Scopes Trial

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Scopes v. State
Criminal Court of Tennessee
Full case name The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes
Date decided July 21, 1925
Citations None
Judges sitting John T. Raulston
Case history
Prior actions Prevention
Subsequent actions Scopes v. State (1926)
Case opinions
The Butler Act does not violate church and state or state religion laws but instead, merely prohibits the teaching of evolution on the grounds of intellectual disagreement, and leaves the only non-religion specific option as creationism.

"Scopes Trial" (State v. Scopes, Scopes v. State, 152 Tenn. 424, 278 S.W. 57 (Tenn. 1926), often called the "Scopes Monkey Trial") was an American legal case that tested the Butler Act, which made it unlawful, in any state-funded educational establishment in Tennessee, "to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals."[1] This is often interpreted as meaning that the law forbade the teaching of any aspect of the theory of evolution. The case was a critical turning point in the United States' creation-evolution controversy.

After the passage of the Butler Act, the American Civil Liberties Union financed a test case, where a Dayton, Tennessee high school teacher named John Scopes intentionally violated the Act. Scopes was charged on May 5, 1925 with teaching evolution from a chapter in a textbook which showed ideas developed from those set out in Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species. The trial pitted two of the preeminent legal minds of the time against one another; three-time presidential candidate, Congressman and former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan headed up the prosecution and prominent trial attorney Clarence Darrow spoke for the defense.[2] The famous trial was made infamous by the fictionalized accounts given in the 1955 play Inherit the Wind, the 1960 Hollywood motion picture and the 1965, 1988 and 1999 television films of the same name.


[edit] Background

John Scopes in 1925

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) offered to defend anyone accused of teaching the theory of evolution in defiance of the Butler Act. George Rappleyea, who managed several local mines, convinced a group of businessmen in Dayton, Tennessee, (a town of 1,756), that the controversy of such a trial would give Dayton much needed publicity. With their agreement, he called in his friend, 24-year-old John T. Scopes, who was Clark County High School's football coach and had substituted for Principal Ferguson in a science class. Rappleyea asked Scopes to teach the theory of evolution.[3]

Rappleyea pointed out that while the Butler Act prohibited the teaching of the theory of evolution, the state required teachers to use a textbook—George Hunter's Civic Biology (1914)—which explicitly described and endorsed the theory of evolution, and that teachers were therefore effectively required to break the law.[3] Scopes mentioned that while he couldn't remember if he actually taught evolution in class, he did however go through the evolution chart and chapter with the class. Scopes added to the group "If you can prove that I've taught evolution and that I can qualify as a defendant, then I'll be willing to stand trial." [4]

Scopes became an increasingly willing participant, even incriminating himself and urging students to testify against him.[5] He was indicted on May 24, after three students testified against him at the grand jury, at Scopes' behest.[6] According to Edward J. Larson, Judge John T. Raulston accelerated the convening of the grand jury and "...all but instructed the grand jury to indict Scopes, despite the meager evidence against him and the widely reported stories questioning whether the willing defendant had ever taught evolution in the classroom."[7] Scopes was charged with having taught from the chapter on evolution to an April 7, 1925, high school class in violation of the Butler Act (and nominally arrested, though never detained). His bail of $500 was paid by Paul Patterson, owner of the Baltimore Sun.[8][9]

The original prosecutors were Scopes' friends, Herbert E. and Sue K. Hicks, two brothers who were local attorneys, but the prosecution would be ultimately led by Tom Stewart, a graduate of Cumberland School of Law, who later became a U.S. Senator.

Hoping to attract major press coverage, George Rappleyea went so far as to write to the British novelist H. G. Wells asking him to join the defense team. Wells replied that he had no legal training in Britain, let alone in America, and declined the offer. However, John J. Neal, a law school professor from Knoxville, announced that he would act as Scopes' attorney—whether Scopes liked it or not—and became the nominal head of the defense team.

Baptist pastor William Bell Riley, the founder and president of the World Christian Fundamentals Association, was instrumental in calling lawyer and three-time Democratic presidential candidate and lifelong Presbyterian William Jennings Bryan to act as that organization's counsel. Bryan had originally been invited by Sue Hicks to become an associate of the prosecution and Bryan had readily accepted, despite the fact he had not tried a case in thirty-six years. As Scopes pointed out: "After [Bryan] was accepted by the state as a special prosecutor in the case, there was never any hope of containing the controversy within the bounds of constitutionality."[10][11]

In response, Clarence Darrow, an agnostic, volunteered his services to the defense. After many changes back and forth, the defense team consisted of Darrow, ACLU attorney Arthur Garfield Hays, and Dudley Field Malone, an international divorce lawyer who had worked at the State Department while Bryan was Secretary of State.

