Impossibility of Obtaining Fair Jury Insures Scopes' Conviction, Says Mencken, by H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 10, 1925

Dayton, Tenn., July 10. -- The trial of the infidel Scopes, beginning here this hot, lovely morning, will greatly resemble, I suspect, the trial of a prohibition agent accused of mayhem in Union Hill, N.J. That is to say, it will be conducted with the most austere regard for the highest principles of jurisprudence. Judge and jury will go to extreme lengths to assure the prisoner the last and least of his rights. He will be protected in his person and feelings by the full military and naval power of the State of Tennessee. No one will be permitted to pull his nose, to pray publicly for his condemnation or even to make a face at him. But all the same he will be bumped off inevitably when the time comes, and to the applause of all right-thinking men.

The real trial, in truth, will not begin until Scopes is convicted and ordered to the hulks. Then the prisoner will be the Legislature of Tennessee, and the jury will be that great fair, unimpassioned body of enlightened men which has already decided that a horse hair put into a bottle will turn into a snake and that the Kaiser started the late war. What goes on here is simply a sort of preliminary hearing, with music by the village choir. For it will be no more possible in this Christian valley to get a jury unprejudiced against Scopes than would be possible in Wall Street to get a jury unprejudiced against a Bolshevik.

I speak of prejudice in its purely philosophical sense. As I wrote yesterday, there is an almost complete absence, in these pious hills, of the ordinary and familiar malignancy of Christian men. If the Rev. Dr. Crabbe ever spoke of bootleggers as humanely and affectionately as the town theologians speak of Scopes, and even Darrow and Malone, his employers would pelt him with their spyglasses and sit on him until the ambulance came from Mount Hope. There is absolutely no bitterness on tap. But neither is there any doubt. It has been decided by acclamation, with only a few infidels dissenting, that the hypothesis of evolution is profane, inhumane and against God, and all that remains is to translate that almost unanimous decision into the jargon of the law and so have done.

The town boomers have banqueted Darrow as well as Bryan, but there is no mistaking which of the two has the crowd, which means the venire of tried and true men. Bryan has been oozing around the country since his first day here, addressing this organization and that, presenting the indubitable Word of God in his caressing, ingratiating way, and so making unanimity doubly unanimous. From the defense yesterday came hints that this was making hay before the sun had legally begun to shine -- even that it was a sort of contempt of court. But no Daytonian believes anything of the sort. What Bryan says doesn't seem to these congenial Baptists and Methodists to be argument; it seems to be a mere graceful statement of the obvious.

Meanwhile, reinforcements continue to come in, some of them from unexpected sources. I had the honor of being present yesterday when Col. Patrick Callahan, of Louisville, marched up at the head of his cohort of 250,000,000 Catholic fundamentalists. The two colonels embraced, exchanged a few military and legal pleasantries and then retired up a steep stairway to the office of the Hicks brothers to discuss strategy. Colonel Callahan's followers were present, of course, only by a legal fiction; the town of Dayton would not hold so large an army. In the actual flesh there were only the colonel himself and his aide-de-camp. Nevertheless, the 250,000,000 were put down as present and recorded as voting.

Later on I had the misfortune to fall into a dispute with Colonel Callahan on a point of canon law. It was my contention that the position of the Roman Church, on matters of doctrine, is not ordinarily stated by laymen -- that such matters are usually left to high ecclesiastical authorities, headed by the Bishop of Rome. I also contended, perhaps somewhat fatuously, that there seemed to be a considerable difference of opinion regarding organic evolution among these authorities -- that it was possible to find in their writings both ingenious arguments for it and violent protests against it. All these objections Colonel Callahan waived away with a genial gesture. He was here, he said, to do what he could for the authority of the Sacred Scriptures and the aiding and comforting of his old friend, Bryan, and it was all one to him whether atheists yelled or not. Then he began to talk about prohibition, which he favors, and the germ theory of diseases, which he regards as bilge.

A somewhat more plausible volunteer has turned up in the person of Pastor T.T. Martin, of Blue Mountain, Miss. He has hired a room and stocked it with pamphlets bearing such titles as "Evolution a Menace," "Hell and the High Schools" and "God or Gorilla," and addresses connoisseurs of scientific fallacy every night on a lot behind the Courthouse. Pastor Martin, a handsome and amiable old gentleman with a great mop of snow-white hair, was a professor of science in a Baptist college for years, and has given profound study to the biological sections of the Old Testament.

He told me today that he regarded the food regulations in Leviticus as so sagacious that their framing must have been a sort of feat even for divinity. The flesh of the domestic hog, he said, is a rank poison as ordinarily prepared for the table, though it is probably harmless when smoked and salted, as in bacon. He said that his investigations had shown that seven and a half out of every thirteen cows are quite free of tuberculosis, but that twelve out of every thirteen hogs have it in an advanced and highly communicable form. The Jews, protected by their piety against devouring pork, are immune to the disease. In all history, he said, there is authentic record of but one Jew who died of tuberculosis.

The presence of Pastor Martin and Colonel Callahan has given renewed confidence to the prosecution. The former offers proof that men of science are, after all, not unanimously atheists, and the latter that there is no division between Christians in the face of the common enemy. But though such encouragements help, they are certainly not necessary. All they really supply is another layer of icing on the cake. Dayton will give Scopes a rigidly fair and impartial trial. All his Constitutional rights will be jealously safeguarded. The question whether he voted for or against Coolidge will not be permitted to intrude itself into the deliberations of the jury, or the gallant effort of Colonel Bryan to get at and establish the truth. He will be treated very politely. Dayton, indeed, is proud of him, as Sauk Center, Minn., is proud of Sinclair Lewis and Whittingham, Vt., of Brigham Young. But it is lucky for Scopes that sticking pins into Genesis is still only a misdemeanor in Tennessee, punishable by a simple fine, with no alternative of the knout, the stone pile or exile to the Dry Tortugas.