Scopes Trial: Bryan’s Closing Argument

William Jennings Bryan

William Jennings Bryan

You know what we think about William Jennings Bryan, the Great Populist Blowhard. He was born March 19, 1860. The 150th anniversary of his birthday passed, largely unnoticed, almost 90 days ago.

Bryan supported Woodrow Wilson for the presidency in 1912, and he served as Wilson’s Secretary of State. Bryan also championed the income tax, the Prohibition amendment, and debased currency. He was opposed to free enterprise — especially banks and railroads — always favoring increased regulation and government control over the economy. Bryan also supported the 17th Amendment, which changed the process for selecting members of the US Senate from the original method — according to which they were appointed by state legislatures — to our present method of direct election. And Bryan always enjoyed the support of the Klan in his election campaigns. All in all, he was an extremely loathsome character.

In addition to his other abominable deeds, Bryan can be credited for being the original ape-ancestor of all creationists in the so-called “social conservative” movement. Most such people now vote Republican, but we should remember that in Bryan’s day they were fiercely loyal Democrats. We explained that peculiarity of history here: Let’s Have William Jennings Bryan Day!

Amusingly, Glenn Beck of the Fox News Network is engaged in an enduring campaign to educate his viewers about the evils of populism and the Wilson administration — which are evil indeed — but he never mentions Bryan. That’s like lecturing on the Russian Revolution and never mentioning Lenin. We posted about this absurdity a year ago: Hey, Glenn Beck!

As all the world knows, Bryan’s greatest (i.e., most infamous) moment was in 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee — as prosecutor in the Scopes Trial.

There were no closing arguments made at the trial’s conclusion. That’s because Clarence Darrow waived closing argument on behalf of the defense, and thus Bryan wasn’t allowed to present a closing argument. But he had prepared one and he made it available. It’s been published.

We found an online copy is here: Text of the Closing Statement of William Jennings Bryan at the trial of John Scopes. It’s at the website of California State University, Dominguez Hills, although we can’t figure out who posted it there.

[Addendum: It was posted by Oliver Seely, PhD, a chemistry professor. He says he’s retiring and his page will be gone by the end of the year. Download Bryan’s argument if you want to keep it. The Bryan argument is one item on Seeley’s page of handouts.]

We checked the online text against our own copy; it’s accurate. The complete transcript of the Scopes trial — including Bryan’s undelivered closing argument — was published by the National Book Company of Cincinnati in 1925, shortly after the trial. Used copies are available, for example from Amazon. Our copy is a reprint.

Take your time and read the whole thing. It’s quite an educational experience. You will note that all of Bryan’s arguments are still in use by creationists.

Bryan’s problem wasn’t that he was religious, or that he was scientifically ignorant. Those conditions describe millions of people, and they don’t do any of the damage that Bryan accomplished in his lifetime. No, dear reader, Bryan’s problem was far more basic: He was stark raving mad.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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5 responses to “Scopes Trial: Bryan’s Closing Argument

  1. satchmodog

    The more I dig, the more I find there to be a terrible streak of populism still floating through rural America. All of the crap this Blowhard stood for, including cretardation, would suit so much of Rural America today.

  2. satchmodog says:

    The more I dig, the more I find there to be a terrible streak of populism still floating through rural America.

    You don’t need to dig very deep to find it.

  3. satchmodog

    By dig I mean question so-called conservatives. Seems so many are the old convert democrats who vote R now for various reasons.

    THey talk about personal responsibility and wanting freedom from gubbmint. Yet so many are on some sort of government aid and most want to see anyone with more than them hammered into oblivion by the government.

    It’s so disappointing to hear populist crap come out of peoples mouths.

    Nice place you have here PH. I keep forgetting you are around. I put you on my toolbar next to my other favorite places. I really have to drop by on a daily basis. Always great reading here.

  4. satchmodog says: “I keep forgetting you are around.”

    That’s easy to do. Good to see you here.

  5. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose . . .