Uphill All the Way: The Fortunes of Progressivism, 1919-1929
By Kevin C. Murphy, Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Click HERE to return to the full Table of Contents

Chapter Ten:
Culture and Consumption

Progressives and the Culture of the Twenties

V. Scopes and the Schism

I. A Distracted Nation.
II. The Descent of Man.
III. The Problem of Public Opinion.
IV. The Triumph of the Cynics.
V. Scopes and the Schism.
VI. Not with a Bang, but a Whimper.
VII. New World and a New Woman.
VIII. The Empire and the Experiment.

Lippmann's 1925 letter to Judge Hand about "parson-ridden people" was written in reaction to one of the significant cultural flashpoints of the decade: the Scopes Trial, in which a high-school science teacher, John Scopes of Dayton, Tennessee, was accused and ultimately convicted of violating the state's statute barring the teaching of evolution in public schools. With the Scopes trial, several cultural trends of the period converged, among them the widening schisms between both the religious and the secular-minded and, within Christianity, fundamentalists and modernists; the increasing faith in science and its demystifying of human origins, the growing contempt in elite intellectual circles -- fueled by Mencken, Main Street, and the Madison Square Garden disaster of 1924 -- for the agrarian "yokel," and the public and the press's penchant for ballyhoo and the amusing distraction.

In reflecting on that sweltering summer in Dayton, perhaps it is best to begin with what the Scopes trial was not. As historian Edward Larson noted in his 1998 re-telling of the case, Summer of the Gods, beginning with Frederick Lewis Allen's 1931 bestseller Only Yesterday, through the triumphalist writings of Richard Hofstadter and other Consensus historians of the 1950's, and culminating in the 1955 play and subsequent 1960 movie Inherit the Wind, which like Arthur Miller's The Crucible bent American history in service against McCarthyism, the Scopes Trial has often been depicted incorrectly. From these sources, it is remembered as the moment when the forces of science, Modernity, and liberalism -- spearheaded by prosecutor Clarence Darrow -- prevented the unjust persecution of a devoted schoolteacher, and won a smashing triumph over an aged and broken William Jennings Bryan and the archaic worldview of biblical literalists. The Scopes Trial "was Fundamentalism's last stand," argued a 1939 college textbook, The Story of Religion in America. It "dealt a deathblow to Fundamentalism," concurred author Irving Stone in 1941 -- which would be news to anyone who experienced the religious revivals of the 1970s and thereafter.1

In fact, the battle lines were not as clearly drawn that summer in Dayton, and fundamentalists didn't seem to think the Scopes trial was much of a defeat at all. (Indeed, they won the case.) Rather the trial worked to further widen the cultural conflicts of the day and hasten the continuing movement of progressivism away from its roots as a religious-tinged philosophy of moral improvement and towards its more modern, secular incarnation.

Like so much else in the decade, the split between fundamentalists and modernists in the Christian church had been greatly exacerbated by the experience of the War and its aftermath. Charles Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection had of course been a source of contention in the Christian tradition ever since the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, and the years 1910-1915 had seen the publication of The Fundamentals, a twelve-volume series of pamphlets edited by A.C. Dixon and financed by a Southern California millionaire that encouraged a return to a strict, literal reading of the Bible. Nonetheless, it was the experience of first the war, followed by the upheavals of the post-war period, that firmly drove a wedge between the fundamentalist and modernist wings of Christianity.2

Before and even during the War, fundamentalist-leaning thinkers ranged from the pacifist-minded Bryan, who resigned as Wilson's Secretary of State to protest the increasing militancy of the administration, to the bloodthirsty Billy Sunday, who spoke of Hell as a German-made creation and advocated the summary execution of suspected radicals. But as the World War progressed, fundamentalists -- like everyone else -- were continually exhorted to stand against the German menace in all its manifestations, including its increasingly secular Kultur. "The Kaiser boldly threw down the gage of battle -- infidel Germany against the believing world - Kultur against Christianity -- the Gospel of Hate against the Gospel of Love," proclaimed The King's Business, a religious publication of the time. "Never did Crusader lift battle-ax in holier war against the Saracen than is waged by our soldiers of the cross against the German."3


