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... religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. This trial cultivated more journalistic excitement than a civil celebration or riot. An author observed, The press has made this story. Its spotlight has been turned upon Dayton [Tennessee] as if by a common agreement among all editors everywhere that it was naturally the thing to do...
no crowd of visitors has appeared... The expected onrush of tourist and interested on-lookers has not materialized (190 La Follette). The test case of the Butler Bill was now unstoppable. The plaintiff and defendant would have their day in court. With a test case approaching, candidates to represent both sides and a judge had to be selected.
The choices were not easy and time was working against both sides. Judge Neal accepted the case since he was the chief counsel for Scopes. He was a controversial figure because he was kicked out of law school for using a modernist book. Only days later Neal withdrew from the Scopes trial, allowing Judge John T. Raulston to take the lead as judge. Raulston had an eagerness to push the case because he craved publicity and felt a deep sense of purpose in his work.
Judge Raulston moved the Scopes trial from late autumn to July 10 th on which both parties agreed. Forming an appropriate defense team was of great concern to the ACLU. The Aclu's primary goal was to avoid unnecessary controversy by employing respected conservative attorneys John W. Davis and Charles Evan Hughes despite offers from Americas top defense attorney, Clarence Darrow and Dudley Field Malone. This plan would fail since John Scopes and his attorney, John R. Neal of Knoxville, informally accepted Darrow and Malone's offer without consulting ACLU officials.
The ACLU tried persuading Darrow and Malone that they didnt belong. ACLU counsel Wollcott H. Pitkin wrote, In my belief, a great mistake had been made at the start in accepting the services of Mr. Darrow, thereby allowing fundamentalists to present the issue as a clash between religion and anti-religion (Summer 102). On the other hand, Chief counsel, of the ACLU, Hays wrote, There began my association with Clarence Darrow. Nothing in life do I treasure more than that, nothing has been more inspiring or humanly helpful than his company, his example, his friendship (Summer 69).
Shortly after indictment, Scopes left town for Kentucky to visit with friends and family. Anticipation mounted across the country as the parties spent the next six weeks preparing for the Trial of the Century. At the time of intermission, most Americans simply understood the theory of the human to mean that people came from apes. William Jennings Bryan encouraged this by offering this question, How can teachers tell students that they came from monkeys and not expect them to act like monkeys (Summer 116). Evolutionist articles filled the newspapers and proclaimed the author of the anti-evolution bill was obviously nearer in mental development to the nomads of early Biblical times than he is to the intelligence of the young man who is under trial. April 1925, ACLU releasing a survey of restrictions on teaching in schools and colleges, said that more restrictive laws had been passed in the preceding six months than at anytime in the countrys history.
The various statutes banned the teaching of evolution, or required daily Bible reading in the schools, or forbade the employment of radical or pacifist teachers (Ginger 66). William Jennings Bryan arrived three days before the trial. The temperature was twenty degrees above normal and half the town population was waiting at the train station for him. Upon arrival Bryan arrogantly stated, In this controversy, I have a larger majority on my side than in any previous controversy (Summer 45). Since he was arguing for popular control over public education, it gave Bryan the legal and logical upper hand in the Scopes trial. The next day only a few people were present for the arrival of John Thomas Scopes.
It seemed that everyone had forgotten about the defendant including the defense. Clarence Darrow arrived on the last train to Dayton. Almost no media attended. Governor Austin Peay refused to attend the trial, despite the request from public officials. The courtroom received a facelift and all the walls were repainted.
The courthouse lawn was crisscrossed by newly installed water pipes and privies had been hastily built to comfort the expected crowds. The outside of the courthouse had been covered with signs from fundamentalists. The judges bench was newly stained with a dark cherry color. The crowd gathered early Friday, July tenth for the beginning of the Scopes trial.
