Scopes Monkey Trial


American History


Research paper (Scopes Monkey Trial) 3-1-04


The 1920’s was a time of prosperity, rebellion, drinking, and dancing for many people. There were traditionalists who did not agree with this type of society. One major example of traditionalists versus modernists in the 1920’s was the Scopes Monkey Trial. In this trial, a jury had to decide the fate of John Scopes, who taught evolution to high school students. This trial was not just about the teaching of evolution. It represented changing views of society, and what would now be socially accepted.


Long before the first day of the trial, there were many people talking about it. This trial would change history books. John Scopes, a substitute high school science teacher, and football coach was charged with illegally teaching the theory of evolution. Clarence Darrow, a brilliant lawyer specializing in defending underdogs volunteered to defend Scopes. William Jennings Bryan, an extremely well known politician was against Darrow and Scopes for this trial. The first day of trial was July 10, 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee. People, banners, lemonade stands, and chimpanzees crowded Main Street. There were nearly a thousand people in the courtroom the first day although there were only three hundred seats. There were also many people listening on the radio. It became the first ever American trial to be broadcast live on national radio.


Opening statements began with very strong viewpoints depicting the trial between good versus evil or truth versus ignorance. Bryan started by saying “If evolution wins, Christianity goes.” Darrow responded by saying the anti-evolution law made the Bible “The yardstick to measure every man’s intellect, to measure every man’s intelligence, to measure every man’s learning.” Both Darrow’s and Bryan’s strong statements were sure to get more publicity on the trial. As the days went on more and more people watched the trial unravel. By the sixth day there were about 5,000 spectators. The strong viewpoints continued well into the trial, and one of Darrow’s witnesses even got a standing ovation from the crowd after an amazing speech.


A couple more days passed and the judge had to move the trial to the lawn outside the courthouse because of the many spectators. On one very important day of the trial Darrow was allowed to interrogate Bryan. Knowing that Bryan had studied the Bible for over fifty years, he began asking him all sorts of questions. In response to Darrow\'s relentless questions as to whether the six days of creation were twenty-four hour days, Bryan said, "My impression is that they were periods." Then it was Bryan’s turn to interrogate Darrow, and both of the men grew more irritable as the questioning continued. There was an outburst by Bryan saying, “I want the world to know that this man, who does not believe in God, is trying to use a court in Tennessee.” He was then interrupted by Darrow’s objection. Bryan then continued by saying “your fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes.” After this statement the judge ordered the court adjourned. The press reported the day as a defeat for Bryan.


By then the trial was nearly over. Darrow asked the jury for a guilty verdict so the case could possibly be appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court and get a second change. Because of Tennessee law, Bryan was then unable to deliver his closing speech that he had been working on for weeks. The jury followed through with Darrow’s request, and fined Scopes one hundred dollars, but did not find Scopes guilty. The judge declared the case a mistrial. No one had really won or lost the case, and it neither killed nor promoted the anti-evolution crusade.


After eating an enormous supper six days after the trial, Bryan took a nap and died in his sleep. Reporters suggested that Bryan died of a broken heart. Then when Darrow heard the news, he replied by saying “Broken heart nothing, he died of a busted belly. His death is a great loss to the American people.”


The Scopes Monkey Trial was very publicized, although it never really had an outcome. Bryan and Darrow were very testy throughout the entire trial, and the American people loved to hear about it. A lot of people