Whipped into a frenzy against the Hun, fundamentalists continued their holy battle for the soul of America into the post-war period, when the twin menaces of creeping Bolshevism and loosening morals suggested the nation was in danger of descending into Babylon. "It must be remembered that America was born of moral progenitors and founded on an eternally moral foundation," David S. Kennedy, editor of The Presbyterian, argued in an essay entitled "The American Crisis":
Her ancestors were Christian of a high order, purified by fire, and washed in blood. Her foundation is the Bible, the infallible Word of God. The decalogue written by the finger of God is her perfect guide in her religious and social life. There has been some weakening of this moral standard in the thought and life of America. This is the result of an age of luxury within and freedom of conflict from without. There is but one remedy: the nation must return to her standard of the Word of God. She must believe, love and live her Bible. This will require the counteraction of that German destructive criticism which has found its way into the religious and moral thought of our people as the conception and propaganda of the Reds have found their way with poisoning and overthrowing influence into their civil and industrial life. The Bible and the God of the Bible is our only hope.4
"America is narrowed to a choice," Kennedy averred. "She must restore the Bible to its historic place in the family, the day school, the college and university, the church and Sabbath -school, and thus through daily life and thought revive and build up her moral life and faith, or else she might collapse and fail the world in this crucial age." Put another way, America now desperately needed "fundamentalists," argued Baptist editor Curtis Lee Laws, coining a term, "to do battle royal for The Fundamentals." Among these, declared the editor of The Fundamentals himself, A.C. Dixon, had to be a stand against evolution -- the pernicious theory granting "the strong and fit the scientific right to destroy the weak and unfit" -- which had been embraced in Germany and led to the many atrocities of the Great War. America had always been about "defending the weak from the aggression of the strong," and so it had to be now. This fight against evolution, Dixon proclaimed, was part of "the conflict of the ages, darkness vs. light, Cain vs. Abel, autocracy vs. civilized democracy."5

Arrayed to take up this standard for the Bible and America were such notable figures as John Roach Straton, who had been waging his own battle against loose morals in New York City for some time and who, in 1924, won a notable Carnegie Hall debate over evolution against Unitarian minister Charles Francis Potter; Billy Sunday, the most popular evangelist in America, William Jennings Bryan, never one to miss a good crusade for the soul of the nation, and Princeton theologian John Gresham Machen, whose 1923 book Christianity and Liberalism laid down the fundamentalist argument for academic circles.6

"[T]he great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity," Machen informed his readers, "is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called 'modernism' or 'liberalism,'" even though, Machen maintained, "[t]he movement designated as 'liberalism' is 'liberal' only to its friends; to its opponents it seems to involve a narrow ignoring of many relevant facts." It is only right and proper in the contemporary age, Machen argued, to bring scientific ideas to bear on all facets of life. But, in trying to make Christianity compatible with science, Modernists had thrown the baby out with the bathwater - "In trying to remove from Christianity everything that could possibly be objected to in the name of science," he concluded, "the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend."7

The Modernists, meanwhile, including such figures as Harry Emerson Fosdick of New York and Shailer Mathews, dean of the University of Chicago divinity school, felt equally aggrieved about what they perceived as an attack on their liberal and tolerant approach to Christianity. Modernism, Mathews argued in his 1924 rebuttal to Machen, The Faith of Modernism, "is the use of the methods of modern science, to find, state and use the permanent and central values of inherited orthodoxy in meeting the needs of a modern world…Modernists endeavor to reach beliefs and their application in the same way that chemists or historians reach and apply their conclusions." As such, Modernism was the "use of scientific, historical, and social method in understanding and applying evangelical Christianity to the needs of living persons." The Bible, he argued, did not need necessarily have to be read literally - It could be taken as "a trustworthy record of a developing experience with God that nourishes our faith." Similarly, Christianity, Mathews argued, was not just blind adherence to ancient doctrines but the "process of an ever growing experience with God."8

Even if you disagreed with the Modernist approach, Fosdick sermonized in 1922, surely there was room for both Fundamentalists and Modernists to flourish under the banner of Christ, as they had in the years before the war. But, Fosdick argued, "the Fundamentalist program is essentially illiberal and intolerant." It aimed "to drive out of the evangelical churches men and women of liberal opinions…if the Fundamentalists should succeed, then out of the Christian Church would go some of the best Christian life and consecration of this generation-multitudes of men and women, devout and reverent Christians, who need the church and whom the church needs." Now, Fosdick argued, was not the time for a turf war. "The present world situation smells to heaven! And now, in the presence of colossal problems, which must be solved in Christ's name and for Christ's sake, the Fundamentalists propose to drive out from the Christian churches all the consecrated souls who do not agree with their theory of inspiration. What immeasurable folly!"9

In effect, the difference between fundamentalists and modernists mirrored the difference between originalist and progressive readings of the Constitution, or formalist and realist understandings of American law. The Fundamentalists saw the Bible as the literal truth of God and following it to the letter the sign of a good Christian, while the Modernists saw it as a holy text nonetheless rooted in history and culture, and thought being a Christian was more about embracing and reflecting the values of the Savior in life, rather than blindly adhering to the Word. "To make belief in Genesis and belief in Christ stand or fall together is absurd," one Modernist argued.10

Nonetheless, Fundamentalists did not believe their movement to be opposed to science, nor would they necessarily agree with Fosdick that their fight against evolution was inherently conservative. As Edward Larson notes, many Americans had long ago conflated Darwin's theory with the Social Darwinism that had followed in its wake, and as such "associated Darwinian natural selection, as it applied to people, with a survival-of-the-fittest mentality that justified laissez-faire capitalism, imperialism, and militarism." Evolution, Bryan argued in 1904, was "the merciless law by which the strong crowd out and kill off the weak." Standing against it was completely in tune with the stances Bryan had taken all his life. In his 1922 book In His Image, a series of lectures on his faith, Bryan explained further his contempt for the Darwinian idea:
Darwin's doctrine leads logically to war and to the worship of Nietzsche's "Superman"; the Bible tells us of the Prince of Peace and heralds the coming of the glad day when swords shall be beaten into ploughshares and when nations shall learn war no more.

Darwin's teachings drag industry down to the brute level and excite a savage struggle for selfish advantage; the Bible presents the claims of a universal brotherhood in which men will unite their efforts in the spirit of friendship.

As hope deferreth maketh the heart sick, so the doctrine of Darwin benumbs altruistic effort by prolonging indefinitely the time needed for reforms; the Bible assures us of the triumph of every righteous cause, reveals to the eye of faith the invisible hosts that fight on the side of Jehovah and proclaims the swift fulfillment of God's decrees…

Darwinism enthrones selfishness; the Bible crowns love as the greatest force in the world.11
"My father taught me to believe in Democracy as well as Christianity," Bryan said near the end of his days. Fighting evolution, in his eyes, was fighting for both. Nor was the Great Commoner opposed to the general march of science. True, he once wrote that "it is better to trust in the Rock of Ages than to know the age of rocks; it is better for one to know that he is close to the Heavenly Father than to know how far the stars in the heavens are apart." But, as he said elsewhere in In His Image: "Have faith in mankind. It is easier today for one to be helpful to the whole world than it was a few centuries ago to be helpful to the inhabitants of a single valley."12

Just as the religious impulses driving Bryan and the Fundamentalists to Dayton were more complicated than the Inherit the Wind model suggests, so too was the relationship of the pro-evolution forces to science. On one hand, many supporters of evolution pointed to "Piltdown Man" - the pieces of skull unearthed in 1912 from a gravel pit in Piltdown, England -- as definitive proof of Darwin's theory at the time. Bryan, meanwhile, scoffed in 1923 that when scientists "find a stray tooth in a gravel pit, they hold a conclave and fashion a creature such as they suppose the possessor of the tooth to have been, and then they shout derisively at Moses…Men who would not cross the street to save a soul have traveled across the world in search of skeletons." Though the world did not find out for sure until 1953, this round posthumously went to Bryan -- Piltdown Man had been an elaborate hoax, in which someone had artificially aged human and orangutan bones to create a "missing link."13

