May 302017
 

How do you feel about voting for a man for president who had shot and killed a man in a duel? Well . . . on this date in 1806, Andrew Jackson, future 7th president of the United States, killed Charles Dickinson in a duel in Kentucky. They had nipped over the border because dueling was illegal in Tennessee. Jackson was severely wounded in the duel, and carried a bullet lodged in his lung the rest of his life because, at that time, surgery to remove it was too risky. There’s a fundamental difference between a real alpha male (Jackson) and a fake one (Trump), but I don’t care for either.

Andrew Jackson’s quick temper was notorious. One of his biographers wrote,

His audacity on behalf of the people earned him enemies who slandered him and defamed even his wife, Rachel. He dueled in her defense and his own, suffering grievous wounds that left him with bullet fragments lodged about his body.

However, most historians are of the general opinion that Jackson was usually (not always) in control of his rage, and used it (and his fearsome reputation) as a tool to get what he wanted in his public and private affairs. Certainly, his opponents were terrified of his temper:

Observers likened him to a volcano, and only the most intrepid or recklessly curious cared to see it erupt. …His close associates all had stories of his blood-curling oaths, his summoning of the Almighty to loose His wrath upon some miscreant, typically followed by his own vow to hang the villain or blow him to perdition. Given his record—in duels, brawls, mutiny trials, and summary hearings—listeners had to take his vows seriously.

On the last day of his presidency, Jackson said that he had but two regrets, that he “had been unable to shoot Henry Clay or to hang John C. Calhoun.” The ineluctable fact about such threats (unlike those of Trump), is that once in a while you have to actually kill someone to show that you are serious. In my opinion, therefore, Jackson’s duel with Dickinson was as much about proving he was ruthless, as about actual grievances – although in his mind they were real enough.

The Jackson-Dickinson duel had been developing over some time:

In 1805 a friend of Jackson’s deprecated the manner in which Captain Joseph Erwin had handled a bet with Jackson over a horse race. Erwin’s son-in-law, Charles Dickinson became enraged and started quarreling with Jackson’s friend which led to Jackson becoming involved. Dickinson wrote to Jackson calling him a ‘coward and an equivocator.’ The affair continued, with more insults and misunderstandings, until Dickinson published a statement in the Nashville Review in May 1806, calling Jackson a ‘worthless scoundrel, … a poltroon and a coward.’

Although the actual issue that led to the duel was a horse race between Andrew Jackson and Dickinson’s father-in-law, Joseph Erwin, Jackson had confronted Dickinson over a report that he had insulted his wife, Rachel. Dickinson said if he had, he was drunk at the time and apologized. Jackson accepted his apology, but there were probably still hard feelings between the two. Jackson and Erwin had scheduled their horse race in 1805. The stakes specified a winning pot of $2,000 paid by the loser, with an $800 forfeit if a horse couldn’t run. Erwin’s horse went lame, and after a minor disagreement about the type of forfeit payment, Erwin paid.

Later, one of Jackson’s friends, while sitting in a Nashville store, shared what was probably a more lurid story about Erwin’s disputed payment. When Dickinson heard the story, he sent a friend, Thomas Swann, to act as a go-between to inquire about what Jackson said about his father-in-law. Whether the friend misinterpreted or even misrepresented what was said by the two men. This minor misunderstanding flamed into a full-blown battle.

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In a confrontation at Winn’s Tavern, Jackson struck Swann with his cane and called him a stupid meddler. Dickinson sent Jackson a letter calling him a coward about the same time that Swann wrote a column in a local newspaper calling Jackson a coward. Jackson responded in the same newspaper saying Swann was a “lying valet for a worthless, drunken, blackguard” – that is, Dickinson. That did it for Dickinson who, after he returned from New Orleans in May 1806, published an attack on Jackson in the local newspaper calling Jackson “a poltroon and a coward.” After reading the article, Jackson sent Dickinson a letter requesting “satisfaction due me for the insults offered.”

Because dueling was outlawed in Tennessee, the two men met in the Adairville, Kentucky, area, which sits right on the border, on May 30, 1806. Dickinson left Nashville the day before the duel with his second and a group of friends, confident, even demonstrating his shooting skills at various stops along the way. Since Dickinson was considered an expert shot, Jackson and his friend, Thomas Overton, determined it would be best to let Dickinson fire first, hoping that his aim might be spoiled in his quickness. The obvious weakness of this strategy was, of course, that Jackson might not be alive to take aim. Dickinson did fire first, hitting Jackson in the chest. Under the rules of dueling, Dickinson had to remain still as Jackson took his one shot. Jackson’s pistol stopped at half cock, so he drew back the hammer and aimed again, this time hitting Dickinson in the chest. Dickinson bled to death.

Doctors determined that the bullet in Jackson was too close to his heart to operate, so Jackson carried it for the rest of his life, and suffered much pain from the wound. Locals were outraged that Dickinson had to stand defenseless while Jackson re-cocked and shot him, even though it was acceptable behavior in a duel. Jackson could have shot in the air or shot only to injure Dickinson; this would have been considered sufficient satisfaction under dueling rules. Jackson said afterwards that Dickinson had meant to kill him, so he had also shot to kill. Jackson’s reputation did, however, suffer greatly in some quarters from the particulars of the duel. I suppose if you’ve just been shot in the lung and have a loaded pistol in your right hand, you don’t take a lot of time to ponder your choices, although you do beforehand and Jackson knew what he wanted to do. He considered himself the aggrieved party and killing Dickinson was his chief purpose. Dickinson had aimed at Jackson’s heart though the bullet had been slightly deflected by Jackson’s choice of loose clothing over his lean frame, and by his careful sideways stance. The bullet broke some of Jackson’s ribs, and had lodged inches from his heart. While Jackson could easily have fallen from such a wound, he said later, “I should have hit him if he had shot me through the brain.”

Tennessee, Jackson’s actual home state despite the fact that the duel was in Kentucky, ought to be the site of today’s recipe. Tennessee produces wonderful BBQ, especially ribs, but I suggest that you save your pennies and pay a visit to sample it rather than try to replicate it at home. Tennessee pit masters have been honing their skills a long time. Chicken and dumplings is much more easily duplicated in your kitchen. Chicken and dumplings is actually a fairly widespread Southern dish, but Tennessee makes a fair go of it. Sadly, these days Southern cooks in general do not make their own dumplings, but buy what is, more or less, basic dried pasta which are labeled “dumplings.” Good old fashioned cooks, including those who taught me, fortunately, would never hear of such a thing. They make their own dumplings – which are somewhat akin to boiled short pastry – and therein lies the secret of a great dish. Chicken and dumplings is classic Southern comfort food; just what you need after being shot in the chest.

 Southern Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients

3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
chicken stock
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra
½ tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. salted butter, cubed
1 cup whole milk

Instructions

Use a pastry blender or food processor (or your hands), blend together the flour and butter as you would for making short-crust pastry. Add in and mix the milk a little at a time until you have formed a soft, pliable dough. Knead for a few minutes and let it rest.

Bring about 2 pints of chicken stock to a gentle boil in a large pot. Add the chicken.

Liberally flour your work surface and roll out the dough to about the same thickness as thick noodles or a little thicker. Cut into 1” squares and dust with flour.

Bring the stock to a good rolling boil, but not too fierce, and add the dumplings. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Southern cooks like their dumplings very soft, but you will have to decide for yourself. Check for doneness after 15 minutes, and keep cooking until they reach the consistency you like. They should not be doughy, but Italian al dente is off the table. The extra flour on the dumplings will thicken the stock to a sauce.

 

Aug 172015
 

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Today is the birthday (1786) of David “Davy” Crockett, folk hero, frontiersman, soldier, and politician. He represented Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives, served in the Texas Revolution, and died at the Battle of the Alamo.

