Keeping the Faith: God, Democracy, and the Trial That Riveted a Nation
“Brenda Wineapple’s wonderful account of the Scopes trial sheds light not only on the battles of the past but on the struggles of the present.”—Jon Meacham
 
In this magnificent book, award-winning author of The Impeachers brings to life the dramatic story of the 1925 Scopes trial, which captivated the nation and exposed profound divisions in America that still resonate today—divisions over the meaning of freedom, religion, education, censorship, and civil liberties in a democracy.

“Propulsive . . . a terrific story about a pivotal moment in our history.”—Ken Burns

“No subject possesses the minds of men like religious bigotry and hate, and these fires are being lighted today in America.” So said legendary attorney Clarence Darrow as hundreds of people descended on the sleepy town of Dayton, Tennessee, for the trial of a schoolteacher named John T. Scopes, who was charged with breaking the law by teaching evolution to his biology class in a public school.

Brenda Wineapple explores how and why the Scopes trial quickly seemed a circus-like media sensation, drawing massive crowds and worldwide attention. Darrow, a brilliant and controversial lawyer, said in his electrifying defense of Scopes that people should be free to think, worship, and learn. William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic nominee for president, argued for the prosecution that evolution undermined the fundamental, literal truth of the Bible and created a society without morals, meaning, and hope.

In Keeping the Faith, Wineapple takes us into the early years of the twentieth century—years of racism, intolerance, and world war—to illuminate, through this pivotal legal showdown, a seismic period in American history. At its heart, the Scopes trial dramatized conflicts over many of the fundamental values that define America, and that continue to divide Americans today.
"1144393075"
Keeping the Faith: God, Democracy, and the Trial That Riveted a Nation
“Brenda Wineapple’s wonderful account of the Scopes trial sheds light not only on the battles of the past but on the struggles of the present.”—Jon Meacham
 
In this magnificent book, award-winning author of The Impeachers brings to life the dramatic story of the 1925 Scopes trial, which captivated the nation and exposed profound divisions in America that still resonate today—divisions over the meaning of freedom, religion, education, censorship, and civil liberties in a democracy.

“Propulsive . . . a terrific story about a pivotal moment in our history.”—Ken Burns

“No subject possesses the minds of men like religious bigotry and hate, and these fires are being lighted today in America.” So said legendary attorney Clarence Darrow as hundreds of people descended on the sleepy town of Dayton, Tennessee, for the trial of a schoolteacher named John T. Scopes, who was charged with breaking the law by teaching evolution to his biology class in a public school.

Brenda Wineapple explores how and why the Scopes trial quickly seemed a circus-like media sensation, drawing massive crowds and worldwide attention. Darrow, a brilliant and controversial lawyer, said in his electrifying defense of Scopes that people should be free to think, worship, and learn. William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic nominee for president, argued for the prosecution that evolution undermined the fundamental, literal truth of the Bible and created a society without morals, meaning, and hope.

In Keeping the Faith, Wineapple takes us into the early years of the twentieth century—years of racism, intolerance, and world war—to illuminate, through this pivotal legal showdown, a seismic period in American history. At its heart, the Scopes trial dramatized conflicts over many of the fundamental values that define America, and that continue to divide Americans today.
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Keeping the Faith: God, Democracy, and the Trial That Riveted a Nation

Keeping the Faith: God, Democracy, and the Trial That Riveted a Nation

by Brenda Wineapple
Keeping the Faith: God, Democracy, and the Trial That Riveted a Nation

Keeping the Faith: God, Democracy, and the Trial That Riveted a Nation

by Brenda Wineapple

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Notes From Your Bookseller

Dealing with essential issues that America still struggles with today, Keeping the Faith is a rich and rewarding narrative of past and present built around one monumental trial.

“Brenda Wineapple’s wonderful account of the Scopes trial sheds light not only on the battles of the past but on the struggles of the present.”—Jon Meacham
 
In this magnificent book, award-winning author of The Impeachers brings to life the dramatic story of the 1925 Scopes trial, which captivated the nation and exposed profound divisions in America that still resonate today—divisions over the meaning of freedom, religion, education, censorship, and civil liberties in a democracy.

“Propulsive . . . a terrific story about a pivotal moment in our history.”—Ken Burns

“No subject possesses the minds of men like religious bigotry and hate, and these fires are being lighted today in America.” So said legendary attorney Clarence Darrow as hundreds of people descended on the sleepy town of Dayton, Tennessee, for the trial of a schoolteacher named John T. Scopes, who was charged with breaking the law by teaching evolution to his biology class in a public school.