Evolution advocates of the time could not be expected to see through a hoax that confounded many of the world's preeminent scientists for forty years. Nonetheless, John Hunter's A Civic Biology -- the 1914 textbook from which John Scopes taught evolution - held some rather suspect notions of science in its pages as well. Two pages after discussing Darwin, Hunter explains the "five races or varieties of man, each very different from the others," with "the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America." Later on in the textbook, Hunter extrapolated from Darwinism to make the case for eugenics: "If the stock of domesticated animals can be improved, it is not unfair to ask if the health and vigor of the future generations of men and women on the earth might be improved by applying to them the laws of selection." Certain diseases such as tuberculosis and syphilis are "not only unfair but criminal to hand down to posterity. The science of being well-born is called eugenics."14

To make his case, Hunter informed students of the Jukes and Kallikak families:
Studies have been made on a number of different families in this country, in which mental and moral defects were present in one or both of the original parents. The "Jukes" family is a notorious example. The first mother is known as "Margaret, the mother of criminals." In seventy-five years the progeny of the original generation has cost the state of New York over a million and a quarter dollars, besides giving over to the care of prisons and asylums considerably over a hundred feeble-minded, alcoholic, immoral, or criminal persons. Another case recently studied is the "Kallikak" family. This family has been traced back to the War of the Revolution, when a young soldier named Martin Kallikak seduced a feeble-minded girl. She had a feeble-minded son from whom there have been to the present time 480 descendants. Of these 33 were sexually immoral, 24 confirmed drunkards, 3 epileptics, and 143 feeble-minded. The man who started this terrible line of immorality and feeble-mindedness later married a normal Quaker girl. From this couple a line of 496 descendants have come, with no cases of feeble-mindedness. The evidence and the moral speak for themselves!15
"Hundreds of families such as those described above exist today," the textbook further explained, "spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe…They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing return. They are true parasites." And "The Remedy," as Civic Biology helpfully suggested? "If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race." In sum, Scopes' textbook had come very far afield from just a basic explanation of Darwin's theory of evolution, and introduced exactly the sorts of normative and anti-democratic claims that Bryan had fretted about.16

In any case, high school teacher John T. Scopes was arrested in May 1925 for violating the Butler Act, a first-of-its-kind law that passed in February of that year prohibiting the teaching of evolution. (Fourteen other states had introduced similar legislation.) But, here again, the facts of the case belie the inexorable clash-of-cultures view of the trial that would become popular in later years, especially after Inherit the Wind portrayed angry townspeople pulling the defendant from class. In reality, and in response to the Butler Act, the American Civil Liberties Union, continuing its postwar defense of academic freedom all across the country, placed an ad in the Chattanooga Times "looking for a Tennessee teacher who is willing to accept our services in testing this law in the courts. Our lawyers think a friendly test can be arranged without costing a teacher his or her job. Distinguished counsel have volunteered their services. All we need now is a willing client."17

In Knoxville, educators shrugged. "Our teachers have a hard enough time teaching the children how to distinguish between plant and animal life," one superintendent noted. But in the small, struggling mining and railroad town of Dayton, Tennessee, a mine manager named George W. Rappleyea saw in the ACLU request an opportunity for civic boosterism and much-needed publicity for the town. After feeling out some of the town fathers, such as school superintendent Walter White and local drugstore owner Frank Robinson, Rappleyea pitched the idea first to two local lawyers, Herbert and Sue Hicks, and then to Scopes, who taught general science - not biology - and helped to coach the football team. When Scopes agreed to be "arrested" by the brothers Hicks, Rappleyea informed the ACLU, who quickly accepted the offer and even agreed to pay the prosecution's expenses, and Robinson called the papers. "Something has happened that going to put Dayton on the map!" White exulted to a local reporter.18