People started filing into the Dayton courthouse two hours early. One hour later all the seats were full. Those attending were the local Tennesians with overalls, not the big spending tourists Dayton hoped to attract. Out of the estimated thirty thousand visitors, only five hundred stayed in Dayton. The majority of them were media, making the trial quickly become more of a media event than a spectator show. At nine in the morning, case number 5232, Tennessee versus John Thomas Scopes was called to order.
A local newspaper predicted, The people of Tennessee, the south, even of the world, will become more familiar with the theory of evolution than they ever were before (Ginger 100). Judge Raulston opened each days proceedings with prayer, usually led by a fundamentalist minister. The defense argued that such activity established a mood in court that worked to their disadvantage. The defenses objection was logical but remained ignored.
The first few days of the trial itself provided further evidence of the clash between opposing evolutionary and religious views. Darrow's persuasive nature and talent for drama frequently guided the trial away from the careful examination of legal issues. Darrow remarked early in the trial, Here we find today, [the statute] as brazen and as a bold attempt to destroy learning as was ever made in the Middle Ages. The only difference is we have not provided that they shall be burned at the stake. But, there is time for that, Your Honor; we have to approach these things gradually (Webb 87).
The Butler Bill remained the primary issue for the defense. By the opening of the trial, the defense had three arguments supporting that the Butler Bill was unconstitutional. The defense argued the bill violated the separation of church and state by attempting to combine Protestant fundamentalism and state funded education. In an informal survey conducted during the trial, 85 % of the persons attending Dayton churches professed to believe the Bible literally (Summer 93). To emphasize this, the defense planned to have several carefully selected scientists testify that Genesis and evolution do not contend with each other. The prosecution planned to counter act with the defense by producing a group of prestigious reverends.
This idea was marred since numerous reverends declined William Jennings Bryan's offer. Due to many reverends withdrawing, Bryan and the prosecution argued forcefully against admitting expert testimonies. Judge Raulston decided to exclude the expert testimony on July sixteenth since only the teaching of human descent was the issue not the lack of conflict between evolution and Genesis. Furthermore, Human descent had been defined in the Butler bill straightforward and understandable to all. The Scopes trial lasted only eight days. Less than half a day was allocated to the witnesses.
Darrow manhandled Bryan throughout the trial. Bryan felt humiliated but he knew it was solely legal reasoning at its best. This would allow for a stronghold to appeal to the higher courts. Several days into the trial Bryan was an exhausted and broken man.
Towards the end of the trial, Darrow commented, This case can only be settled by higher courts, and it cannot get to a higher court unless you bring in a verdict (Ginger 177). Darrow and the defense did not want a split decision because that would slow down the appeal process. Despite the constitutional soundness of the Butler bill, the conviction of John Thomas Scopes was inevitable. Judge Raulston imposed a minimum fine of one hundred dollars. Scopes spoke briefly at the time of sentencing by claiming the anti-evolution statute was unjust and he pledged to continue fighting it in the name of academic freedom. Following, the counsel took turns thanking the court and the community.
The prosecution and Judge Raulston were satisfied with the trial but Darrow was unsettled. Darrow blamed everything on the religious nature of the prosecution. A local minister then gave the benediction and the Scopes trial was adjourned. In the trials immediate aftermath, both the prosecution and the defense found reasons to celebrate. The prosecution claimed a legal victory while the defense claimed a moral one.
The media wrote, We saw an attempted duel between science and religion at Dayton but both sides lost ground (Summer 202). Words Count: 2, 861. Bibliography Elder, Gregory P. Chronic Vigor.
Lanham: University, 1996. Ginger, Ray. Six Days or Forever? London: Oxford, 1988. La Follette, Marcel C. Creationism, Science, and the Law.
Cambridge: MIT Press, 1983. Larson, Edward J. Summer for the Gods. New York: Basic Books, 1997. Larson, Edward J.
Trial and Error. New York: Oxford University, 1985. National Academy of Sciences. Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. Washington D. C. 1998.
Webb, George Ernest. The Evolution Controversy in America. University Press of Kentucky, 1994.
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