176, 1903.


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From her letter to her son Edson it is evident that in 1903 she was thinking of a new edition of the 1883 book on Paul, and that the “revising” mentioned in the letter to the Palmers was anticipated to be in terms of “some additions to this book.” No hint of lawsuit threats, not even to Kellogg, who allegedly demanded protective bonds from her before he would consider republishing her work on Paul! She had always been confronted with “fabulous reports.” Every prominent person in public life is thus confronted. She did not live long enough, however, to contradict the lawsuit report. It evidently did not get into circulation until after her death in 1915.

W. C. White Discusses 1907 Rumors

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On July 30, 1907, W. C. White wrote to M. N. Campbell, then pastor of the Battle Creek, Michigan, church, in regard to the newspaper story on Mrs. White's work on Paul, which we earlier quoted. We give the letter in full:

“I ought to write you a few lines regarding the criticisms that were made in one of the Battle Creek papers on Mother's work in ‘Sketches from the Life of Paul.’

“If I remember correctly, this was the first of Mother's works which was issued after Father's death. The management of her business affairs was new to me. I was young, and my time and thought were taken up principally with the affairs of Pacific Press of which I was for a short time manager.

“If you will read carefully the preface to Mother's work, ‘The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan,’ you will find the following statement:

“‘As the Spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths of his Word, and the scenes of the past and the future, I have been bidden to make known to others what has been thus revealed,—to trace the history of the controversy in past ages, and especially to so present it as to shed a light on the fast-approaching struggle of the future. In pursuance of this purpose, I have endeavored to select and group together events in the history of the church in such a manner as to trace the unfolding of the great testing truths that at different periods have been given to the world, that have excited the wrath of Satan, and the enmity of a world-loving church, and that have been maintained by the witness of those who “loved not their lives unto the death.”

“‘In these records we may see a foreshadowing of the conflict before us. Regarding them in the light of God's Word, and by the illumination of his Spirit, we may see unveiled the devices of the wicked one, and the dangers


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which they must shun who would be found “without fault” before the Lord at his coming.

“‘The great events which have marked the progress of reform in past ages, are matters of history, well known and universally acknowledged by the Protestant world; they are facts which none can gainsay. This history I have presented briefly, in accordance with the scope of the book, and the brevity which must necessarily be observed, the facts having been condensed into as little space as seemed consistent with a proper understanding of their application. In some cases where a historian has so grouped together events as to afford, in brief, a comprehensive view of the subject, or has summarized details in a convenient manner, his words have been quoted; but except in a few instances no specific credit has been given, since they are not quoted for the purpose of citing that writer as authority, but because his statement affords a ready and forcible presentation of the subject. In narrating the experience and views of those carrying forward the work of reform in our own time, similar use has occasionally been made of their published works.

“‘It is not so much the object of this book to present new truths concerning the struggles of former times, as to bring out facts and principles which have a bearing upon coming events. Yet viewed as a part of the controversy between the forces of light and darkness, all these records of the past are seen to have a new significance; and through them a light is cast upon the future, illuminating the pathway of those who, like the reformers of past ages, will be called, even at the peril of all earthly good, to witness “for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”’

“In the ten or twelve lines underscored [italicized] above, you will find an acknowledgment regarding the use that Mother has made of the work of historians.

“A similar acknowledgment ought to have been made in Mother's work ‘Sketches from the Life of Paul,’ and it was undoubtedly due to my lack of experience in the publishing work that such acknowledgment was not made.

“It has been claimed by our critics that Mother borrowed passages from Conybeare and Howson ‘Life of Paul,’ supposing that it was an old book out of print. But this is very absurd in view of the fact that one or two years after Mother's book was issued, I selected Conybeare and Howson ‘Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul’ published by T. Y. Croel [Crowell] of Boston, as a premium book for new subscriptions to the ‘Signs of the Times’; and this book was widely advertised and frequently quoted from in the ‘Signs’ for a period of about two years. During this time I think we disposed of nearly five thousand copies. This shows most conclusively that there was no effort to cover up or hide what had been done in the matter of borrowing descriptive phrases or sentences from Conybeare and Howson.

“I think that Mother's book ‘Sketches from the Life of Paul’ was regularly


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advertised by Review and Herald and Pacific Press for eight or ten years after this and until the whole edition had been sold. I do not know of any effort ever being made by author, publisher, or agent to suppress the book or to call it in. When the stock at the publishing house was exhausted, there may have been calls made for any agent who had books to spare, to send them back so that the small orders coming in might be filled.

