OTD in History… July 10, 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial begins against teaching evolution

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OTD in History… July 10, 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial begins against teaching evolution

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On this day in history July 10, 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial begins pitting fundamentalist versus evolutionary theories of creation and whether Charles Darwin’s evolution theory should be taught in schools, the trial was one of the most famous in history but did not put the topic to rest. The eight-day trial called The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes was more show than reality. Earlier that year, Tennessee farmer John W. Butler urged the state legislature to pass a law preventing the teaching of evolution in schools. The legislature passed the law, called the Butler Act on March 25, making it a high misdemeanor crime punishable by fine for anyone 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.”

The American Civil Liberties Union offered to defend anyone willing to violate the Butler Act.

Local Dayton businessman George Rappleyea conspired with the superintendent of schools to challenge the law, they chose high school substitute teacher John T. Scopes to test the law. Scopes substituted for a biology teacher where he supposedly taught out of a required textbook, that includes a chapter on evolution. The plan included the students testifying that he taught the theory, and on March 25, the grand jury indicted Scopes. The prosecution called upon “lawyer, three-time Democratic presidential nominee, former United States Secretary of State, and lifelong Presbyterian William Jennings Bryan” to serve as a special prosecutor. To counter the defense convinced Clarence Darrow to take the case as part of the defense team.

With Bryan and Darrow at the helms on either side, the case would attract national attention, and make a circus. Reporters from all over the country and world covered the trial, and the radio broadcasted the proceedings. H. L. Mencken of the Baltimore Sun orchestrated the hype, and he was helping to pay for the defense, while preachers countered by setting up revival tents, vendors sold Bibles and chimpanzees in suits entertained the masses around the Rhea County Courthouse.

Judge John T. Raulston presided, he was widely viewed as biased against the defense and in favor of the prosecution, going as far as quoting from the Bible during the trial, claiming the law was not on trial but Scopes, and in doing so denied the defense their expert witnesses. ACLU attorney Dudley Field Malone for the defense gave the most stirring speech of the trial on July 15. Malone concluded to cheers:

There is never a duel with the truth. The truth always wins and we are not afraid of it. The truth is no coward. The truth does not need the law. The truth does not need the forces of government. The truth does not need Mr. Bryan. the truth is imperishable, eternal, and immortal and needs no human agency to support it. We are ready, to tell the truth as we understand it and we do not fear all the truth that they can present as facts. We are ready. We are ready. We feel we stand with progress. We feel we stand with science. we feel we stand with intelligence. We feel we stand with fundamental freedom in America We are not afraid. Where is the fear? We meet it! Where is the fear? We defy it! We ask your honor to admit the evidence as a matter of correct law, as a matter of sound procedure and as a matter of justice to the defense in this case.

On the seventh day, when the defense ran out of witness they called Bryan as a Bible expert although he was not. With the heat, Judge Raulston moved the trial outside, increasing the audience for the climax of the case. Darrow conducted the questioning on Bryan focusing on Adam and Eve, where he ridiculed Bryan telling him, “You insult every man of science and learning in the world because he does not believe in your fool religion.” Bryan responded, “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.” The judge stopped the questioning within two hours and ordered the exchanged expunged from the record, which prevented Bryan from cross-examining.

In the closing statement, Darrow spoke to the jury:

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.

Both sides were denied a closing argument; Bryan, who had been preparing it for weeks, distributed his to the press:

Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm-tossed human vessel. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endanger its cargo. In war, science has proven itself an evil genius; it has made war more terrible than it ever was before. Man used to be content to slaughter his fellowmen on a single plane, the earth’s surface. Science has taught him to go down into the water and shoot up from below and to go up into the clouds and shoot down from above, thus making the battlefield three times as bloody as it was before; but science does not teach brotherly love. Science has made war so hellish that civilization was about to commit suicide; and now we are told that newly discovered instruments of destruction will make the cruelties of the late war seem trivial in comparison with the cruelties of wars that may come in the future. If civilization is to be saved from the wreckage threatened by intelligence not consecrated by love, it must be saved by the moral code of the meek and lowly Nazarene. His teachings, and His teachings alone, can solve the problems that vex the heart and perplex the world.

After eight days, and biggest legal spectacle in history, the jury would come back in eight minutes with a guilty verdict; Judge Raulston imposed the minimum fine of $100 without the jury rendering the sentence or allowing Scopes to give a statement. Judge Raulston related where Scopes expressed, “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.”

Bryan won the case but humiliated publicly on a widespread scale, which he could not overcome, he died five days later on July 26. In 1927, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the conviction not based on the appeals argument but because Judge Raulston handed down the sentence when it was the jury’s responsibility. Pulitzer Prize winning historian Edward J. Larson notes in Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion, “As a result of the Scopes trial, evolution largely disappeared in public school science classrooms [until the late 1950s].” Only in 1968, did the Supreme Court strike down the law deeming it an infringement on Freedom of Speech.

READ MORE

Larson, Edward J. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. New York: BasicBooks, 2006.

Mencken, Henry L. A Religious Orgy in Tennessee: A Reporter’s Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial. Brooklyn, N.Y: Melville House Publ, 2006.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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History Buzz September 9, 2011: New C-Span Series “The Contenders” Profiling Failed Presidential Candidates that Changed and Impacted Political History

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Associated Press

William Jennings Bryan, the three-time presidential candidate at the turn of the 20th century.

HISTORY ON TV:

The Contenders Premiere

Fri., 8 – 9:30 pm ET on C-SPAN
Henry Clay
LIVE from his Ashland Estate in Lexington, Kentucky

As the 2012 presidential campaign takes shape, we’ll give historical context to our current politics by taking a look back. This Friday night, C-SPAN debuts the first LIVE program in our new history series The Contenders.

Originating from Henry Clay’s home in Lexington, Kentucky, we’ll explore the life, times, and political legacy of a man known simultaneously by his contemporaries as “The Great Compromiser” and “The Dictator” — and perhaps the most powerful politician of his time. Helping us to understand his relevancy today, his almost 50 years in politics, his support for both slavery and keeping the Union together, his quests for the presidency, and a time period covering the first half of the 19th century, we’ll be joined at Ashland Estate by:

· Kentucky State Historian James Klotter, who is currently writing a book on Clay’s presidential aspirations

· Alicestyne Turly, history professor at Louisville University and an expert on the issue of slavery in Kentucky compared to the rest of the country

· Avery Malone, tour director at Ashland Estate

To help connect the discussion to today, we’ll also see clips from House Speaker John Boehner, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul talking about Clay and his relevancy almost 160 years after his death.
For more information on the series and our Contenders, go to www.c-span.org/thecontenders where you’ll find videos, biographical information, election results, helpful links, and more on each of these 14 Contenders featured in the series:
Henry Clay, James G. Blaine, William Jennings Bryan, Eugene Debs, Charles Evans Hughes, Al Smith, Wendell Willkie, Thomas E. Dewey, Adlai Stevenson, Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace, George McGovern, and Ross Perot.
Watch this Friday at 8 pm ET on C-SPAN, c-span.org, and C-SPAN Radio. The program re-airs Friday night at 11 pm on C-SPAN.

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

‘The Contenders’ a Nod to Failed Candidates Who Still Changed History

Source: PBS Newshour, 9-1-11

Mp3 Download

SUMMARY

A new C-SPAN series starting this month called “The Contenders” profiles failed presidential candidates who still managed to change political history. Gwen Ifill discusses the presidential race losers with George Mason University’s Richard Norton Smith and RealClearPolitics.com’s Carl Cannon.

U.S. presidential campaigns always produce a winner — 43 men have served, one of them twice, as the nation’s commander in chief.History books pay less attention to the losers, even though many had an outsized impact on the election and on the national debate. A good number of them turned out to be ahead of their times.