Did it ever. The ACLU had hoped Scopes' prosecution could form the beginning of a legal strategy to overcome the Butler Act. But their plans went awry as soon as Bryan, sensing a possible great debate emerging over evolution in Dayton, asked the prosecution if he could join their team -- despite not having taken a case in over thirty years. ("I shall, of course, serve without compensation," he noted.) Once Bryan was on board, Clarence Darrow -- who took every opportunity to badger the Great Commoner -- wanted in as well. A lifelong agnostic, Darrow thought the Christian notions of original sin and salvation were "a very dangerous doctrine" and "silly, impossible, and wicked." "It is not the bad people I fear so much as the good people," he once said to a group of prisoners. "When a person is sure that he is good, he is nearly hopeless; he gets cruel - he believes in punishment." The Book of Genesis, Darrow thought, had filled man with the "idea of his importance," while the theory of evolution helped men become "gentler, kindlier, and more humane toward all the infinite forms of being that live with us, and must die with us." (Darrow, it should be noted, had no truck with eugenicists.)19

Along with New York lawyer Dudley Field Malone -- and much to the consternation of the ACLU, who felt they had now completely lost control of events -- Darrow wired Scopes' defense team offering his services "without fees or expenses." For publicity purposes, Rappleyea and Dayton's other boosters had hoped H.G. Wells would mount the defense, but the famed defender of Leopold & Loeb was an excellent second option. The day after his services were accepted, Darrow -- telegraphing his legal strategy -- began to lob rhetorical grenades at Bryan. "Nero tried to kill Christianity with persecution and law," he averred. "Bryan would block enlightenment with law. Had Mr. Bryan's ideas of what a man may do towards free thinking existed throughout history, we would still be hanging and burning witches and punishing persons who thought the earth was round."20

To the delight of Dayton's townsfolk, the trial was now a full-fledged media circus -- monkeys soon adorned all the shops on Main Street, as well as the police motorcycle ("Monkeyville Police") and town delivery van ("Monkeyville Express.") The town prepared for 30,000 visitors, although in the end 3000 came to the trial -- among them H.L. Mencken, who declared that Dayton "greatly surprised me. I expected to find a squalid Southern village, with darkies snoozing on the houseblocks, pigs rooting under the houses and the inhabitants full of hookworm and malaria. What I found was a country town full of charm and even beauty." After Scopes was formally indicted -- thanks to the testimony of students who Scopes had coached to help the case go forward -- both the prosecution and the defense looked to bolster their case with experts. The problem was Bryan and the prosecution, now including Tom Stewart, the attorney general of Dayton's district, could not find any scientists who wanted to go on record against evolution. And the defense -- now augmented with ACLU veteran Arthur Garfield Hays -- could find few notable defenders of evolution who wanted to be upstaged by a man as controversial as Darrow.21

When the trial began in July, the actual legal arguments being made for and against Scopes were relatively cut and dried. This was a question of majority rule, the prosecution noted. The duly elected representatives of Tennessee had passed a statute outlawing the teaching of evolution in private schools, as was their right based on substantive legal precedent. As such, Stewart argued, "Mr. Scopes might have taken his stand on the street corners and expounded until he became hoarse, but he cannot go into the public schools…and teach his theory." Darrow and the defense, meanwhile, emphasized the issue of church and state separation. (For the same reason, Darrow continually argued the customary pre-trial prayer each day was prejudicial.) "[T]he people of Tennessee adopted a constitution, and they made it broad and plain, and said that the people of Tennessee should always enjoy religious freedom in its broadest terms," Darrow told the court, "so I assume that no legislature could fix a course of study which violated that."22

Of course, both Bryan and Darrow had bigger fish to fry, and the innocence or guilt of John Scopes was only a convenient excuse to have a great debate. "If evolution wins, Christianity goes," Bryan prophesied. "There is not a scientist in all the world who can trace one single species to any other…And yet they call us ignoramuses and bigots because we do not throw away our Bible." Most scientists, Bryan contended, "do not believe there is a God or personal immortality, and they want to teach that to these children." Darrow, meanwhile, declared that "Scopes isn't on trial, civilization is on trial" and that the fundamentalists aimed "to kindle religious bigotry and hate" by putting their beliefs over everyone else's. "The state of Tennessee…has no more right to teach the Bible as the divine book than that the Koran is one, or the book of Mormon, or the book of Confucius, or the Buddha, or the Essays of Emerson. There is nothing else, your Honor, that has caused the difference of opinion, of bitterness, of hatred, of war, of cruelty, that religion has caused."23