“When the stock of books was exhausted and requests were made for a new edition; I laid the matter before Mother and she said that there were many things which she had written and other things which she wished to write regarding the experience of other apostles which she hoped some clay to incorporate with what she had written about the life of Paul, into a book regarding the life and work of the apostles which would make a connection between the story of the life of Christ as given in ‘Desire of Ages’ and ‘Great Controversy,’ Vol. 4; therefore it was better to wait until this volume could be prepared. At the time we hoped the volume could be prepared soon, but other work has pressed in and this has been delayed from time to time until now. It is my hope that the volume may yet be prepared because I think it would be of great service to the people.

“From time to time I have received letters of inquiry regarding this book and my answer has been in harmony with what I am now writing to you.

“The people have been very impatient while waiting so long for a new edition. Some have advertised far and wide for copies of the book, and this may have given the impression to some that we hesitated to reprint it because of the criticisms made regarding the similarity of certain paragraphs between this book and Conybeare and Howson ‘Life of Paul.’ But I have always considered that it would be possible when we are bringing out a new edition either to make these passages an exact quotation and put them in quotes or to give general credit as has been done in the preface of ‘Great Controversy.’

“If you will note carefully the paragraphs referred to by our critics, you will find that they are not an essential part of the book. They are mostly descriptive matter which could be spared without seriously affecting the argument or the spiritual instruction; and after you have studied the matter from this view point, you will agree with me, I believe, in saying that the claim made in the preface of the book is a true and correct claim.”*


* W. C. White says that the edition of the Conybeare and Howson work on Paul that was used as a premium was published by “T. Y. Croel of Boston.” This should read, “T. Y. Crowell of New York,” according to the title page. However, the actual printing of at least one edition was done at the “Press of Wright & Potter Printing Company, 79 Milk Street, Boston.”

He also says that this work was selected “one or two years after Mother's book was issued.” It was selected before, not after—a very important point,, as we have seen—though it was used afterward as well. It is a small matter, probably, as to just how long Mrs. White's book was advertised. W. C. White says he thought it was advertised for “eight or ten years,” or “until the whole edition had been sold.” The two statements together are doubtless fairly accurate. The book was not advertised that long in denominational journals, though it was promoted by another form of publishing house advertising—in copies of The Great Controversy—for a number of years.


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Comments on W. C. White Letter

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W. C. White's explanation for his failure to include a statement in the preface as to the use of other authors' material in the 1883 work on Paul's life might be considered, also, a reasonable explanation, in part, for the failure to include such a statement in the 1884 edition of The Great Controversy. The reader will recall that the statement first appears in the 1888 edition.

However, the primary explanation, we believe, for the failure to publish such an explanatory preface was that the question of literary borrowing in relation to inspiration and to plagiarism had not been raised by Mrs. White's critics in the years immediately preceding the publication of these two works. We need not spend time anticipating the question of someone who may now say that W. C. White cannot, by accepting the blame for the absence of such explanatory prefaces, excuse his mother, for she was a prophet and should have anticipated the hostile questioning that arose. This is simply a variant of the unwarranted charge that we have repeatedly exposed; namely, that a prophet is proved false if it can be shown that he does not know all things. W. C. White, in his statement regarding the preface, was not implying that he shared in any way her prophetic office or had partnership in the writing of her books. There is a difference between writing a book and assuming responsibility for seeking to make the purpose and the method of the book writing free from misunderstanding.

Note what W. C. White says regarding the interest in the book after the edition was exhausted: “The people have been very impatient while waiting so long for a new edition. Some have advertised far and wide for copies of the book, and this may have given the impression to some that we hesitate to reprint.”* It is frequently the experience of publishers that after a book goes out of print there are persons who make a clamor for it; in fact, the impossibility of securing it adds to their desire for it. That has been true of various of Mrs. White's earlier works which were


* There is no conflict between White's statement in 1907 and Haskell's in 1884 to the effect that the book had “had its run among our people.” From 1884 to 1907 is twenty-three years, and many new members had been added, some of whom probably had had their interest in the book stimulated by the reference to it that appeared for years on the title page of The Great Controversy!


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out of print for years and then were published again, but generally in enlarged and revised form. A study of the bibliography at the end of this book will provide ample proof of this statement that various of her books, after being out of print, were reprinted in revised, and often enlarged, form.

Let us cite two examples. Gospel Workers was allowed to go out of print. It was years before the new enlarged, revised edition was published. In the meantime there were those who much desired copies but could not secure them. Experience and Views, published in 1851, was out of print for years, and finally was reprinted in 1882 as a part of the book Early Writings. And before the republication there were repeated endeavors to secure copies. Incidentally, as the reader will recall, critics charged that the denomination had “suppressed” the book because of certain of its contents. We really have before us a variant form of the charge of suppression, and that charge, we think, has been rather fully canvassed in chapter 17.*

Which Publisher Threatened Suit?