The prosecution team was led by Tom Stewart, district attorney for the 18th Circuit (and future United States Senator), and included, in addition to Herbert and Sue Hicks, Ben B. McKenzie and William Jennings Bryan. The trial was covered by famous journalists from the South and around the world, including H. L. Mencken for The Baltimore Sun, which was also paying part of the defense's expenses. It was Mencken who provided the trial with its most colorful labels such as the "Monkey trial" of "the infidel Scopes." It was also the first United States trial to be broadcast on national radio.

[edit] Trial

Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan chat in court during the Scopes Trial.

The ACLU had originally intended to oppose the Butler Act on the grounds that it violated the teacher's individual rights, and was therefore unconstitutional. Mainly because of Clarence Darrow, this strategy changed as the trial progressed, and the earliest argument proposed by the defense once the trial had begun was that there was actually no conflict between evolution and the creation account in the Bible. In support of this claim, they brought in eight experts on evolution. Other than Dr. Maynard Metcalf, a zoologist from Johns Hopkins University, the judge would not allow these experts to testify in person. Instead, they were allowed to submit written statements so that their evidence could be used at the appeal. In response to this decision, Darrow made a sarcastic comment to Judge Raulston (as he often did throughout the trial) on how he had been agreeable only on the prosecution's suggestions, for which he apologized the next day, keeping himself from being found in contempt of court.

The presiding judge John T. Raulston was accused of being biased towards the prosecution which led him to frequently clash with Darrow. On the onset of the trial Raulston quoted Genesis and the Butler act, he also warned the Jury not to judge the merit of the law (which would become the focus of the trial) but on the violation of the act which he called a 'high misdemeanor'. The Jury Foreman himself wasn't convinced with the act but acted as most of the jury did on the instructions of the judge. [12]

By the later stages of the trial, Clarence Darrow had largely abandoned the ACLU's original strategy and attacked the literal interpretation of the Bible as well as Bryan's limited knowledge of other religions and science.

Only when the case went to appeal did the defense return to the original claim that the prosecution was invalid because the law was essentially designed to benefit a particular religious group, which would be unconstitutional.

In what proved to be his only extensive speech of the trial, Bryan responded to this theory on behalf of the state. Following Stewart's strategy, Bryan argued that the proposed scientific testimony was neither competent nor proper, given the legal issue in the case, which he insisted was simply whether Scopes had taught evolution in the Rhea County High School. To support his contention that evolution was morally pernicious, Bryan cited the famous Leopold-Loeb trial involving Darrow the year before the Scopes Trial. Darrow had saved two rich young child murderers from the death sentence, and Bryan cited Darrow's own words:

This terrible crime was inherent in his organism, and it came from some ancestor ... Is any blame attached because somebody took Nietzsche's philosophy seriously and fashioned his life upon it? ... It is hardly fair to hang a 19–year–old boy for the philosophy that was taught him at the university.

Bryan chastised evolution for teaching children that humans were but one of (precisely) 35,000 types of mammals and bemoaned the fact that human beings were descended "Not even from American monkeys, but from old world monkeys" (World's Most Famous Court Trial, 174–78).

Malone responded for the defense in a speech that was universally considered the oratorical triumph of the trial.[13] Arousing fears of "inquisitions," Malone argued that the Bible should be preserved in the realm of theology and morality and not put into a course of science. In his conclusion, Malone declared that Bryan's "duel to the death" against evolution should not be made one-sided by a court ruling that took away the chief witnesses for the defense. Malone promised that there would be no duel because "There is never a duel with the truth." The courtroom went wild when Malone finished, and Scopes declared Malone's speech to be the dramatic highpoint of the entire trial and insisted that part of the reason Bryan wanted to go on the stand was to regain some of his tarnished glory.[14]

On the sixth day of the trial, the defense ran out of witnesses. The judge declared that all of the defense testimony on the Bible was irrelevant and should not be presented to the jury (which had been excluded during the defense). During the court proceedings (7th day of the trial) the defense asked the judge to call Bryan as a witness to question him on the Bible as their own experts have been rendered irrelevant; Darrow had planned the day before and called Bryan a "Bible expert". This move surprised those present in the court, as Bryan was a counsel for the prosecution and Bryan himself (according to a journalist reporting the trial) never made a claim of being an expert; although he did tout his knowledge of the Bible.[15] This testimony revolved around several questions regarding biblical stories and Bryan's beliefs (as shown below), this testimony culminated in Bryan declaring that Darrow was using the court to "slur the Bible" while Darrow replied that Bryan's statements on the Bible were "foolish"[16]

[edit] Examination of Bryan

On the seventh day of the trial, Clarence Darrow took the unorthodox step of calling William Jennings Bryan, counsel for the prosecution, to the stand as a witness in an effort to demonstrate that belief in the historicity of the Bible and its many accounts of miracles was unreasonable. Bryan accepted, on the understanding that Darrow would in turn submit to questioning by Bryan. Although Hays would claim in his autobiography that the cross-examination of Bryan was unplanned, Darrow spent the night before in preparation. The scientists the defense had brought to Dayton and Charles Francis Potter, a modernist minister who had lost a public debate on evolution with the fundamentalist preacher John Roach Straton, prepared topics and questions for Darrow to address to Bryan on the witness stand.[17] Kirtley Mather, chairman of the geology department at Harvard and also a devout Baptist played Bryan and answered questions as he believed Bryan would.[18][19] Raulston had adjourned court to the stand on the courthouse lawn, ostensibly because he was "afraid of the building" with so many spectators crammed into the courtroom, but probably because of the stifling heat (227; Scopes and Presley 164).