When I was about 4 years old my father bought me this record (78 rpm – yes, I’m that old). So, Davy and I go way back. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ACYcD1ce5E The song, and later Disney’s television series, perpetuates a mostly false image of Crockett based on the 1950s ideology of a wholesome U.S. built by rugged pioneers who cleared the land of trees and those troublesome Injuns so that good, honest, hardworking (white) settlers could build homesteads that would eventually evolve into suburbs just right for Beaver and his family. As I endlessly try to explain, the truth is much more complex.

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The Crocketts were of mixed Irish, English, Scottish and French-Huguenot ancestry. The earliest known paternal ancestor was Gabriel Gustave de Crocketagne, whose son Antoine de Saussure Peronette de Crocketagne was given a commission in the Household Troops under French King Louis XIV. Antoine married Louise de Saix and emigrated to Ireland with her, changing the family name to Crockett. Their son Joseph Louis was born in Ireland and married Sarah Stewart. Joseph and Sarah emigrated to New York, where their son William David was born in 1709. He married Elizabeth Boulay. William and Elizabeth’s son David was born in Pennsylvania and married Elizabeth Hedge. They were the parents of John, the father of Davy. Got it?

John was born c. 1753 in Frederick County, Virginia. The family moved to Tryon County, North Carolina c. 1768 and then in 1776, to northeast Tennessee, to the area now known as Hawkins County. John married Rebecca Hawkins in 1780 and their son David (Davy) was born August 17, 1786 in what is now Greene County, Tennessee (at the time part of North Carolina), close to the Nolichucky River, near the community of Limestone. When Davy was 12 years old, his father indentured him to Jacob Siler to help with the Crockett family indebtedness. David helped tend Siler’s cattle on a 400-mile trip to near Natural Bridge in Virginia. He was well treated and paid for his services, but after several weeks in Virginia decided to return home to Tennessee. The next year, John enrolled his sons in school. After a fight with a fellow student, Davy gave up on school and ran away from home. He did odd jobs for a while but in 1802 he journeyed by foot back to his father’s home in Tennessee. His father was in debt to Abraham Wilson for $36, so Davy was hired out to Wilson to pay off the debt. Later, Crockett worked off a $40 debt to John Canady. Once the debts were paid, John Crockett told his son he was free to leave, but Davy returned to Canady’s employment, where he stayed for four years.

He met Polly Finley and her mother Jean at a harvest festival. Although friendly towards him in the beginning, Jean Finley eventually felt Crockett was not the man for her daughter. Crockett declared his intentions to marry Polly, regardless of whether the ceremony was allowed to take place in her parents’ home or had to be performed elsewhere. He arranged for a justice of the peace and took out a marriage license on August 12, 1806. On August 16, he rode to Polly’s house with family and friends, determined to ride off with Polly to be married elsewhere. Polly’s father pleaded with Crockett to have the wedding in the Finley home. Crockett agreed only after Jean apologized for her past treatment of him.

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The Fort Mims massacre in Mobile, Alabama on August 30, 1813 became a rallying cry for the Creek War, so on September 20, Crockett left his family and enlisted as a scout for an initial term of 90 days with Francis Jones’s Company of Mounted Rifleman, part of the Second Regiment of Volunteer Mounted Riflemen. They served under Colonel John Coffee in the war, marching south into present day Alabama and taking an active part in the fighting. Crockett often hunted wild game for the soldiers, saying he felt better suited to that role than the killing of Creek warriors and families. He served until December 24, 1813 but then re-enlisted as third sergeant for a 6-month term with the Tennessee Mounted Gunmen on September 28, 1814. Crockett returned home in December.