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On such evidence as we have related thus far in this chapter the colorful story of the threatened lawsuit rests. At least if there is better evidence, no one has ever produced it over the years. We think that the recital of this worthless hearsay and gossip, so plausibly mixed with faded memories, serves a good purpose. It makes evident, once again, how shaky is the foundation on which the various charges against Mrs. White rest.

If the critics had stayed by the easily obtainable facts, they never would have brought this charge. As usually framed, the


* Perhaps we might be permitted to mention a personal, incident, to illustrate, the point under discussion. In the spring of 1944 the book Answers to Objections was “withdrawn from sale.” In fact, it was “suddenly taken off the market”—to borrow the ominous words of Mrs. White's critics. At least would-be customers suddenly found that they could not purchase it. The type was wearing out, and besides, suggestion had been made to the publishers that the book might be revised and probably enlarged. Inquirers were assured that the new edition would be ready shortly. That assurance, from both publishers and author, has been repeated each year, until at the time of this writing, nearly seven years have gone by. Meanwhile, as the publishers' records will reveal, orders for the book have continued to come in. In view of the tact that the book deals with the doctrines of the Adventist faith, we hope no critic, poring over dates of issue of books in some future year, will try to read into this delay some dark meaning. There is a simpler explanation—the pressure of travel and other tasks. Many an author could duplicate this story.

The history of the publishing business is as much an account of books going out of print as of books being published. Most books go out of print before very long. Indeed, some books of the holy prophets are not available to us, and so far as we can learn, have been unavailable since before the opening of the Christian Era. This point was discussed in chapter 17.


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charge alleges simply that the “publishers” threatened suit. One critic says it was the T. Y. Crowell Company. He probably mentions this name because it was from the Crowell Company that the Pacific Press and the Review and Herald in 1883 purchased some thousands of copies of the Conybeare and Howson book to use as a premium with subscriptions and in connection with the Sabbath school lessons. Kolvoord, from whose 1926 story we quoted earlier in this chapter, prefaces that story with the declaration:

“‘Sketches From the Life of Paul’ was an infringement on the copyright owned (I believe) by the S. S. Scranton Co., on Conybeare and Howson's treatise on the same subject.”

Obviously, his whole story of threatened suit for infringement of copyright would be pointless unless there was a copyright on the book that could be infringed.*

The Facts Regarding Copyright Law

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Here are the facts regarding copyright and publishers as those facts apply to the relations between the United States and Great Britain at the time of the publication of the Conybeare and Howson work and Mrs. White's book on Paul:

There were no copyright relations between the United States and Great Britain until the issuance of the Presidential proclamation on July 1, 1891, which proclamation extended copyright protection to the works of British authors upon compliance with the provisions of the United States copyright law. (The Conybeare and Howson book was first published in England in 1851-52.) British authors residing in England whose books were published prior to that date could not secure any copyright protection in the United States, hence their works were in the public domain as far as United States publishers were concerned. Thus anyone in the United States might reprint them without infringing any copyright or without the necessity of securing permission from the English


* The present-day critic, who builds his charge largely on Kolvoord's story, admits in 1950, that Kolvoord made a “slight mistake” in declaring that the Conybeare and Howson book was copyrighted in the United States. That is equivalent to saying that a builder made only a “slight mistake” in building a house without a foundation.


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publisher. As many United States publishers as desired could publish such English works, but could not copyright them in the United States. Although a United States publisher could copyright his own revised or enlarged edition of a work already in the public domain, the copyright protection would cover only the new matter, not the original text. The 1891 proclamation was not retroactive; that is, it did not take out of the public domain any English work that had been printed previous to 1891. (See the Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Star. 1106; and Presidential proclamation of July 1, 1891, 27 Stat. 981.)*

A Publisher of Conybeare and Howson Book Testifies

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If no American publisher had a legal claim to the Conybeare and Howson book, and if no English publisher could make lawful claim against the American publishers of the book, how could there conceivably be even a shadow of a foundation for the story of a threatened lawsuit against Mrs. White and her publishers who simply took quotations from the book?

On January 15, 1924, C. E. Holmes, who for some years was an employee of the Review and Herald publishing house, wrote the following letter to the T. Y. Crowell Company in New York:

“T. Y. Crowell Co.,
New York City.
“Messrs:

“Some years ago you published a book entitled ‘Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul.’ In 1883 a book was printed by the Review and Herald Publishing Co., of Battle Creek, Mich., entitled ‘Sketches from the Life of Paul.’ For a long time it has been claimed that because of a similarity of ideas and words in several instances in this book, you at one time threatened prosecution unless the book was withdrawn from circulation.

