As It Was: President Wilson Pardons Rancher Convicted of Espionage

Jul 10, 2018

Making remarks antagonizing to the government landed Klamath County rancher F.W. Bold in jail in 1919.

Convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, Bold received a 15-month sentence to McNeil Penitentiary in Washington.  Witnesses testified Bold discouraged armed services recruiting, encouraged enemies of the United States by condoning the sinking of the Lusitania, and applauded the zeppelins in Germany.  The conviction was upheld upon appeal.  Bold’s friends, including nearly the entire population of Bonanza where he had businesses, signed a petition asking President Woodrow Wilson to pardon their neighbor.  They swore Bold was a man of integrity and good standing in their community, bought war stamps and Liberty bonds, and donated to the Red Cross. 

The petition acknowledged that Bold said the United States had no business in World War I, that it was a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight benefitting millionaires and munitions plant owners, and that the Lusitania shouldn’t have been permitted to sail.

The petitioners said an argumentative disposition shouldn’t result in prison time.  President Wilson agreed and pardoned Bold in 1920, requiring only that he pay a $500 fine.
 

Sources:  "Klamath Rancher Guilty." The Morning Oregonian, 25 Jan. 1919 [Portland Oregon] , p. 3. Historic Oregon Newspapers, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn83025138/1919-01-25/ed-1/seq-3/#date1=01%2F01%2F1846&city=&date2=12%2F31%2F2017&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&lccn=&index=2&words=Bold+F+W&proxdistance. Accessed 21 May 2018; "Friends Ask President for Bold's Pardon." The Evening Herald, 5 May 1920 [Klamath Falls OR] , p. 1. Historic Oregon Newspapers, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn99063812/1920-05-05/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=01%2F01%2F1846&city=&date2=12%2F31%2F2017&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&lccn=sn99063812&index=6&words=Bold+F+W&pr. Accessed 21 May 2018.