Brenda Wineapple explores how and why the Scopes trial quickly seemed a circus-like media sensation, drawing massive crowds and worldwide attention. Darrow, a brilliant and controversial lawyer, said in his electrifying defense of Scopes that people should be free to think, worship, and learn. William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic nominee for president, argued for the prosecution that evolution undermined the fundamental, literal truth of the Bible and created a society without morals, meaning, and hope.

In Keeping the Faith, Wineapple takes us into the early years of the twentieth century—years of racism, intolerance, and world war—to illuminate, through this pivotal legal showdown, a seismic period in American history. At its heart, the Scopes trial dramatized conflicts over many of the fundamental values that define America, and that continue to divide Americans today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593229927
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/13/2024
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 53,011
Product dimensions: 6.39(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.31(d)

About the Author

Brenda Wineapple’s books include The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation, selected by a New York Times critic as one of the ten best nonfiction works of 2019; Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848–1877, a New York Times Notable Book; and White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. A recipient of a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship, and a Pushcart Prize, among other honors, Wineapple has also received three National Endowment Fellowships, including its Public Scholars Award. She writes regularly for such publications as The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2023, she was selected a Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Beginning of Wisdom


1858–1914

Clarence Darrow, the famous labor lawyer from Chicago, had stood tall in the public’s eye for almost two decades, and even those who didn’t much like him respected his vigorous defense of what seemed to be hopeless cases. That was until he himself was put on trial, twice, in 1912 and 1913, for attempting to bribe a juror. Though he was acquitted the first time, the second trial ended in a hung jury. His reputation seemed beyond repair. Then came the 1920s and his second act, and Clarence Darrow was over sixty years old.

Earlier, in 1887, when Darrow first arrived in Chicago, it was a city of immigrants, of Poles and Hungarians, Irish and Italians, Germans and Jews, a smoldering place of grime, noise, wind, and graft with more than a million people and still growing, a city where the smell of blood wafted from the stockyards and animals screeched in the slaughterhouses.

Chicago was perfect for Clarence Darrow, a young and ambitious lawyer from the provinces eager to put village life behind. Before Darrow arrived, Bryan had been in Chicago studying law for two unhappy years and yearned, he said, to return to the rural life he idealized. But Darrow adored the city, with its noise and energy and people living there from all over the world. America’s rail lines converged in Chicago. “Corn, hogs, wheat, iron, coal, industrialism—a new age moving across a continent by railroads,” the novelist Sherwood Anderson would recall. In his novel Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser sent his hungry heroine Carrie Meeber to Chicago, where she gazed longingly at bright merchandise she couldn’t afford in that city of Armour, Swift, McCormick, Pullman, and Marshall Field, the Chicago barons. John D. Rockefeller had endowed the new University of Chicago. “Education ran riot at Chicago,” Henry Adams said drily.

The civic leader and social reformer Jane Addams had opened the doors of her Hull House settlement in Chicago’s sweatshop district and offered hot lunches, university extension courses, and lectures, along with gymnastics and language classes, to the immigrants who had flooded into the city. Hull House residents prodded the city council into building a public bathhouse and agitated for the inspection of factories. This too was Chicago. The homeless slept on the floors of City Hall. British author H. G. Wells said Chicago was like a prospectors’ camp, and German sociologist Max Weber compared the city to a human with its skin removed.

Darrow embraced all of it. For him, there was no going back.

Clarence Darrow had been raised in Kinsman, Ohio, a village about two miles east of Farmdale, in the northeastern part of the state, where he’d been born in 1857. His parents, abolitionists, helped fugitives escape slavery to find safe harbor in Canada, and every Sunday Darrow’s father would read to his brood of children from the sermons of the abolitionist preacher Theodore Parker. And it was a brood. Seven children had survived infancy, including Clarence, and together they lived in a wood-frame octagon house, a style which the phrenologist and reformer Orson Squire Fowler had been promoting as an efficient and healthful and ventilated use of space, with more light and fewer dark hallways. (P. T. Barnum had one built in Connecticut.)

By most mid-nineteenth-century measures, the Darrows were fairly eccentric. One of Darrow’s brothers was christened Channing Ellery after William Ellery Channing, the antislavery preacher; another was named Edward Everett Darrow to honor the orator, diplomat, and former Massachusetts governor, Senator Edward Everett. “Seward” was Clarence’s middle name, out of his parents’ admiration for New York senator William Seward (later Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State), who had proclaimed “there is a higher law than the Constitution”—that of inalienable human freedom.

