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Clarence Darrow

Clarence Seward Darrow ca. 1922
Born April 18, 1857(1857-04-18)
Kinsman Township, Trumbull County, Ohio
Died March 13, 1938 (aged 80)
Chicago, Illinois
Alma mater University of Michigan Law School
Occupation Lawyer

Clarence Seward Darrow (April 18, 1857 – March 13, 1938) was an American lawyer and leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, best known for defending teenage thrill killers Leopold and Loeb in their trial for murdering 14-year-old Bobby Franks (1924) and defending John T. Scopes in the Scopes Trial (1925), in which he opposed William Jennings Bryan (statesman, noted orator, and three time presidential candidate for the Democratic Party). Called a "sophisticated country lawyer",[1] he remains notable for his wit and agnosticism that marked him as one of the most famous American lawyers and civil libertarians.[2]

Contents

Biography

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Upbringing

Clarence Darrow was the son of Amirus Darrow and Emily (Eddy) Darrow. Both the Darrow and the Eddy families had deep roots in colonial New England, and several of Darrow's ancestors served in the American Revolution. Clarence's father was an ardent abolitionist and a proud iconoclast and religious free-thinker, known in town as the "village infidel." Emily Darrow was an early supporter of female suffrage and a women's rights advocate. Clarence attended Allegheny College and the University of Michigan Law School but did not graduate from either institution. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1878. The Clarence Darrow Octagon House, which was his childhood home in the small town of Kinsman, Ohio, contains a memorial to him.

From corporate lawyer to labor lawyer

Darrow began his career reading law in Youngstown, Ohio, where he was first admitted to the profession by Judge Alfred W. Mackey. He opened his first practice in Andover, Ohio and then moved to Ashtabula, where he became involved in Democratic Party politics and served as the town counsel. In 1880 he married Jessie Ohl, and seven years later he moved to Chicago with his wife and young son, Paul. There, he worked for the city government as a lawyer, and made a mark for himself speaking at Democratic rallies and other speaking engagements. He was a close friend and protege of Illinois Gov. John Altgeld, and helped secure a pardon from the governor for the anarchists who were imprisoned for the Haymarket Square bombing. With Altgeld's help, Darrow became a corporate lawyer for the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company, a major Midwestern railroad.[3] In 1894 Darrow represented Eugene V. Debs, the leader of the American Railway Union, who was prosecuted by the federal government for leading the Pullman Strike of 1894. Darrow severed his ties with the railroad to represent Debs, making a financial sacrifice. He saved Debs in one trial, but could not keep the union leader from being jailed in another.

Also in 1894, Darrow took on the first murder case of his career, defending Patrick Eugene Prendergast, the "mentally deranged drifter" who had confessed to murdering Chicago mayor Carter H. Harrison, Sr.[4] Darrow's "insanity defense" failed and Prendergast was executed that same year. Among fifty defenses in murder cases throughout the whole of Darrow's career, the Prendergast case would prove to be the only one resulting in an execution.[4]

Darrow became one of America's leading labor attorneys. He helped organize the Populist Party in Illinois, then ran for Congress as Democrat in 1896, but lost. In 1897 his marriage ended in divorce. He represented the woodworkers of Wisconsin in a notable case in Oshkosh in 1898, and the United Mine Workers in Pennsylvania in the great anthracite coal strike of 1902. He flirted with the idea of running for mayor of Chicago in 1903, but ultimately decided against it. That year he married Ruby Hammerstrom, a young Chicago journalist.

From 1906 to 1908, Darrow represented the Western Federation of Miners leaders William "Big Bill" Haywood, Charles Moyer and George Pettibone when they were arrested and charged with the 1905 murder of former Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg. After a series of trials, Haywood and Pettibone were found not guilty and the charges were dropped against Moyer.

The American Federation of Labor then called on Darrow to defend the McNamara brothers, John and James, who were charged with dynamiting the Los Angeles Times building during the bitter struggle over the open shop in Southern California (21 employees had died as a result of the explosion). Darrow came to realize that the McNamara brothers were guilty, but worked hard to have them acquitted. With his help, they were portrayed by the AFL as heroes to American workers, who contributed their hard-earned money to a McNamara defense fund. In November, 1911, an orchestrated plot was launched by the defense to bribe jurors in the McNamara case. Darrow was at the scene of one attempted bribery, as one of his investigators was arrested handing money to one of the prospective jurors. With the case collapsing around him, Darrow convinced the brothers to change their plea to guilty. The plea bargain he helped arrange got them lengthy prison sentences instead of the death penalty, but he was accused by many in organized labor of selling the movement out. Two months later, Darrow was charged with two counts of attempting to bribe the jurors. He faced two lengthy trials. In the first, defended by Earl Rogers, he was acquitted. Early during the second trial, Rogers abandoned the case, disagreeing with Darrow about the defense strategy, and Darrow defended himself. The trial ended with a hung jury. Subsequently the D.A. agreed not to retry the case if Darrow promised not to practice law again in California, and Darrow was allowed to go home.[5]

From labor lawyer to criminal lawyer

As a consequence of the bribery charges, most labor unions dropped Darrow from their list of preferred attorneys. This effectively put Darrow out of business as a labor lawyer, and he switched to civil and, most notably, criminal cases.

Throughout his career, Darrow devoted himself to opposing the death penalty, which he felt to be in conflict with humanitarian progress. In more than 100 cases, Darrow only lost one murder case in Chicago. He became renowned for moving juries and even judges to tears with his eloquence. Darrow had a keen intellect often hidden by his rumpled, unassuming appearance.

