Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Chapter 29—That Threatened Lawsuit
The Plagiarism Charge—Part II

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 “Hence it was withdrawn from sale.”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.” EGWC 429.1

“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.” EGWC 429.2

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. * EGWC 429.3

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 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for long years been prominent in the Review and Herald publishing house, a member of its board, and who had recently withdrawn, entered an unsuccessful suit against it because of some alleged injustice in the matter of royalties. EGWC 429.4

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. EGWC 430.1