Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

Clarence Darrow

Sin in the Second City seems to follow the same narrative formula that made Erik Larson’s works such a pleasure to read, and page 52 of the paperback begins with a quote by Clarence Darrow:

Laws should be like clothes. They should fit the people they are meant to serve.

Darrow is best known for his defense of Scopes in the eponymous Monkey Trial, which helped decriminalize the teaching of evolution in Tennessee. While not as prominent in the history books, Darrow also played defense in another Trial of the Century. Leopold and Loeb‘s act of murder mimicked the actions of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment and was later reimagined in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope as well as Lois Duncan’s Killing Mr. Griffin. Darrow defended them by having them plead guilty and then convinced the judge not to give them the death penalty.

The trial of Ossian Sweet before an all-white jury in the 1920s could have ended like the trial in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, published over thirty years later. With Darrow as defense attorney, Sweet was acquitted and charges were dropped, including those against his ten other defendants. If only the Jena Six had someone like him as an attorney.

It would be difficult to end a post on Darrow without mentioning his questioning of William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State for President Wilson, who was called as an expert witness on the Bible in the Scopes Trial. Here’s an excerpt:

Darrow: You have given considerable study to the Bible, haven’t you, Mr. Bryan?
Bryan: Yes, sir, I have tried to.
Darrow: Then you have made a general study of it?
Bryan: Yes, I have; I have studied the Bible for about fifty years, or sometime more than that, but, of course, I have studied it more as I have become older than when I was but a boy.
Darrow: You claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?
Bryan: I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there: some of the Bible is given illustratively. For instance: “Ye are the salt of the earth.” I would not insist that man was actually salt, or that he had flesh of salt, but it is used in the sense of salt as saving God’s people.
Darrow: But when you read that Jonah swallowed the whale–or that the whale swallowed Jonah– excuse me please–how do you literally interpret that?
Bryan: When I read that a big fish swallowed Jonah–it does not say whale….That is my recollection of it. A big fish, and I believe it, and I believe in a God who can make a whale and can make a man and make both what He pleases.
Darrow: Now, you say, the big fish swallowed Jonah, and he there remained how long–three days– and then he spewed him upon the land. You believe that the big fish was made to swallow Jonah?
Bryan: I am not prepared to say that; the Bible merely says it was done.
Darrow: You don’t know whether it was the ordinary run of fish, or made for that purpose?
Bryan: You may guess; you evolutionists guess…..
Darrow: You are not prepared to say whether that fish was made especially to swallow a man or not?
Bryan: The Bible doesn’t say, so I am not prepared to say.
Darrow: But do you believe He made them–that He made such a fish and that it was big enough to swallow Jonah?
Bryan: Yes, sir. Let me add: One miracle is just as easy to believe as another
Darrow: Just as hard?
Bryan: It is hard to believe for you, but easy for me. A miracle is a thing performed beyond what man can perform. When you get within the realm of miracles; and it is just as easy to believe the miracle of Jonah as any other miracle in the Bible.
Darrow: Perfectly easy to believe that Jonah swallowed the whale?
Bryan: If the Bible said so; the Bible doesn’t make as extreme statements as evolutionists do….
Darrow: The Bible says Joshua commanded the sun to stand still for the purpose of lengthening the day, doesn’t it, and you believe it?
Bryan: I do.
Darrow: Do you believe at that time the entire sun went around the earth?
Bryan: No, I believe that the earth goes around the sun.
Darrow: Do you believe that the men who wrote it thought that the day could be lengthened or that the sun could be stopped?
Bryan: I don’t know what they thought.
Darrow: You don’t know?
Bryan: I think they wrote the fact without expressing their own thoughts.

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