In 1817, Crockett moved the family to new acreage in Lawrence County, where he first entered public office as a commissioner helping to configure the new county’s boundaries. On November 25, the state legislature appointed him county justice of the peace. On March 27, 1818, he was elected lieutenant colonel of the Fifty-seventh Regiment of Tennessee Militia, defeating candidate Daniel Matthews for the position. By 1819, Crockett was operating multiple businesses in the area and felt his public responsibilities were beginning to consume so much of his time and energy that he had little left for either family or business. He resigned from the office of justice of the peace and from his position with the regiment.

In 1821, he resigned as commissioner and successfully ran for a seat in the Tennessee General Assembly,[99] representing Lawrence and Hickman counties. It was in this election campaign that Crockett honed his legendary anecdotal and storytelling skills in public speaking. He was appointed to the Committee of Propositions and Grievances on September 17, 1821, and served through the first session that ended November 17, as well as the special session called by the governor in the summer of 1822, ending on August 24.He favored legislation to ease the tax burden on the poor. Crockett spent his entire legislative career fighting for the rights of impoverished settlers whom he felt dangled on the precipice of losing title to their land due to the state’s complicated system of grants.

On October 25, 1824, Crockett notified his constituents of his intention to run in the 1825 election for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He lost that election to the incumbent Adam Rankin Alexander. In 1826 Memphis mayor Marcus Brutus Winchester encouraged him to try again to win a seat in Congress. The Jackson Gazette published a letter from Crockett on September 15, 1826, announcing his intention of again challenging Rankin, stating his opposition to the policies of President John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State Henry Clay and Rankin’s position on the cotton tariff. Militia veteran William Arnold also entered the race, and Crockett easily defeated both political opponents for the two-year term March 4, 1827 – March 3, 1829. Crockett continued his legislative focus on settlers getting a fair deal for land titles, offering H.R. 27 amendment to a bill sponsored by James K. Polk.

He was re-elected for the March 4, 1829 – March 3, 1831 session, once again defeating Adam Rankin Alexander. Crockett introduced H.R. 185 amendment to the land bill on January 29, 1830. The amendment was defeated May 3, 1830. On February 25, 1830, Crockett introduced a resolution to abolish the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, because he felt it was public money going to benefit the sons of wealthy men. Crockett opposed Andrew Jackson’s 1830 Indian Removal Act, and was the only member of the Tennessee delegation to vote against it. Cherokee chief John Ross sent him a letter on January 13, 1831, expressing his thanks for Crockett’s vote. His vote was not popular with his own district, and in 1831 he was defeated in the election by William Fitzgerald.

Crockett ran against Fitzgerald again in the 1833 election and was returned to Congress, serving until 1835. On January 2, 1834, Crockett introduced the land title resolution H.R. 126, but it never made it as far as being open for debate on the House floor. He was defeated for re-election in the August 1835 election by Adam Huntsman. During his last term in Congress, Crockett collaborated with Kentucky Congressman Thomas Chilton to write his autobiography, which was published by E. L. Carey and A. Hart in 1834 as A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, Written by Himself . You can find it here http://www.gutenberg.org/files/37925/37925-h/37925-h.htm It’s a very good read. Crockett went east to promote the book, and in 1836, newspapers published the now-famous quote attributed to him upon his return to his home state: “I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.”

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By December 1834, Crockett was writing to friends about moving to Texas if Van Buren were elected President. The next year he discussed with his friend Benjamin McCulloch raising a company of volunteers to take to Texas in the expectation that a revolution was imminent. After Van Buren was elected he left his home near Rutherford in West Tennessee on Nov. 1, 1835, with three other men to explore Texas. His youngest child, Matilda, later wrote that she distinctly remembered the last time she saw her father: “He was dressed in his hunting suit, wearing a coonskin cap, and carried a fine rifle presented to him by friends in Philadelphia … He seemed very confident the morning he went away that he would soon have us all to join him in Texas.” On November 12, 1835, Crockett and an entourage of volunteers arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas. The local newspapers reported that hundreds of people swarmed into town to get a look at Crockett, and a group of leading citizens put on a dinner in his honor that night at the Jeffries Hotel. Crockett spoke “mainly to the subject of Texan independence,” as well as Washington politics.