The defining moment of the Scopes trial occurred on its seventh day, after the court had reconvened outside due to concerns about the heat and the size of the crowd, and after Mencken and many of the journalists in attendance, presuming a guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion, had left town. Then, even as the prosecution urged him to reconsider, William Jennings Bryan took the stand at the request of Darrow and Arthur Hays. ("They came here to try revealed religion," Bryan had said. "I am here to defend it, and they can ask me any questions they please.") Thus proceeded two hours of testimony in which Darrow, using every trick in his lawyerly arsenal, badgered Bryan with numerous questions designed to expose the absurdities of biblical literalism. Did God really create the world in seven days? Did He really make Eve from Adam's Rib? When God stopped the world for Joshua, did He stop the Earth or the Sun? Was the Earth really only 4000 years old? Was Jonah really swallowed by a whale? Where did Cain's wife come from? And so forth. Bryan tried to answer as best he could, but eventually wore down under the barrage, increasingly declaring he did not know or care about the answer -- He just kept the faith. "I am simply trying to protect the word of God against the greatest atheist or agnostic in the United States!" Bryan bellowed at one point. "The only purpose Mr. Darrow has is to slur the Bible," he said near the end, to which the Darrow replied his purpose was "examining your fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes." As Darrow later wrote to Mencken, "I made up my mind to show the country what an ignoramus he was and I succeeded."24

The jury never even heard Darrow's evisceration of Bryan, and in the end, the defense encouraged them in a verdict of guilty to preserve the case for an appeal. (Wanting the whole thing to go away, the Tennessee Supreme Court later overturned Scopes' conviction on a technicality and convinced the state Attorney General to drop the charges.) As far as the jury of public opinion goes, most newspapermen agreed that Darrow had succeeded in making the Great Commoner and the Fundamentalists look silly -- but also thought the Great Crusade was by no means over. "The trial at Dayton is no more than an opening skirmish," reported The Literary Digest in its coverage of the coverage, "and other papers and commentators agree that it may mark the beginning of a great fight between the Fundamentalists and the Modernists." Bryan seemed ready for such a fight. Angered by the demeaning experience but flush with victory in the actual case, he began prepping an anti-evolution speech that he planned to deliver all over the country. By the end of the week, however, he was dead. "God aimed at Darrow, missed, and hit Bryan instead," quipped Mencken in print. Privately, he allegedly exclaimed "We killed the son-of-a-bitch!"25


Reflecting on the Scopes trial five years later, Jane Addams argued with characteristic magnanimity that, more than anything else, it had been an opportunity for "Education by the Current Event," or what later generations would call a "teachable moment." The trial had "brought before the entire country a public discussion of fundamentalism versus evolution," she argued. "While there was no doubt that the overwhelming public opinion concerning the Tennessee trial was on the side of liberality both in politics and religion, the group of so-called narrow-minded men had made their own contribution to our national education." For one, "they had asserted the actuality of religion. It is always difficult to convince youth that reality reaches upward as well as outward, and that the higher planes of life contain anything but chilly sentiments." For another, and as per Dewey, they had managed to bring two diverse publics in American life into communication. "Nothing could have been further from the experiences and mental processes of the intelligentsia of a cosmopolitan city and these mountaineers, nothing more diverse than the two methods of approach to the time-old question of the origin of man. Only a molten current event," such as the Scopes trial, "could have accomplished a simultaneous discussion upon the same theme by these two bodies of people."26

For many other progressives, however, the Scopes trial had just been a sideshow that further confirmed them in their biases. Walter Lippmann, for example, saw in it yet another flaw in democracy. "[I]n Tennessee the people used their power to prevent their own children from learning, not merely the doctrine of evolution, but the spirit and method by which learning is possible…They had founded popular government on the faith in popular education, and they had used the prerogatives of democracy to destroy the hopes of democracy." In short, he wrote, "the votes of a majority do not settle anything here and they are entitled to no respect whatever." The New Republic, meanwhile, deemed the trial "a trivial thing full of humbuggery and hypocrisy." The case should have been open and shut -- the law was on the books, and Scopes willfully broke it. But by prosecuting Bryan in such a manner, TNR said, what Darrow and the defense had "succeeded in doing is to cheapen not only the trial but the issue by subordinating both of them to the exigencies of theatrical newspaper publicity."27