“This report is now being scattered about in printed form and I should be pleased to know if there is any truth in it. Any information that you can give me regarding this matter will be greatly appreciated.

“Respectfully yours,

“[Signed] C. E. Holmes.”


* For this information concerning Copyright relations between the United States and Great Britain the author is indebted to Louis C. Smith, senior attorney, Copyright Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


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On January 18, 1924, the Crowell Company replied to him as follows (see photograph of letter on preceding page):

“Mr. C. E. Holmes
511 North Grove Ave.
Oak Park, Ill.
“Dear Sir:—

“Your letter of Jan. 15th received. We publish Conybeare's LIFE AND EPISTLES OF THE APOSTLE PAUL but this is not a copyrighted book and we would have no legal grounds for action against your book and we do not think that we have ever raised any objection or made any claim such as you speak of.

“We shall be very glad to see the printed matter to which you refer.

“Very truly yours,

“Thomas Y. Crowell Company,

“[Signed] T. I. C.”

Every other American publisher of the Conybeare and Howson book would have had to make the same admission: “no legal grounds for action.”

The Threatened Lawsuit Quashed

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We believe the reader will conclude that the threatened lawsuit has been quashed, and with the quashing of the lawsuit disappears all the sinister significance that critics have tried to inject into the simple fact that no further edition of Sketches From the Life of Paul was published.

We have traced the story of a threatened lawsuit through a labyrinth of hearsay, gossip, innuendo, and evil implication, and now, at the end of the path, we remind the reader that we have explored what the critics consider is perhaps their choicest, most plausibly presented “proof” of Mrs. White's fraud and evil activity, particularly in relation to the charge of plagiarism.

Note.—We are under no obligation to offer an explanation of how the lawsuit myth started, but for those who are understandably affected by the old saying that where there is so much smoke there must be some fire, we venture the following, frankly admitting it is only a surmise based on a reminiscence:

Mrs. White's son, W. C. White, when asked whether there was any letter from Crowell Company that might have provided even a shadow of a foundation for a lawsuit story, is reported by his son to have replied in substance thus: The Pacific Press and Review and Herald publishing houses


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purchased several thousand copies of the Conybeare and Howson work in 1883 in connection with the Sabbath school lessons, and as a premium book. Then when orders for the books ceased, the Crowell Company wrote inquiring about the matter. Just what the company said in its letter, we do not know, for the correspondence files of both the Pacific Press and the Review and Herald were destroyed in disastrous fires in later years.

Now an inquiry in the 1880's could easily become, in 1907, a “request” to cease publishing Mrs. White's book, and a threat of prosecution in 1919. There are many stories to the effect that Adventists, in the early 1840's climbed up in trees all over New England in anticipation of the end of the world. Some of these stories are in impressive reference works. Exhaustive examination of old newspapers and journals reveals that this story stemmed from a newspaper item in 1843 about a certain named man who allegedly climbed a tree, jumped, broke his neck, and died. The newspaper item was widely reprinted in the press. There is no other incident that can provide even a semblance of a historical foundation for the numerous stories of Adventists climbing trees. It should also be added that a correction appeared shortly in the 1843 newspapers. From it and certain investigation these facts appear: The man did not die of a broken neck; in fact, there was no evidence he broke his neck, no evidence that he jumped from a tree, no evidence that he was an Adventist, but rather clear evidence that he was not an Adventist, and that his actions whatever they were, were those of a demented man.

Now, if a little item in the press of 1843 could produce, erelong, a whole forest of trees, filled with a whole company of Adventists, it should not be difficult to see how a bland letter of inquiry in the 1880's could produce at least one threatened lawsuit in the twentieth century. Hence it would seem to follow that the old saying about much smoke and some fire is not too dependable, though it must be admitted that one tree in 1843 provided, shortly, enough wood for a very great fire.*

This is probably the setting in which to offer comment on another idle story. A present-day critic at the close of his charge of plagiarism adds for good measure: “When I was active with the denomination it was currently reported that people, on entering Mrs. White's room, frequently found her copying from a book on her lap, but as they entered, she tried to conceal the book.”

If Mrs. White wished to copy something from a book, why should she wish to hide the fact from a visitor? In the preface to the 1888 edition of The Great Controversy she announced to all the world that she did borrow, at times, the words of others. Which is another way of saying that sometimes she would have their books before her!

Exhaustive inquiry and investigation produces the following as the only apparent source of this story: Mrs. White was writing. A young minister entered her study. She quickly covered her writing with her apron. She happened to be writing a letter that discussed him, and, incidentally, discussed him favorably, and she did not wish him to learn that fact at the time!

* For documentation on the 1843 tree climbing story, see F. D. Nichol, The Midnight Cry, pp. 377, 378.

 


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