He arrived in Nacogdoches, Texas, in early January 1836. On January 14, 1836, Crockett and 65 other men signed an oath before Judge John Forbes to the Provisional Government of Texas for six months: “I have taken the oath of government and have enrolled my name as a volunteer and will set out for the Rio Grande in a few days with the volunteers from the United States.” Each man was promised about 4,600 acres of land as payment. On February 6, Crockett and about five other men rode into San Antonio de Bexar and camped just outside the town. They were later greeted by James Bowie and Antonio Menchaca, and taken to the home of Don Erasmo Seguin.

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Crockett arrived at the Alamo on February 8. On February 23, to the surprise of the men garrisoned in the Alamo, a Mexican army led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna arrived. The Mexican soldiers immediately initiated a siege. Santa Anna ordered his artillery to keep up a near-constant bombardment. The guns were moved closer to the Alamo each day, increasing their effectiveness. On February 25, 200–300 Mexican soldiers crossed the San Antonio River and took cover in abandoned shacks approximately 90 to 100 yards from the Alamo walls.The soldiers intended to use the huts as cover to establish another artillery position, although many Texans assumed that they actually were launching an assault on the fort, so several men volunteered to burn the huts.To provide cover, the Alamo cannons fired grapeshot at the Mexican soldiers, and Crockett and his men fired rifles, while other defenders reloaded extra weapons for them to use in maintaining a steady fire. Within 90 minutes, the battle was over,and the Mexican soldiers retreated. Inside the Alamo, the stores of powder and shot were limited. On February 26, Alamo commander William Barret Travis ordered the artillery to stop returning fire so as to conserve precious ammunition. Crockett and his men were encouraged to keep shooting, as they were unusually effective.

As the siege progressed, Travis sent many messages asking for reinforcements. Several messengers were sent to James Fannin, who commanded the only other official group of Texan soldiers. Fannin and several hundred Texans occupied Presidio La Bahia at Goliad. Although Fannin ultimately decided it was too risky to attempt to reinforce the Alamo, historian Thomas Ricks Lindley concludes that up to 50 of Fannin’s men left his command to go to Bexar. These men would have reached Cibolo Creek, 35 miles (56 km) from the Alamo, on the afternoon of March 3. There they joined another group of men who also planned to join the garrison.

That same night, outside the Alamo, there was a skirmish between Mexican and Texan troops. Several historians, including Walter Lord, speculated that the Texans were creating a diversion to allow their last courier, John Smith, to evade Mexican pickets. However, in 1876, Alamo survivor Susannah Dickinson said that Travis sent three men out shortly after dark on March 3, probably a response to the arrival of Mexican reinforcements. The three men, who included Crockett, were sent to find Fannin. Lindley stated that just before midnight, Crockett and one of the other men found the force of Texans waiting along Cibolo Creek, who had advanced to within 20 miles (32 km) of the Alamo. Just before daylight on March 4, part of the Texan force managed to break through the Mexican lines and enter the Alamo. A second group was driven across the prairie by Mexican cavalry.

The siege ended on March 6, when the Mexican army attacked just before dawn while the defenders were sleeping. The daily bombardment by artillery had been suspended, perhaps a ploy to encourage the natural human reaction to a cessation of constant strain. But the garrison awakened and the final fight began. Most of the noncombatants gathered in the church sacristy for safety. According to Dickinson, before running to his post, Crockett paused briefly in the chapel to say a prayer. When the Mexican soldiers breached the north outer walls of the Alamo complex, most of the Texans fell back to the barracks and the chapel, as previously planned.[156] Crockett and his men were too far from the barracks to take shelter and were the last remaining group in the mission to be in the open. The men defended the low wall in front of the church, using their rifles as clubs and relying on knives, as the action was too furious to allow reloading. After a volley and a charge with bayonets, Mexican soldiers pushed the few remaining defenders back toward the church The Battle of the Alamo lasted almost 90 minutes.