[edit] Adam and Eve

An area of questioning involved the book of Genesis and if Eve was actually created from Adam's rib, where Cain got his wife, and how many people lived in Ancient Egypt. Darrow used these examples to show that the stories of the Bible could not be scientific and should not be used in teaching science with Darrow telling Bryan, "You insult every man of science and learning in the world because he does not believe in your fool religion."[20] Bryan's declaration in response was "The reason I am answering is not for the benefit of the superior court. It is to keep these gentlemen from saying I was afraid to meet them and let them question me, and I want the Christian world to know that any atheist, agnostic, unbeliever, can question me anytime as to my belief in God, and I will answer him."[21]

Stewart objected, demanding to know the legal purpose of Darrow's questioning. Bryan, gauging the effect the session was having, snapped that its purpose was "to cast ridicule on everybody who believes in the Bible." Darrow, with equal vehemence, retorted, "We have the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States." (299)

A few more questions followed in the charged open-air courtroom. Darrow asked where Cain got his wife; Bryan answered that he would "leave the agnostics to hunt for her" (302–03). When Darrow addressed the issue of the temptation of Eve by the serpent, Bryan insisted that the Bible be quoted verbatim rather than allowing Darrow to paraphrase it in his own terms. However, after another angry exchange, Judge Raulston banged his gavel, adjourning court and bringing the drama to a sudden close (303–04).

[edit] End of the trial

The confrontation between Bryan and Darrow lasted approximately two hours on the afternoon of the seventh day of the trial. It is likely that it would have continued the following morning but for Judge Raulston's announcement that he considered the whole examination irrelevant to the case and his decision that it should be "expunged" from the record. Thus Bryan was denied the chance to cross-examine the defense lawyers in return, although after the trial Bryan would distribute nine questions to the press to bring out Darrow's "religious attitude." The questions and Darrow's short answers were published in newspapers the day after the trial ended, with the New York Times characterizing Darrow as answering Bryan's questions "with his agnostic's creed, 'I don't know,' except where he could deny them with his belief in natural, immutable law."[22]

After the defense's final attempt to present evidence was denied, Darrow asked the judge to bring in the jury only to have them come to a guilty verdict:

We claim that the defendant is not guilty, but as the court has excluded any testimony, except as to the one issue as to whether he taught that man descended from a lower order of animals, and we cannot contradict that testimony, there is no logical thing to come except that the jury find a verdict that we may carry to the higher court, purely as a matter of proper procedure. We do not think it is fair to the court or counsel on the other side to waste a lot of time when we know this is the inevitable result and probably the best result for the case.

After they were brought in, Darrow then addressed the jury, telling them that:

We came down here to offer evidence in this case and the court has held under the law that the evidence we had is not admissible, so all we can do is to take an exception and carry it to a higher court to see whether the evidence is admissible or not. . . . we cannot even explain to you that we think you should return a verdict of not guilty. We do not see how you could. We do not ask it.

Darrow closed the case for the defense without a final summation. Under Tennessee law, when the defense waived its right to make a closing speech, the prosecution was also barred from summing up its case.

Scopes never testified since there was never a factual issue as to whether he had taught evolution. Scopes later admitted that, in reality, he was unsure of whether he had taught evolution (another reason the defense did not want him to testify), but the point was not contested at the trial (Scopes 1967:59–60).

After eight days of trial, it took the jury only nine minutes to deliberate. Scopes was found guilty on July 21 and ordered to pay a US$100.00 fine (approximately $1,165 when adjusted from 1925 for inflation). Raulston imposed the fine before Scopes was given an opportunity to say anything about why the court should not impose punishment upon him and after Neal brought the error to the judge's attention the defendant spoke for the first and only time in court:

Your honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom — that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution, of personal and religious freedom. I think the fine is unjust (World's Most Famous Court Trial 313).

[edit] Appeal to Supreme Court of Tennessee

Scopes' lawyers appealed, challenging the conviction on several grounds.

