Jeffrey P. Moran, The Scopes Trial, A Brief History with Documents
In the United States, there have not been many trials that gained the publicity that the Scopes trial did in the summer of 1925. Especially when considering the fact that most Americans heard about it through word of mouth, newspaper, or possibly radio; this was a big deal, because it had the attention of millions. At a time when society, business, and U.S. political structure was changing dramatically, controversy erupted during this trial, forcing American citizens to pick a side. Since writing his Origin of Species in 1859, the famous Charles Darwin had developed evidence that was difficult to argue with, claiming that humans had evolved from a lower life form. At this point in Protestant American history, most schools did not include this theory in their curriculum. John Scopes, a former high school science teacher, was indicted, and put on trial for teaching evolution in the town of Dayton, Tennessee; a town where this was against the law.
Prior to the trial, a group of men assembled at Robinson’s drug store in Dayton, Tennessee in efforts to formulate a plan to gain popularity for their small town. These group of men, including John Scopes, decided to provoke a “test trial” by having Scopes himself teach the doctrine of evolution in his class, directly opposing the Butler law. (pg. 24) The Butler law, or Butler bill was named after John Washington Butler, a rural Tennessee farmer who proposed the legislation of a law that prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools. Ultimately, it was a crime to teach anything that opposed what was taught in the Bible. The bill was passed, and it wasn’t even close; and soon several other states adopted the same law. The men that gathered and developed the idea to put Scopes on trial were referred to as civic boosters, or the Dayton “boosters” and eventually had the publicity they were aiming for, and maybe a bit...