Once all of the defenders had been killed, Santa Anna ordered his men to take the bodies to a nearby stand of trees, where they were stacked together and wood piled on top. That evening, a fire was lit and the bodies of the defenders were burned to ashes. The ashes were left undisturbed until February 1837, when Juan Seguin and his cavalry returned to Bexar to examine the remains. A local carpenter created a simple coffin, and ashes from the funeral pyres were placed inside. The names of Travis, Crockett, and Bowie were inscribed on the lid. The coffin is thought to have been buried in a peach tree grove, but the spot was not marked and can no longer be identified.

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All that is certain about the fate of David Crockett is that he died fighting at the Alamo on the morning of March 6, 1836, at age 49. According to many accounts of the battle, between five and seven Texans surrendered during the battle, possibly to General Castrillon. Incensed that his orders to take no prisoners had been ignored, Santa Anna demanded the immediate execution of the survivors. Although Castrillon and several other officers refused to do so, staff officers who had not participated in the fighting drew their swords and killed the unarmed Texans.

Weeks after the battle, stories began to circulate that Crockett was among those who surrendered and were executed. However, Ben, a former Southern slave who acted as cook for one of Santa Anna’s officers, maintained that Crockett’s body was found in the barracks surrounded by “no less than sixteen Mexican corpses”, with Crockett’s knife buried in one of them. Historians disagree on which story is accurate. According to Petite, “every account of the Crockett surrender-execution story comes from an avowed antagonist (either on political or military grounds) of Santa Anna’s. It is believed that many stories, such as the surrender and execution of Crockett, were created and spread in order to discredit Santa Anna and add to his role as villain.”

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Memphis-style (or Tennessee) barbecue is a fitting tribute to Crockett, and is one of my favorites. I’ve wolfed it down in joints in east Tennessee many a time. Tennessee barbecue is one of the four predominant regional styles of barbecue in the United States, the other three being Carolina, Kansas City, and Texas. Like many southern varieties of barbecue, Memphis-style barbecue is mostly made using pork, usually ribs and shoulders, though many restaurants also serve beef and chicken: good, but get the pork! Memphis-style barbecue is slow cooked in a pit and ribs can be prepared either “dry” or “wet”. “Dry” ribs are covered with a dry rub consisting of salt and various spices before cooking, and are normally eaten without sauce. “Wet” ribs are brushed with sauce before, during, and after cooking.

Here’s two videos for you since Tennessee barbecue, although not difficult to make, is best taught by watching a master. The first video is an interview with legendary pit master Jim Neely to give you a sense of the style and method in general terms.

The second is a straightforward how-to demonstration.

You can buy the rub in stores or online or you can make it yourself. All the joints and pit masters have their own secret recipes of course. This recipe is pretty standard but you can alter it to suit yourself.

Memphis BBQ Dry Rub

3 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne

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Jul 212015
 

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On this date in 1925 John T. Scopes was found guilty of violating the Butler Act which had made it unlawful in Tennessee to teach evolution in state-funded schools (the Act was not repealed until 1967). The trial is formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, but is commonly referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial. The trial, though immensely important, was not a “test case” in the conventional sense in that it was deliberately staged and stage managed by the ACLU. Scopes offered himself up to be incriminated even though he admitted that he had not, in fact, taught evolution, his students were heavily coached by Scopes and lawyers before taking the stand, and the expenses of the trial were funded by various interested parties including major newspapers. The town of Dayton was having financial difficulties at the time, so welcomed the publicity. Even now the town makes money hosting an annual Scopes Trial Festival. It was, at best, a cynical moneymaker.