First, they argued that the statute was overly vague because it prohibited the teaching of "evolution," a very broad term. The court rejected that argument, holding:

Evolution, like prohibition, is a broad term. In recent bickering, however, evolution has been understood to mean the theory which holds that man has developed from some pre-existing lower type. This is the popular significance of evolution, just as the popular significance of prohibition is prohibition of the traffic in intoxicating liquors. It was in that sense that evolution was used in this act. It is in this sense that the word will be used in this opinion, unless the context otherwise indicates. It is only to the theory of the evolution of man from a lower type that the act before us was intended to apply, and much of the discussion we have heard is beside this case.

Second, the lawyers argued that the statute violated Scopes' constitutional right to free speech because it prohibited him from teaching evolution. The court rejected this argument, holding that the state was permitted to regulate his speech as an employee of the state:

He was an employee of the state of Tennessee or of a municipal agency of the state. He was under contract with the state to work in an institution of the state. He had no right or privilege to serve the state except upon such terms as the state prescribed. His liberty, his privilege, his immunity to teach and proclaim the theory of evolution, elsewhere than in the service of the state, was in no wise touched by this law.

Third, it was argued that the terms of the Butler Act violated the Tennessee State Constitution which provided that "It shall be the duty of the General Assembly in all future periods of this government, to cherish literature and science." The argument was that the theory of the descent of man from a lower order of animals was now established by the preponderance of scientific thought, and that the prohibition of the teaching of such theory was a violation of the legislative duty to cherish science.

The court rejected this argument (Scopes v. State, 154 Tenn. 105, 1927), holding that the determination of what laws cherished science was an issue for the legislature, not the judiciary:

The courts cannot sit in judgment on such acts of the Legislature or its agents and determine whether or not the omission or addition of a particular course of study tends "to cherish science."

Fourth, the defense lawyers argued that the statute violated the Establishment Clause, unconstitutionally establishing a state religion.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice Grafton Green rejected this argument, holding that the Establishment Clause was designed to prevent the establishment of a state religion as had been the experience in England and Scotland at the writing of the Constitution, and held:

We are not able to see how the prohibition of teaching the theory that man has descended from a lower order of animals gives preference to any religious establishment or mode of worship. So far as we know, there is no religious establishment or organized body that has in its creed or confession of faith any article denying or affirming such a theory. So far as we know, the denial or affirmation of such a theory does not enter into any recognized mode of worship. Since this cause has been pending in this court, we have been favored, in addition to briefs of counsel and various amici curiae, with a multitude of resolutions, addresses, and communications from scientific bodies, religious factions, and individuals giving us the benefit of their views upon the theory of evolution. Examination of these contributions indicates that Protestants, Catholics, and Jews are divided among themselves in their beliefs, and that there is no unanimity among the members of any religious establishment as to this subject. Belief or unbelief in the theory of evolution is no more a characteristic of any religious establishment or mode of worship than is belief or unbelief in the wisdom of the prohibition laws. It would appear that members of the same churches quite generally disagree as to these things.

Further, the court held that while the statute forbade the teaching of evolution (as the court had defined it), it did not require the teaching of any other doctrine, so that it did not benefit any doctrine over the others.

Nevertheless, having found the statute to be constitutional, the court set aside the conviction on appeal because of a legal technicality: the jury should have decided the fine, not the judge, since Tennessee judges could not at that time set fines above $50. Green added a totally unexpected recommendation:

The court is informed that the plaintiff in error is no longer in the service of the state. We see nothing to be gained by prolonging the life of this bizarre case. On the contrary, we think that the peace and dignity of the state, which all criminal prosecutions are brought to redress, will be the better conserved by the entry of a nolle prosequi herein. Such a course is suggested to the Attorney General.

Attorney General L.D. Smith immediately announced that he would not seek a retrial, while Scopes' lawyers offered angry comments on the stunning decision.[23]

In 1968, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas 393 U.S. 97 (1968) that such bans contravene the Establishment Clause because their primary purpose is religious.[3] Tennessee had repealed the Butler Act the previous year.

[edit] The Aftermath of The Trial

[edit] Image of science versus religion

The trial revealed a growing chasm in American Christianity and two ways of finding truth, one "biblical" and one "scientific." Liberals saw a division between educated, tolerant Christians and narrow-minded, tribal, obscurantist Christians. However in totality, the majority of Christians denounced evolution.[24]

Edwards (2000) contradicts the conventional view that in the wake of the Scopes trial a humiliated fundamentalism retreated into the political and cultural background, a viewpoint evidenced in the movie "Inherit the Wind" and the majority of contemporary historical accounts. Rather, the cause of fundamentalism's retreat was the death of its leader, Bryan. Most fundamentalists saw the trial as a victory and not a defeat, but Bryan's death soon after created a leadership void that no other fundamentalist leader could fill. Bryan, unlike the other leaders, brought name recognition, respectability, and the ability to forge a broad-based coalition of fundamentalist and mainline religious groups to argue for the antievolutionist position.[25]

[edit] Anti-evolution movement

The trial escalated the political and legal struggles between strict creationists and evolutionists to influence the extent to which evolution would be taught as science in Arizona and California schools. Before the Dayton trial only the South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Kentucky legislatures had dealt with anti-evolution laws or riders to educational appropriations bills.

