Three Weeks In Dayton


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.’ ”


Time and again as Malone urged that teachers have the right to teach and children the right to learn, he was interrupted by an audience whose basic sympathies were with Bryan. But at the end there was a roar of applause that spread to people listening over loudspeakers on the courthouse lawn. Even the Chattanooga policeman assigned to keep order joined in the applause, rapping his nightstick against the judge’s bench.

I was young and had not heard the thousands of speeches to which I would be exposed in the years ahead, but as I think back, the Malone speech is one of the few I would like to hear again. H. L. Mencken, however, who stood across the courtroom, eyes atwinkle, lips twisted into a wry smile, pretended to be impressed only by the noise. When Malone came back to the defense table, Mencken told him: “Dudley, that was the loudest speech I ever heard.” But later in the afternoon, after the crowd had gone, Bryan said to Malone:

“Dudley, that was the greatest speech I ever heard.”

“Thank you, Mr. Bryan,” replied Malone. “I am sorry it was I who had to make it.”

Through the rest of the day the lawyers wrangled over precedents and abstractions, but the high spot had been passed and the trial was moving rapidly toward its tragic climax.

On Friday Judge Raulston ruled that it was not up to the court to decide which was true, the story of creation as related in Genesis or that depicted in the theory of evolution. He declined to admit the scientific testimony, provoking an angry dispute among attorneys during which Darrow criticized the court so caustically that the judge said:

“I hope you do not mean to reflect on the integrity of this court.”

Darrow thrust thumbs into his suspenders, glared belligerently at the judge, and replied, slowly and distinctly:

“Well, Your Honor has the right to hope.”

Raulston flushed and observed:

“I have a right to do something else, perhaps.”

“All right, all right,” said Darrow, turning his back defiantly upon the judge and walking back to the defense table.

Every reporter with courtroom experience waited in hushed expectancy, certain that Judge Raulston would send Darrow to jail for contempt. Instead, having ruled that the defense might introduce affidavits of what the experts would have testified if permitted, the judge adjourned court over the weekend so that these affidavits might be prepared.