Clarence Darrow believed that too, up to a point. Human law was made by human hands.

Darrow’s father, Amirus, had studied for the ministry at the Meadville Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania but somewhere along the way lost his faith. Locals in his village dubbed him “Deny” Darrow because he denied that the Bible was the literal word of God. A frustrated, dreamy, and well-read man with too many children to feed, Amirus Darrow reminded Clarence that John Stuart Mill was just three years old when Mill began to learn Greek. Young Clarence preferred baseball. But Amirus taught him a lesson he never forgot: “Doubt was the beginning of wisdom, and the fear of God was the end of wisdom.”

Darrow was a sensitive child. He wouldn’t venture inside his father’s workshop at night because Amirus, a cabinetmaker, was also the local undertaker and kept a supply of caskets right there in the corner. When Clarence was told his pet chicken had to be killed and eaten before it grew old and tough, he ran outdoors and would not come back inside while the chicken was cooking. Nor would he eat anything for the rest of that day. Nor would he eat chicken ever again.

Darrow told his first biographer that his mother, Emily Eddy Darrow, regarded displays of affection as a sign of weakness. Claiming he barely remembered her—untrue—he said, “I know that I must have loved her, for I can never forget the bitterness of my despair and grief when they told me she must die.” The fifteen-year-old Clarence stared for a very long time at her open coffin in the darkened front parlor and, in later years, found no comfort in homilies about immortality or the soul. No one had the right, especially not the state, to deprive anyone of anything as precious, fragile, and fleeting as life.

After just a year at Allegheny College, Darrow returned to Kinsman, the depression of 1873 having wreaked havoc on the family fortunes, such as they were. To earn money, he taught in a nearby school, and on the way home he often stopped by the tinsmith’s shop, since the tinsmith happened to be the justice of the peace. Darrow later reminisced that he enjoyed hearing the local lawyers rail at each other. Perhaps that was why he enrolled for one year in the new law department at the University of Michigan. The next year, 1878, he was admitted to the bar. Two years after that, he and a young local woman, Jessie Ohl, were married and in 1883 had a son, Paul, whom they adored.

Darrow opened a small practice in Andover, Ohio, another small town, where he presided mainly over horse trades or adjudicated personal grudges. But the country boy was making good. Wanting more exposure and likely more money, he moved his family to the far larger town of Ashtabula, a railroad hub located on the shore of Lake Erie. There he realized, after he successfully ran for city solicitor, that he had a taste for politics. And deeply moved by Judge John Peter Altgeld’s tract on the criminal justice system, Our Penal Machinery and Its Victims, Darrow began to develop his lifelong interest in the causes of crime. The poor and the helpless were arrested the most, he noticed. The deck was stacked.

He wanted to buy a house. Though he had five hundred dollars and promised to pay the remaining three thousand, the sellers of the house rejected his bid; they assumed he’d never be able to earn enough to come up with the rest of the money. Darrow decided right then (he claimed) that he would leave Ashtabula and forget about a reasonably comfortable but inglorious life. Two of his siblings were in Chicago. John Peter Altgeld was in Chicago. Darrow would go to Chicago. He would meet Judge Altgeld.

Altgeld had arrived in America in 1847, when he was just three months old, after his parents had immigrated from Germany. As a young man, he worked on his father’s farm in Ohio and, during the Civil War, enlisted in the Union army. He read law in Missouri and though elected county prosecutor there, he moved to Chicago around 1877 and started investing in real estate. He did well, but his real love was politics; he called it his recreation, which also meant he never rested. And he was as sharp a politician as anyone in sharp-elbowed Chicago. He catered to no one, feared no one, he was a man who “plays the game, for the benefit of the people,” Darrow recalled.

In 1886, Altgeld was elected to the Superior Court of Cook County and was soon named chief justice. In the spring of that same year, just before the Darrows arrived in Chicago, the large farm implement manufacturer the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company fired a number of employees. When fellow workers walked out in protest, the company hired nonunion men and employed a special police force to guard the new workers, who were called “scabs.” Inevitably fights broke out between picketers and scabs, but on May 3, the police opened fire and killed four of the striking men.

The next night, after the mayor had issued permits, a legal protest rally convened in Haymarket Square. The organizers of the rally had hoped for a better turnout, and when it began to rain, those who had come began to head home. Everything had been peaceful.

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