Beginning Sept. 9, a new C-SPAN series titled “The Contenders: They Ran and Lost but Changed Political History,” will examine 14 of the losers who turned out to be influential, even in defeat.

Richard Norton Smith, scholar in residence at George Mason University, is an adviser to the series, and Carl Cannon is Washington editor for the political website RealClearPolitics.com.

RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University:

Well, it has famously been said, the winners write the history books. And there’s a lot of truth to that.

Turns out winning and losing are relative terms. Of these 14 people, there are a number — we could debate who — who went on, perhaps, ultimately to have greater impact than the people who — quote — “won.”

More important, there are people who lost in the immediate sense, but who turned out not only to be ahead of their time, but in fact were catalysts for political transformations, the most recent example certainly being Barry Goldwater, who carried six states against Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and yet who planted the seeds of a conservative movement that arguably has yet to crest…..

I think Henry Clay may be the best president we never had.

Well, Abraham Lincoln said, “He was my beau ideal of a statesman.”He was a constructive force first part of the 19th century. He’s the bridge between Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln, the idea that government had a significant role to play. I mean, it’s curious. Conservatives in the 19th century believed in using government as an agent of capitalist development….

Clay was like the speaker of the House on the day he arrived in the House of Representatives, he, of course, known as the great compromiser. The last one in 1850 arguably delayed the Civil War for 10 years, which gave the North an opportunity to become that much stronger, and, equally important, allowed Abraham Lincoln to emerge from obscurity….
Charles Evans Hughes…. A very successful governor of New York, reformer beginning in the 20th century. Then he was put on the Supreme Court, left the court in 1916 to run a very close race against Woodrow Wilson.

He went back to service in the 1920s as secretary of state under two presidents. But his greatest contribution, arguably, his greatest historical significance, came in 1937 when FDR tried famously to pack the Supreme Court. Hughes was then chief justice. Employing all of his old political wiles, he almost single-handedly managed to thwart the president’s effort to change the court in a way that I think a lot of people today, and certainly even then, regarded as radical….

Tom Dewey, someone who tends to be written off as the guy who…. … who lost to Harry Truman.

If Tom Dewey had been elected in 1948, I would — I think you would never have heard of Joe McCarthy.

One, Dewey is a prosecutor. The first national political debate in America was in 1948. Tom Dewey in Oregon against Harold Stassen, the question being, shall we outlaw the Communist Party of America? And Dewey, ironically, the old prosecutor, took the civil libertarian position.

But, beyond that, Dewey was a boss. He was used to having his way. Joe McCarthy wouldn’t have been allowed to become the phenomenon that he had. Dewey would have taken care of it, and Dewey would have cut McCarthy off at the knees.

 

Richard Norton Smith: Don’t Call Them ‘Losers’

Source: NYT, 9-8-11

On cable news these days Republicans are warring for attention, as the presidential primary season reaches a boiling point, and Democrats are wondering how to win despite a wretched economy. Meanwhile the C-SPAN staff is doing what almost no one else on television does: reaching back into history for campaign lessons.

Associated Press

Thomas E. Dewey was twice nominated for president.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The first person to be profiled is Henry Clay, the successful speaker of the House and unsuccessful Whig Party candidate for president in 1844.

Underwood and Underwood

Charles Evans Hughes waged a “not very effective campaign” for president in 1916.

Associated Press

George S. McGovern, the senator who was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972.

But it’s doing so in an unusual way. On Friday night that public-affairs channel will start a 14-week series about the presidents who could have been but never were. Called “The Contenders” — purposefully not “The Losers” — the series is about politicians who lost elections but, to borrow from its self-description, “changed political history” anyway.

“The idea is to offer an alternative school of political history,” said Richard Norton Smith, the presidential historian who is a consultant to C-SPAN and who came up with the idea for the series. He said, “More than a few who were deemed losers in their time turned out to be winners in the longer run.”