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Scopes was fined $100 (equivalent to $1,345 in 2015), but the verdict was overturned on a technicality – on appeal it was thrown out because the judge had set the fine when the jury should have set it. The trial served its purpose of drawing intense publicity, as national reporters flocked to Dayton to cover the big-name lawyers who had agreed to represent each side. William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential candidate, argued for the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow, the famed defense attorney, spoke for Scopes. However, what is rarely acknowledged, especially in the play/film(s) “Inherit the Wind,” is that Bryan and Darrow were not exactly going toe to toe. Both sides had large legal teams who did a great deal of the heavy lifting and made some of the best speeches and arguments.

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The trial publicized what is sometimes called the “Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy,” terms I do not like at all. The so-called modernists argued that science and religion were not incompatible, whilst the so-called fundamentalists believed that the word of God, as revealed in the Bible, took priority over all human knowledge. The case was thus seen as both a theological contest and a trial on whether contemporary science regarding evolution should be taught in schools. Sad to say, the contest continues unabated with little sense being talked by either side. Both sides, to my mind, value prejudice and bias over intellect. If you glance back at my post on the trial of Galileo you’ll see that many of the issues were the same then (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/trial-galileo-think/ ); both trials were most emphatically NOT about religion versus science, but about money and politics, with a pinch of personal animus thrown in for good measure. I have written a great deal about this “debate” in an unpublished book MS I really should work on. I believe that this phony debate is expensive, pointless, and endlessly destructive, as the details of the Scopes trial attest. The trial was the invention of the media.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) offered to defend anyone accused of teaching the theory of evolution in defiance of the Butler Act. On April 5, 1925, George Rappleyea, local manager for the Cumberland Coal and Iron Company, arranged a meeting with county superintendent of schools Walter White and local attorney Sue K. Hicks at Robinson’s Drug Store, convincing them that the controversy of such a trial would give Dayton much needed publicity. According to Robinson, Rappleyea said, “As it is, the law is not enforced. If you win, it will be enforced. If I win, the law will be repealed. We’re game, aren’t we?” The men then summoned 24-year-old John T. Scopes, who was at the time a substitute Dayton high school science and math teacher. The group asked Scopes to admit to teaching the theory of evolution. Rappleyea pointed out that, while the Butler Act prohibited the teaching of the theory of evolution, the state required teachers to use a textbook that explicitly described and endorsed the theory of evolution, and that teachers were, therefore, effectively required to break the law.

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Scopes was indicted on May 25, after three students testified against him at the grand jury; one student afterwards told reporters, “I believe in part of evolution, but I don’t believe in the monkey business.” Judge John T. Raulston accelerated the convening of the grand jury and “… all but instructed the grand jury to indict Scopes, despite the meager evidence against him and the widely reported stories questioning whether the willing defendant had ever taught evolution in the classroom”. Scopes was charged with having taught from the chapter on evolution to an April 24, 1925, high-school class in violation of the Butler Act and nominally arrested, though he was never actually detained. Paul Patterson, owner of The Baltimore Sun, put up $500 in bail for Scopes.

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The original prosecutors were Herbert E. and Sue K. Hicks, two brothers who were local attorneys and friends of Scopes, but the prosecution was ultimately led by Tom Stewart, a graduate of Cumberland School of Law, who later became a U.S. Senator. Stewart was aided by Dayton attorney Gordon McKenzie, who supported the anti-evolution bill on religious grounds, and described evolution as “detrimental to our morality” and an assault on “the very citadel of our Christian religion”.

Hoping to attract major press coverage, George Rappleyea went so far as to write to the British novelist H. G. Wells asking him to join the defense team. Wells replied that he had no legal training in Britain, let alone in the US, and declined the offer. John R. Neal, a law school professor from Knoxville, announced that he would act as Scopes’ attorney whether Scopes liked it or not, and he became the nominal head of the defense team.

Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, 1925

Baptist pastor William Bell Riley, the founder and president of the World Christian Fundamentals Association, was instrumental in calling lawyer and three-time Democratic presidential nominee, former United States Secretary of State, and lifelong Presbyterian William Jennings Bryan to act as that organization’s counsel. Bryan had originally been invited by Sue Hicks to become an associate of the prosecution and Bryan had readily accepted, despite the fact he had not tried a case in thirty-six years. As Scopes pointed out to James Presley in the book Center of the Storm, on which the two collaborated: “After [Bryan] was accepted by the state as a special prosecutor in the case, there was never any hope of containing the controversy within the bounds of constitutionality.” What should have been a trial about the First Amendment became an arena for showboating about Genesis versus Darwin.

In response, the defense sought out Clarence Darrow, an agnostic. Darrow originally declined, fearing that his presence would create a circus atmosphere, but eventually realized that the trial would be a circus with or without him, and agreed to lend his services to the defense, later stating that he “realized there was no limit to the mischief that might be accomplished unless the country was aroused to the evil at hand”. After many changes back and forth, the defense team consisted of Darrow, ACLU attorney Arthur Garfield Hays, and Dudley Field Malone, an international divorce lawyer who had worked at the State Department. The prosecution team was led by Tom Stewart, district attorney for the 18th Circuit (and future United States Senator), and included, in addition to Herbert and Sue Hicks, Ben B. McKenzie and William Jennings Bryan.

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The trial was covered by famous journalists from the South and around the world, including H. L. Mencken for The Baltimore Sun, which was also paying part of the defense’s expenses. It was Mencken who provided the trial with its most colorful labels such as the “Monkey Trial” of “the infidel Scopes”. It was also the first United States trial to be broadcast on national radio.

By the later stages of the trial, Clarence Darrow had largely abandoned the ACLU’s original strategy and attacked the literal interpretation of the Bible as well as Bryan’s limited knowledge of other religions and science. Only when the case went to appeal did the defense return to the original claim that the prosecution was invalid because the law was essentially designed to benefit a particular religious group, which would be unconstitutional.

Bryan chastised evolution for teaching children that humans were but one of (precisely) 35,000 types of mammals and bemoaned the notion that human beings were descended “Not even from American monkeys, but from Old World monkeys”. This is a typically ignorant remark, given that Darwin and evolution argue no such thing, and shows, among other things, that most people don’t even know the difference between monkeys and apes.

Malone responded for the defense in a speech that was universally considered the oratorical triumph of the trial (NOT any speech by Darrow). Arousing fears of “inquisitions”, Malone argued that the Bible should be preserved in the realm of theology and morality and not put into a course of science. In his conclusion, Malone declared that Bryan’s “duel to the death” against evolution should not be made one-sided by a court ruling that took away the chief witnesses for the defense (expert scientists were barred from testifying, quite rightly, because the case was ostensibly about the Butler Act and not the validity of evolution). Malone promised that there would be no duel because “there is never a duel with the truth.” The courtroom went wild when Malone finished, and Scopes declared Malone’s speech to be the dramatic highpoint of the entire trial. I urge you to read the complete transcripts here — http://darrow.law.umn.edu/trials.php?tid=7 – to get a sense of the reality of the trial rather than be misled by continued histrionics in print and on film.

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Apart from the Scopes Trial Festival, Dayton holds an annual strawberry festival with recipes here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/life/entertainment/story/2014/may/14/berry-delici-us/140004/ (the photo being of a recent winner). In light of this I recommend classic Southern strawberry shortcake as a celebratory recipe.

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Strawberry Shortcake

Hull about 1 ½ pounds of strawberries and slice them into a glass or ceramic bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (until juices flow).

Sift into another bowl 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of sugar and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Add 1 ½ cups of heavy cream and blend to a smooth paste. Pour into a greased 8-inch baking dish and bake at 400°F for about 20 minutes or until golden.

Let the shortcake cool in the pan and then cut into 4 squares. Split the squares in two, place on chilled plates and pour the strawberries over. Top with sweetened whipped cream flavored with a little vanilla essence.