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Three Weeks In Dayton
The “Monkey Trial” brought two ideologies into a great conflict, and it was very, very hot
June 1975 | Volume 26, Issue 4
Early Saturday afternoon at the Rogers home, where Bryan was taking a nap after lunch, I was talking with his secretary, W. E. Thompson, when a man came up the walk and asked if Mr. Bryan was there. Thompson replied that he was resting.
“Will you give these to him for me?” asked the man and thrust a bunch of homegrown flowers into Thompson’s hands. Thompson assured him that he would and expressed his thanks. The man turned and walked away. He was one of the jurors.
On Monday the defense moved that the indictment against Scopes be quashed because, among other things, the law was unconstitutional. The lawyers argued this motion all day while Bryan sat silent, waving his fan.
When court began on Tuesday, Darrow raised an objection against opening court sessions with prayer. He said a case involving a contest between science and religion should not be subjected to influences that lay outside a court of law. The lawyers wrangled, Bryan listened, and Raulston overruled the objection, then adjourned to prepare his decision on quashing the indictment.
On his way across the courthouse lawn the judge was joined by Bill Hutchinson of INS, who asked if he planned to read the decision that afternoon. Raulston replied that he would. Hutch then asked: “Will you open court tomorrow with prayer?” And the judge replied: “Yes.”
Obviously if the indictment were to be quashed, there would be no court on the next day. Hutch had his story: the indictment would not be quashed. By the time the judge got back to the courtroom from lunch, Hearst papers and other clients of INS were on the streets in many cities proclaiming that the judge would not halt the trial.
Besieged by protesting reporters, the judge declared he would not read his decision until Wednesday and appointed a committee of correspondents to investigate “the leak.” On Wednesday the committee suggested that the judge forget about the incident. When he pressed for an explanation, Raulston learned that he himself had been the source of the leak. He gave Hutchinson a mild lecture on the evils of tricking judges, then read a ruling denying the move to quash the indictment.
At length the prosecution managed to make its opening presentation. Walter White, county school superintendent, and F. E. Robinson, head of the county board of education, testified that Scopes had admitted he had taught evolution. Two high-school students told what they could remember about the teaching, and one admitted under Darrow’s questioning that the teaching had not caused him to quit his church. This was the state’s case.
Finally, with the odor of roasting beef drifting through the windows from the barbecue pit below, Harrow called his first witness. Dr. Maynard M. Metcalf, a zoologist from Johns Hopkins University, had come to give expert testimony on the theory of evolution.
Metcalf had taught at Oberlin before going to Johns Hopkins and, as a Congregationalist deacon, had taught the Bible. He said scientists were fairly well agreed on the theory of evolution, but not on its details.
Arguments over whether such testimony should be admitted finally prevented Metcalf from finishing, and at the outset of Thursday’s session Stewart moved to exclude scientific testimony. He and Darrow wrangled over the motion until noon.
After lunch, which for reporters came from the barbecue stand on the lawn, Bryan took the stage for his major speech. His mind was not as sharp as it once had been, but he had not lost his intuitive sense of handling an audience. At times he forgot he was not in a Chautauqua tent, turning his back upon the judge and facing the applause and “Amens” of his followers. At length he reached the climax of his speech:
“These people come in from outside the state and force upon … this state and upon the children of the taxpayers of this state a doctrine that refutes not only their belief in God but their belief in a Saviour and belief in heaven and takes from them every moral standard that the Bible gives us.”
Although his memory had slipped more than once and he had been discomfited by questions from Darrow, Bryan came back to his seat in the midst of an ovation.
Then Dudley Field Malone, cool and elegant, rose from among the defense attorneys, stood for a moment, and for the first time took off his coat, folded it neatly, and laid it on the counsel table. The day before, referring to Bryan’s earlier “modernist views,” Malone had quoted him as once having written that if God would not force man to accept certain religious views, then man should not use such means.
Now, for a second time, Malone took his attack directly to Bryan.
In twenty minutes, voice ringing with passionate appeal, Malone, a divorce lawyer in a community where solidity of marriage was a creed, a Catholic among Protestants, a liberal among fundamentalists, proceeded to take the audience away from Bryan.
“The difference between the theological mind and the scientific mind is that the theological mind is closed because that is what is revealed and is settled. But the scientist says, ‘No, the Bible is the book of revealed religion with rules of conduct and with aspirations—that is the Bible.’ The scientists say, ‘Take the Bible as an inspiration, as a set of philosophies and preachments in the world of theology.’ ”