After Scopes was convicted, creationists throughout the United States sought similar antievolution laws for their states.

By 1927, there were 13 states, both in the North and South, that considered some form of anti-evolution law. At least 41 bills or resolutions were introduced into the state legislatures, with some states facing the issue repeatedly. While most of these efforts were rejected, both Mississippi and Arkansas put anti-evolution laws on the books after the Scopes trial that would outlive the Butler Act.[26] The Butler Act ended up serving as a model for the anti-evolution crusade, and the ACLU could not find a teacher to volunteer for another test case.

In the Southwest, crusaders included ministers R. S. Beal and Aubrey L. Moore in Arizona and members of the Creation Research Society in California. They sought to ban evolution as a topic for study or, at least, relegate it to the status of unproven theory perhaps taught alongside the biblical version of creation. Educators, scientists, and other distinguished laymen favored evolution. This struggle occurred later in the Southwest than elsewhere and persisted through the Sputnik era after 1957, which inspired increased trust in science in general and evolution in particular.[27]

The opponents of evolution made a transition from the antievolution crusade of the 1920s to the creation science movement of the 1960s. Despite some similarities between these two causes, the creation science movement represented a shift from religious to scientific objections to Darwin's theory. Creation science also differed in terms of popular leadership, rhetorical tone, and sectional focus. It lacked a prestigious leader like Bryan, utilized scientific rather than religious rhetoric, and was a product of California and Michigan instead of the South.[28]

[edit] Teaching of science

The Scopes trial had both short and long term effects in the teaching of science in schools in the United States. Though often upheld as a blow for the fundamentalists in the form of waning public opinion, the victory was not complete. [29] Though the ACLU had taken on the trial as a cause, in the wake of Scopes’ conviction, they were unable to find any volunteers to take on the Butler law and by 1932, the ACLU gave up. [30] The anti-evolutionary legislation was not challenged again until 1965 and in the meantime William Jennings Bryans’ cause was taken up by a number of organizations including the Bryan Bible League, the Defenders of the Christian Faith and the Ku Klux Klan. [30]

The immediate effects of the trial are evident in the high school biology texts used in the second half of the 1920’s and the early 1930’s. Of the most widely used textbooks, there is only one which lists evolution in the index and in the wake of the trial, under the pressures of fundamentalist groups, the entry is countered with biblical quotations. [29] The fundamentalist’s target slowly veered off of evolution in the mid 1930's. As the anti-evolutionist movement died out, biology textbooks began to include the lost evolutionary theory of Darwin. [30] This also corresponds to the emerging demand that science textbooks be written by scientists rather than educators or education specialists. [29]

In 1958 the National Defence Education Act was passed with the encouragement of many legislators who feared the United States education system was falling behind that of the Soviet Union. The act yielded textbooks, produced in cooperation with the American Institute of Biological Sciences, which stressed the importance of evolution as the unifying principle of biology. [30] The new educational regime was not unchallenged. The greatest backlash was in Texas where attacks were launched in sermons and in the press. [29] Complaints were lodged with the State Textbook Commission however in addition to federal support several social forces had turned in favor of Darwin’s theory including increased interest in improving public education, legal precedents separating religion and public education, and continued urbanization in the south. These forces suppressed the backlash in Texas and also led to the repeal of the Butler Law in Tennessee in 1967.[29]

[edit] Publicity and drama

[edit] Publicity

Edward J. Larson, a historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for History for his book Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion, notes "Like so many archetypal American events, the trial itself began as a publicity stunt."[31] The press coverage of the "monkey" Trial was overwhelming.[32] The front pages of newspapers like the New York Times were dominated by the case for days. More than 200 newspaper reporters from all parts of the country and two from London were in Dayton.[33] Twenty-two telegraphers sent out 165,000 words per day on the trial over thousands of miles of telegraph wires hung for the purpose;[33] more words were transmitted to Britain about the Scopes trial than for any previous American event.[33] Trained chimpanzees performed on the courthouse lawn.[33] Chicago's WGN radio station broadcast the trial with announcer Quin Ryan via clear-channel broadcasts for the first on-the-scene coverage of a criminal trial. Two movie cameramen had their film flown out daily in a small plane from a specially-prepared airstrip. H.L. Mencken's trial reports were heavily slanted against the prosecution and the jury which was "unanimously hot for Genesis." He mocked the town's inhabitants as "yokels" and "morons." He called Bryan a "buffoon" and his speeches "theologic bilge." In contrast, he called the defense "eloquent" and "magnificent." Some creationists have claimed that Mencken's trial reports turned public opinion against creationism..[34]

The media's portrayal of Darrow's cross-examination of Bryan, and the play and movie Inherit the Wind, caused millions of Americans to ridicule religious-based opposition to the theory of evolution.[35]

The trial also brought publicity to the town of Dayton, Tennessee, and was hatched as a publicity stunt.[32] From The Salem Republican, June 11, 1925:

"The whole matter has assumed the portion of Dayton and her merchants endeavoring to secure a large amount of notoriety and publicity with an open question as whether Scopes is a party to the plot or not."