Despite Darrow's bad behavior, however, TNR thought the trial, and the law that had precipitated it, made clear that something was seriously wrong with "the prevailing system of clerical and religious training. Some day American opinion will realize that the supposed Christian culture which the average minister now receives in the denominational schools is the most serious obstacle in America to human liberation and enlightenment." The church, they concluded, "will continue to lose prestige until it prepares itself for its social responsibilities by squaring its accounts with contemporary technology and science."28

Two decades earlier, progressives could look to the pope's 1893 encyclical Rerum Novarum, to the Social Gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch, and to religious reformers like Father John Ryan and feel that the Church was with them in their quest to remold the state for the better. But, in forcing a decision between religion and science, or more to the point between the apparently hopelessly retrograde fundamentalism of Bryan and the acerbic agnosticism of Darrow, Mencken, and the Smart Set, the Scopes trial worked to further alienate a generation from their Christian reformist roots. "[R]eform lost its most powerful public appeal and its strongest potential adhesive when it became separated from Christianity," historian David Danbom has argued. "Nothing else -- not science, nor nationalism, nor some vague commitment to the public interest -- would ever work as well…The day when Christianity and liberalism were separated was a sad one for reform in this country, for it cost it much of its force, power, and idealism." And having already come to doubt the fundamental tenets of democracy, progressivism, and even reason itself over the course of the decade, thinkers in the Twenties now increasingly saw faith as no fallback.29

Continue to Chapter 10, Pt. 6: Not with a Bang, but a Whimper.

Return to the Table of Contents.

1. Edward Larson, Summer of the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 225-229.
2. George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press), 2006 , 7-8, 118-120.
3. Marsden, 150-151.
4. Marsden, 159.
5. Marsden, 159-161. As Marden notes, tensions between Fundamentalists and Modernists were particularly strong in the Presbyterian and Baptist churches both of which were broad and diverse enough congregations to accommodate rural Southern and urban Northern wings.
6. Larson, 123.
7. John Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (USA: The Trustees, 1923), 2-3, 6-7.
8. Shailer Matthews, The Faith of Modernism (New York: Macmillan Company, 1925), 22-23. Marsden, 176-177.
9. Harry Emerson Fosdick, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" Christian Work 102 (June 10, 1922): 716-722. Reprinted at http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5070/
10. Larson, 118.
11. Marsden, 176-177. Larson, 27, 37. William Jennings Bryan, In His Image (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1922), 132-135.
12. Leuchtenburg, 219. Carter, 82.
13. Larson, 29-32.
14. Carter, 95. George William Hunter, A Civic Biology Presented in Problems (New York: American Book Company, 1914), 193-196, 261-263. Courtesy of the Clarence Darrow Collection: http://darrow.law.umn.edu/documents/Hunter_Civic_Biology_1914.pdf
15. Ibid, 263.
16. Ibid.
17. Larson, 82-83.
18. Larson, 88-91.
19. Larson, 71-72, 98-100, 135.
20. Larson, 102-103.
21. Larson, 93, 105, 108, 129-132, 134-136.
22. Larson, 162-163.
23. Jeffrey P. Moran, The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 44. Douglas O. Linder, "State vs. John D. Scopes ("The Monkey Trial"), University of Missouri-Kansas City Famous Cases (http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/evolut.htm) Larson, 160-164.
24. Moran, 46-47. Larson, 188-190.
25. Larson, 192-199, 202.
26. Addams, Second Twenty Years, 383-384.
27. Lippmann, Men of Destiny, 49. Steel, 217-219. Larson, 202. "The Baiting of Judge Raulston," The New Republic, July 29th, 1925 (Vol. 43, No. 556), 249-250.
28. "The Baiting of Judge Raulston," TNR, 250.
29. Danbom, 227.

[Download Uphill all the Way: The Fortunes of Progressivism, 1919-1929 as a PDF.]

Main Page/Family/Links/Gallery/Biography/Soapbox/Resume/Writings/Weblog

If you found this dissertation useful or entertaining, please consider contributing to the tip fund.
Alas, history isn't the wildly remunerative discipline it used to be.