The first person to be profiled is Henry Clay, the successful speaker of the House and unsuccessful Whig Party candidate for president in 1844 who was known as the Great Compromiser, revealing one of the reasons that Mr. Smith said the series was “not without relevance in our time.”

So many failed candidates now seem to be staples of our national news diet, whether it’s Sarah Palin with her “will she or won’t she?” run for president; Al Gore, with his continuing campaign about climate change; Mike Huckabee, with his new talk-show career; or even John Edwards, with his fall from the op-ed page to the tabloid cover. But the current crop didn’t inspire the series, said Mark Farkas, its executive producer.

“We knew we wanted to do a history series before the presidential election was really kicked off,” Mr. Farkas said Wednesday, taking a break from reviewing video clips for the Clay episode. Studying the runners-up, he said, is a “great way to track how people have run for the presidency and how they have interacted with the media.”

The most recent crop of candidates wouldn’t have qualified for the series. To be a contender the person had to have run for president before 1996. Mr. Farkas said Mr. Gore, who ran for president in 2000, was considered for the series, but the producing group decided that “history’s still being written about 2000.”

The series starts with Clay and ends on Dec. 9 with Ross Perot, who ran for president in 1992 (and again in 1996). In between are men — they are all men — like William Jennings Bryan, the three-time presidential candidate at the turn of the 20th century; Eugene V. Debs, the union leader who ran on a socialist platform five times, once from prison; Thomas E. Dewey, the New York governor who was the Republican nominee in 1944 and 1948; and George S. McGovern, the senator who was the Democratic nominee in 1972.

Mr. Smith said the producing team was careful to include an equal number of Republicans and Democrats and a “good sampling” of third-party candidates.

“You can play all sorts of parlor games with this topic,” he said. “Would these guys have been better than the people who beat them? How might history have been different?”

C-SPAN’s schedule is determined by Congress much of the time because the channel is committed to showing the House of Representatives whenever it is in session. But Friday night is typically free for original programming because the House tends to dismiss itself for the weekend. In 2007 Mr. Smith was a consultant for a Friday series that was set at presidential libraries. “We were combing the treasures of the collections,” he said.

Similarly, each 90-minute episode of “The Contenders” will be produced live from a location that was important in the life of the featured person. The episode about Clay will be broadcast from his former plantation in Lexington, Ky., which is significant, Mr. Farkas said, because “many of the compromises that Clay made were over slavery.” Guests on each episode will include estate or museum curators, outside historians and authors.

The locations are significant because “these people are really windows into their time period as well,” Mr. Farkas said.

Mr. Smith, who is a professor at George Mason University and the author of books about Dewey, Herbert Hoover, George Washington and others, became one of C-SPAN’s top house historians after befriending Brian Lamb, the founder and chief executive of the network. They have, Mr. Smith said with a laugh, a “curious basis for a friendship:” Mr. Lamb found out in 1993 that Mr. Smith had visited the grave site of every United States president and then decided to do the same. (There are no plans at the moment for a series about the grave sites.)

Mr. Smith said he perceived “The Contenders” to be an alternative to the constant coverage of the current Republican primary campaign, but relevant to the coverage too. Take Mr. Perot, for instance. “Perot put the deficit on the agenda in a way that made it virtually impossible for whoever won to avoid doing something about it,” he said.

Perhaps there are lessons too for the losers — or contenders — themselves. The Oct. 7 episode will profile Charles Evan Hughes, who governed New York before joining the Supreme Court in 1910. A Republican, Hughes waged a “not very effective campaign” for president in 1916, but then became the secretary of state and later the nation’s chief justice. He wrote opinions that supported elements of the New Deal and strengthened free-press protections and fended off a proposal to add more justices to the court.

“He never even served in Congress,” Mr. Smith said. “But it’s hard to find many public servants who did as much, as well, as long.”

A version of this article appeared in print on September 8, 2011, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Don’t Call Them ‘Losers’.
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