[edit] Court house

At the site of the trial, the Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, a $1-million restoration project was completed in 1979 which restored the second-floor courtroom to its original appearance during the Scopes trial. A museum of trial events in its basement contains such memorabilia as the microphone used to broadcast the trial, trial records, photographs, and an audiovisual history. Every July local people re-enact key moments in the courtroom.[36] In front of the courthouse stands a commemorative plaque erected by the Tennessee Historical Commission:

2B 23

Here, from July 10 to 21, 1925 John
Thomas Scopes, a County High School
teacher, was tried for teaching that
a man descended from a lower order
of animals in violation of a lately
passed state law. William Jennings
Bryan assisted the prosecution;
Clarence Darrow, Arthur Garfield
Hays, and Dudley Field Malone the
defense. Scopes was convicted.

Rhea County Courthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1976.[37] It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.[38]

[edit] Humor

Anticipating that Scopes would be found guilty, the press fitted the defendant for martyrdom and created an onslaught of ridicule. Time's initial coverage of the trial focused on Dayton as "the fantastic cross between a circus and a holy war." Life adorned its masthead with monkeys reading books and proclaimed, "the whole matter is something to laugh about."[39] Hosts of cartoonists added their own portrayals to the attack (the greatest collection of cartoons available would be the 14 reprinted in L. Sprague de Camp's The Great Monkey Trial). Both Literary Digest and the popular humor magazine Life (1890–1930) ran compilations of jokes and humorous observations garnered from newspapers around the country.[40]

Overwhelmingly, the butt of these jokes was the prosecution and those aligned with it: Bryan, the city of Dayton, the state of Tennessee, and the entire South, as well as fundamentalist Christians and anti-evolutionists. Rare exceptions were found in the Southern press, where the fact that Darrow had saved Leopold and Loeb from the death penalty continued to be a source of ugly humor. The most widespread form of this ridicule was directed at the inhabitants of Tennessee.[41] Life described Tennessee as "not up to date in its attitude to such things as evolution."[42] Time related Bryan's arrival in town with the disparaging comment, "The populace, Bryan's to a moron, yowled a welcome."[43]

Attacks on Bryan were predictably frequent and nasty: Life awarded him its "Brass Medal of the Fourth Class," for having "successfully demonstrated by the alchemy of ignorance hot air may be transmuted into gold, and that the Bible is infallibly inspired except where it differs with him on the question of wine, women, and wealth."[44] Papers across the country routinely dismissed the efforts of both sides in the trial, while the European press reacted to the entire affair with amused condescension.

Famously vituperative attacks came from the literary gadfly H.L. Mencken, whose syndicated columns from Dayton for the Baltimore Sun drew vivid caricatures of the "backward" local populace, referring to the people of Rhea county as "Babbits," "morons," "peasants," "hill-billies," "yaps" and "yokels." He chastised the "degraded nonsense which country preachers are ramming and hammering into yokel skulls." The nicest thing Mencken managed to say about the community was that "The Klan has never got a foothold here, though it rages everywhere else in Tennessee."[45] Mencken attempted to perpetuate a hoax, distributing flyers for the "Rev. Elmer Chubb," but the claims that Chubb would drink poison and preach in lost languages were ignored as commonplace by the people of Dayton and only the Commonweal bit.[46] Mencken's most venomous assault was his withering obituary of Bryan, "In Memoriam: W.J.B," in which Mencken became one of the few people ever to accuse Bryan of insincerity.[47] Years later Mencken did question whether dismissing Bryan "as a quack pure and unadulterated" was "really just," but the damage could hardly be undone.[48] Mencken's columns made the Dayton citizens irate and drew general fire from the Southern press.[49] After Raulston ruled against the admission of scientific testimony, Mencken left Dayton, declaring in his last dispatch "All that remains of the great cause of the State of Tennessee against the infidel Scopes is the formal business of bumping off the defendant."[50] Consequently, the journalist missed Darrow's cross-examination of Bryan on Monday.

