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Books for Kids:
Great Trials of the Twentieth Century: The Trial of John T. Scopes


Rosen Publishing



Great Trials of the Twentieth Century: The Trial of John T. Scopes






Part of the Great Trials of the Twentieth Century series from Rosen Publishing, this book sought to educate young adults on the events of the trial of John T. Scopes, which pitted evolution vs. creationism in a Tennessee courtroom in 1925. While the intervening years have brought more and more evidence to the side of evolution, the manuscript did retain a sense of balance between these viewpoints. As Darwin himself argued, there is a place for both evolution, which is a matter of scientific fact, and the Bible, which presents a system of moral belief.

From the final submitted draft, this sample chronicles the dramatic show-down between Clarence Darrow, attorney for the defendant, and William Jennings Bryan, the most famous of the prosecutors. Darrow calls Bryan to the witness stand, and much to his later regret, he accepts the challenge.



This book was published in Spring 2003.



Chapter 7: Darrow versus Bryan

Over the weekend, the town of Dayton emptied. The carnival in the street packed its trucks and wagons and disappeared into the Tennessee hills. Most reporters piled back onto the train, figuring that the trial was over. Those who left missed what one newspaper later called, "the greatest court scene in Anglo-Saxon history."

[{Darrow and Raulston Shake: CAPTION: After Judge Raulston holds Darrow in contempt of court, Darrow apologized, and the men are seen here shaking hands. SAMPLE SOURCE: Hanson, p83; NOTES: (none).]

On Monday morning, Judge Raulston formally charged Darrow with contempt of court for his remarks on Friday. When Darrow apologized to the judge in court, the charge of contempt was dropped. In his response, the judge said, "The Man that I believe came into the world to save man from sin… taught that it was godly to forgive… I believe in that Christ. I believe in these principles. I accept Colonel Darrow's apology."

To the Front Porch

After lunch, Judge Raulston moved the trial to the front porch of the courthouse because of cracks in the first-floor ceiling. It was assumed that the defense would soon close its case.

[{Front Lawn: CAPTION: The trial moved to the front lawn, where even more people gathered to listen to the great battle between Darrow and Bryan. SAMPLE SOURCE: McGowen (photo section); NOTES: (none).]

Darrow and the other defense lawyers were not giving up the fight. Within view of the jurors on the porch was a giant sign labeled, "Read Your Bible," which Darrow insisted on removing.

Arthur Hays then stood and announced, "The defense desires to call Mr. Bryan as a witness." The prosecution lawyers immediately objected. Silent on the matter was Mr. Bryan himself.

Over the weekend, Darrow had guessed that although the prosecution was going to win the case, Bryan had not felt part of the glory. He had rarely spoken in court, and when he did make a speech, Dudley Malone made a better one. Over the weekend, Darrow issued a press statement to tease Bryan,

Bryan, who blew the loud trumpet calling for a "battle to the death," had fled from the field, his forces disorganized and his pretensions exposed.

Bryan shot back at Darrow through the press. Darrow had baited the hook.

As lawyers from both sides argued, the Great Commoner rose to his full height. He was willing to take the stand, he said, if he could cross-examine the defense attorneys. Darrow agreed. The news of the "duel to the death" ran like wildfire up and down Main Street. When Bryan sat in the witness stand, he looked out at a crowd of more than 3,000.

Darrow v. Bryan: How Long Is a Day?

For some time, Darrow had been waiting for this opportunity to question the leading orator of the Fundamentalist movement. Two years before, Darrow had published 55 questions in the Chicago Tribune that he wanted to ask Bryan about the Bible. These questions were the basis for the cross-examination that he was to deliver.

[{Darrow Examines Bryan: CAPTION: After the trial was moved to the front porch, Clarence Darrow examines William Jennings Bryan about his knowledge of the Bible and evolution. SAMPLE SOURCE: Hanson, p81; NOTES: (none).]

Darrow began slowly, "You have given considerable study to the Bible, haven't you, Mr. Bryan?"

"Yes, I have," Bryan said. "I have studied the Bible for about fifty years."

"Do you claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?"

"I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there." Bryan then clarified that some of the language was figurative. He did not think that man was "the salt of the earth." Darrow probed him on more questions. Bryan believed that the Bible story of Jonah getting swallowed by the whale could be true because God could make it so. Darrow asked questions about science to which the Bible and Bryan provided vague answers. Bryan was getting irritated and plainly angry when the audience laughed at his testimony.

Darrow finally got Bryan to agree to the moment when God created the Earth: October 23, 4004 BC at 9am. A Biblical scholar had calculated this date, and it was widely accepted by Fundamentalists. Darrow then inquired about the dates of some of the great civilizations. Did Bryan know that the Chinese civilization was older than that? Did he know that the Egyptians were older still?

"No," Bryan said. Nor did he know the age of the other great religions, for the Christian one satisfied him.

Darrow continued to hammer on Bryan to demonstrate his ignorance of many fields of scientific inquiry. Bryan knew nothing of archeology, astronomy, and history. Over and over, the court, the judge, and the audience heard about how little this Fundamentalist knew. Yet, as spokesman for the Fundamentalist movement, this ignorant man claimed to know what was good for teachers to teach and for students to learn. With his questions, Darrow seemed to be asking over and over the same one to the people of Tennessee: is this kind of ignorance what you want your schools to produce? For Bryan, it was humiliating.

Darrow returned to the Fundamentalist story of creation. He asked, "Do you think the world was created in six days?"

"Not six days of twenty-four hours," Bryan replied. A gasp went through the crowd. Here was a Fundamentalist, a believer in the literal truth of the Bible, saying that the plain text of the Bible may not be the truth. Prosecutor Stewart objected to the line of questioning, and another lengthy argument raged on the porch. Bryan defended his position, "I want the Christian world to know that any agnostic…can question me as to my belief in God, and I will answer him!"

But the damage had been done. Darrow continued to question him aggressively, and the audience was now laughing at the hapless orator. Exhausted, confused and ashamed, Bryan stepped off the witness stand. As the crowd surged forward to congratulate Darrow, Bryan slipped away quietly. The Great Commoner had lost his audience.

The Verdict

The next day, newspapers all across the country carried stories of the great battle on the courthouse steps and of Bryan's failure. In Dayton, Judge Raulston forbade the defense from continuing its questioning of William Jennings Bryan. Additionally, Bryan's testimony was stricken from the record of the case. Without testimony from Bryan or the expert witnesses, the defense had nothing. The only hope for Scopes was to secure an appeal in a more favorable court. To do so, Darrow needed a guilty verdict. In his closing statement, he told the jury to find Scopes guilty.

The jury didn't disappoint him. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100. In his single statement during the trial, Scopes stood and said, "I feel 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." Defense attorney Hays formally requested an appeal, which Judge Raulston granted. In his final statement, Judge Raulston noted the courage of Scopes in standing for his beliefs. And then the Trial of the Century ended.

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(c) 2007 Steven P. Olson. All rights reserved. Samples are for demonstration purposes only.