[edit] Stage and film

The play Inherit the Wind (1955), by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee was loosely based on this trial. The play turned Darrow and Bryan into characters named Henry Drummond and Matthew Harrison Brady.[51] The play was made into a 1960 film directed by Stanley Kramer, with Spencer Tracy and Fredric March as Drummond and Brady. There have also been a trio of television versions, with Melvyn Douglas and Ed Begley in 1965, Jason Robards and Kirk Douglas in 1988, and Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott in 1999. The Scopes trial did not appear in the Encyclopædia Britannica until 1957, when its inclusion was spurred by the successful run of Inherit the Wind on Broadway, which was mentioned in the citation. It was not until the 1960s that the Scopes trial began to be mentioned in the history textbooks of American high schools and colleges, usually as an example of the conflict between fundamentalists and modernists, and often in sections that also talked about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the South.[52]

Since 1987, the city of Dayton has staged a reenactment of the trial using the original transcripts, performing it in the very same courtroom in which the trial took place. The annual event occurs during Dayton's Scopes Trial festival with several performances showing over the weekend. In 2007, Bryan College, the institute founded in memory of Bryan, purchased the rights to the production and made a filmed version for DVD release using the same performers entitled "Inherit the Truth" in an attempt to clear up any misunderstandings regarding the trial due to Inherit the Wind.[53]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Full text of the Butler Act and the bill that repealed it
  2. ^ Hakim, Joy (1995). War, Peace, and All That Jazz. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-19-509514-6. 
  3. ^ a b c An introduction to the John Scopes (Monkey) Trial by Douglas Linder. UMKC Law. Retrieved April 15, 2007.
  4. ^ Presley, James and John T.Scopes. Center of the Storm p.60. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.(1967)
  5. ^ Larson 1997, p. 108 "Scopes had urged the students to testify against him, and coached them in their answers."
  6. ^ Larson 1997, p. 89,107
  7. ^ Larson 1997, p. 108
  8. ^ New York Times May 26, 1925: 1, 16
  9. ^ de Camp, pp81–86.
  10. ^ de Camp, pp72–74, 79
  11. ^ Scopes and Presley, Center of the Storm 66–67.
  12. ^ Larson, Edward J., "Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion"(1997), p. 108-109. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press (1998)
  13. ^ de Camp, p335
  14. ^ Scopes and Presley, Center of the Storm, 154–56.
  15. ^ de Camp p412
  16. ^ Scopes, John Thomas. "The world's most famous court trial, State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes; complete stenographic report of the court test of the Tennessee anti-evolution act at Dayton, July 10 to 21, 1925, including speeches and arguments of attorneys" p.304. New York: Da Capo Press (1971)
  17. ^ Arthur Garfield Hays, Let Freedom Ring (New York: Liveright, 1937), 71–72; Charles Francis Potter, The Preacher and I (New York: Crown, 1951), 275–76.
  18. ^ de Camp, pp364–65
  19. ^ Kirtley F. Mather, "Creation and Evolution," in Science Ponders Religion, ed. Harlow Shapley (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1960), 32–45.
  20. ^ Moran, 2002, p150
  21. ^ Moran, 2002, p157
  22. ^ New York Times, July 22, 1925: 2.
  23. ^ New York Times 16 Jan. 1927: 1, 28.
  24. ^ David Goetz, "The Monkey Trial". Christian History 1997 16(3): 10-18. 0891-9666
  25. ^ Edwards (2000); Moran (2004)
  26. ^ R. Halliburton, Jr., "The Adoption of Arkansas' Anti-Evolution Law," Arkansas Historical Quarterly 23 (Autumn 1964): 280; Ginger, Six Days or Forever?, 212.
  27. ^ George E. Webb, "The Evolution Controversy in Arizona and California: From the 1920s to the 1980s." Journal of the Southwest 1991 33(2): 133-150. 0894-8410. See also Christopher K. Curtis, "Mississippi's Anti-Evolution Law of 1926." Journal Of Mississippi History 1986 48(1): 15-29.
  28. ^ Gatewood (1969)
  29. ^ a b c d e Grabiner, J.V. & Miller, P.D., Effects of the Scopes Trial, Science, New Series, Vol. 185, No. 4154 (Sep. 6, 1974), pp. 832-837
  30. ^ a b c d Moore, Randy, The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 60, No. 8 (Oct., 1998), pp. 568-577
  31. ^ Larson 2004, p. 211
  32. ^ a b Larson 2004, p. 212–213
  33. ^ a b c d Larson 2004, p. 213
  34. ^ S. L. Harrison, "The Scopes 'Monkey Trial' Revisited: Mencken and the Editorial Art of Edmund Duffy." Journal Of American Culture 1994 17(4): 55-63.
  35. ^ Larson 2004, p. 217
  36. ^ "Scopes Trial Museum – Tennessee History for Kids". Retrieved on 2008-11-13. 
  37. ^ National Park Service (April 2007). "National Historic Landmarks Survey: List of National Historic Landmarks by State".
  38. ^ National Park Service. "?". National Register Information System. Retrieved on 2007-05-15. 
  39. ^ E.S. Martin, Life 86 (July 16, 1925): 16..
  40. ^ "Life Lines," Life 85 (June 18, 1925): 10; 85 (June 25, 1925): 6, 86 (July 2, 1925): 8; 86 (July 9, 1925): 6; 86 (July 30, 1925): 6; "Life's Encyclopedia," Life 85 (July 25, 1925): 23; Kile Croak, "My School in Tennessee," Life 86 (July 2, 1925); 4; Arthur Guiterman, "Notes for a Tennessee Primer," Life 86 (July 16, 1925): 5; "Topics in Brief," Literary Digest, for 86 (July 4, 1925): 18; 86 (July 11, 1925): 15; 86 (July 18, 1925): 15; 86 (July 25, 1925): 15, 86 (August 1, 1925): 17; 86 (August 8, 1925): 13.
  41. ^ "Tennessee Goes Fundamentalist," New Republic 42 (April 29, 1925): 258–60; Howard K. Hollister, "In Dayton, Tennessee," Nation 121 (July 8, 1925): 61–62; Dixon Merritt, "Smoldering Fires," Outlook 140 (July 22, 1925): 421–22.
  42. ^ Martin, Life 86 (July 16, 1925: 16.
  43. ^ "The Great Trial," Time 6 (July 20, 1926): 17.
  44. ^ Life 86 (July 9, 1925): 7.
  45. ^ Edgar Kemler, The Irreverent Mr. Mencken (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1948), 175–90. For excerpts from Mencken's reports see William Manchester, Sage of Baltimore: The Life and Riotous Times of H.L. Mencken (New York: Andrew-Melrose, 1952) 143–45, and D-Days at Dayton: Reflections on the Scopes Trial, ed. Jerry R. Tompkins (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1965) 35–51.
  46. ^ H.L. Mencken, Heathen Days, 1890–1936 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1943) 231–34; Michael Williams, "Sunday in Dayton," Commonweal 2 (July 29, 1925): 285–88.
  47. ^ "In Memoriam: W.J.B." was first printed in the Baltimore Evening Sun, July 27, 1925; rpt. by Mencken in the American Mercury 5 (October 1925);: 158–60 and in his Prejudices (Fifth Series), 64–74.
  48. ^ Mencken, Heathen Days, 280–87.
  49. ^ "Mencken Epithets Rouse Dayton's Ire," New York Times, July 17, 1925, 3.
  50. ^ "Battle Now Over, Mencken Sees; Genesis Triumphant and Ready for New Jousts," H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 18, 1925,, URL accessed April 27, 2008.
  51. ^ Notes on Inherit the Wind UMKC Law School. Retrieved April 15, 2007.
  52. ^ Lawrance Bernabo and Celeste Michelle Condit (1990). "Two Stories of the Scopes Trial: Legal and Journalistic Articulations of the Legitimacy of Science and Religion" in Popular Trials: Rhetoric, Mass Media, and the Law, edited by Robert Hariman. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 82–83.
  53. ^ "Bryan offers DVD of 'Inherit the Truth'". Retrieved on 2007-10-16. 

[edit] References

  • de Camp, L. Sprague (1968), The Great Monkey Trial, Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-04625-1
  • Clark, Constance Areson. "Evolution for John Doe: Pictures, The Public, and the Scopes Trial Debate." Journal of American History 2000 87(4): 1275-1303. in JSTOR
  • Conkin, Paul K. When All the Gods Trembled: Darwinism, Scopes, and American Intellectuals. (1998). 185 pp.
  • Edwards, Mark. "Rethinking the Failure of Fundamentalist Political Antievolutionism after 1925". Fides Et Historia 2000 32(2): 89-106. 0884-5379
  • Folsom, Burton W., Jr. "The Scopes Trial Reconsidered." Continuity 1988 (12): 103-127. 0277-1446
  • Gatewood, Willard B., Jr., ed. Controversy in the Twenties: Fundamentalism, Modernism, & Evolution (1969)
  • Harding, Susan. "Representing Fundamentalism: The Problem of the Repugnant Cultural Other." Social Research 1991 58(2): 373-393.
  • Larson, Edward J. (1997), Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion, BasicBooks, ISBN 0-465-07509-6
  • Larson, Edward J. (2004), Evolution, Modern Library, ISBN 0-679-64288-9
  • Lienesch Michael. In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement. University of North Carolina Press, 2007. 350pp
  • Menefee, Samuel Pyeatt (2001), "Reaping the Whirlwind: A Scopes Trial Bibliography", Regent University Law Review 13 (2): 571–595
  • Moran, Jeffrey P. The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents, Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002. 240pp +
  • * Moran, Jeffrey P. "The Scopes Trial and Southern Fundamentalism in Black and White: Race, Region, and Religion." Journal of Southern History. Volume: 70. Issue: 1. 2004. pp 95+. online edition
  • Smout, Kary Doyle. The Creation/Evolution Controversy: A Battle for Cultural Power. (1998). 210 pp.
  • Scopes, John T. & James Presley (June, 1967), Center of the Storm: Memoirs of John T. Scopes, Henry Holt & Company

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

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