A July 23, 1915 article in the Chicago Tribune describes Darrow's effort on behalf of J.H. Fox — an Evanston, Illinois landlord — to have Mary S. Brazelton committed to an insane asylum against the wishes of her family. Fox alleged that Brazelton owed him rent money although other residents of Fox's boarding house testified to her sanity.

Leopold and Loeb

In the summer of 1924, Darrow took on the case of Leopold and Loeb, the teenage sons of two wealthy Chicago families, who were accused of kidnapping and killing Bobby Franks, a 14-year-old boy from their stylish Kenwood neighborhood. Nathan Leopold was 19 and Richard Loeb was 18 when they were arrested. Leopold was a law student at the University of Chicago, about to transfer to Harvard law school. Loeb was the youngest graduate ever from the University of Michigan. When asked why they committed the crime, Leopold told his captors: "The thing that prompted Dick to want to do this thing and prompted me to want to do this thing was a sort of pure love of excitement...the imaginary love of thrills, doing something different....The satisfaction and the ego of putting something over."

The Chicago newspapers labeled the case a "crime of the century,"[citation needed] and Americans around the country wondered what could drive the two young men, blessed with everything their society could offer, to commit such a depraved act. The killers were arrested after a passing workman spotted the victim's body in an isolated nature preserve near the Indiana border, just half a day after it was hidden, before they could collect a $10,000 ransom. Nearby were Leopold's eyeglasses, with their distinctive, traceable frames, which he had dropped at the scene. Leopold and Loeb made full confessions, and took police on a grim hunt around Chicago to collect the evidence that would be used against them. The state's attorney told the press that he had a "hanging case" for sure. Darrow stunned the prosecution when he had the killers plead guilty, to avoid a vengeance-minded jury and place the case before a judge. The trial, then, was actually a long sentencing hearing in which Darrow contended, with the help of expert testimony, that Leopold and Loeb were mentally diseased.

Darrow's closing address lasted 12 hours. He repeatedly stressed the ages of the "boys (before the Vietnam War, the age of majority was 21)," and noted that "never had there been a case in Chicago, where on a plea of guilty a boy under 21 had been sentenced to death." His famous plea was designed to soften the heart of Judge John Caverly, but also to mold public opinion, so that Caverly could follow precedent without too huge an uproar. Darrow succeeded. Caverly sentenced the killers to life plus 99 years. The Leopold and Loeb case raised, in a well-publicized trial, Darrow's lifelong contention that psychological, physical and environmental influences control human behavior - not a conscious choice between right and wrong. The public got an education in psychology and medicine and, because Leopold was an admirer, the philosophy of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.

During the Leopold-Loeb trial, the newspapers claimed that Darrow was presenting a "million dollar defense" for the two wealthy families. Many ordinary Americans were angered at his apparent greed. He had the families issue a statement insisting that there would be no large legal fees, and that his fees would be determined by a committee composed of officers from the Chicago Bar Association. After trial, Darrow suggested $200,000 would be reasonable. After lengthy negotiations with the defendant's families, he ended up getting some $70,000 in gross fees, which, after expenses and taxes, netted Darrow $30,000.[6]

The Scopes Trial

Clarence S Darrow.jpg

In 1925, Darrow defended John T. Scopes in the State of Tennessee v. Scopes trial of 1925. It has often been called the "Scopes-Monkey Trial," a title popularized by author and journalist H.L. Mencken. This pitted Darrow against William Jennings Bryan in an American court case that tested the Butler Act which had passed on March 21, 1925. The act forbade the teaching, in any state-funded educational establishment in Tennessee, of "any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." The law made it illegal for public school teachers in Tennessee to teach that man evolved from lower organisms, but the law was sometimes interpreted as meaning that the law forbade the teaching of any aspect of the theory of evolution. The law did not prohibit the teaching of evolution of any other species of plant or animal.

During the trial, Darrow requested that Bryan be called to the stand as an expert witness on the Bible. Over the other prosecutor's objection, Bryan agreed. Many believe that the following exchange caused the trial to turn against Bryan and for Darrow:

Darrow: "You have given considerable study to the Bible, haven't you, Mr. Bryan?"
Bryan: "Yes, sir; I have tried to ... But, of course, I have studied it more as I have become older than when I was a boy."
Darrow: "Do you claim then that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?"
Bryan: "I believe that 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."

After about two hours, Judge Raulston cut the questioning short, and on the following morning ordered that the whole session (which in any case the jury had not witnessed) be expunged from the record, ruling that the testimony had no bearing on whether Scopes was guilty of teaching evolution. Scopes was found guilty and ordered to pay the minimum fine of $100.

A year later, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Dayton court on a technicality—not the constitutional grounds as Darrow had hoped. According to the court, the fine should have been set by the jury, not Raulston. Rather than send the case back for further action, however, the Tennessee Supreme Court dismissed the case. The court commented, "Nothing is to be gained by prolonging the life of this bizarre case."

Ossian Sweet

A white mob in Detroit attempted to drive a black family out of the home they had purchased in a white neighborhood. In the struggle, a white man was killed, and the eleven blacks in the house were arrested and charged with murder. Dr. Ossian Sweet and three members of his family were brought to trial and after an initial deadlock, Darrow argued to the all-white jury: "I insist that there is nothing but prejudice in this case; that if it was reversed and eleven white men had shot and killed a black while protecting their home and their lives against a mob of blacks, nobody would have dreamed of having them indicted. They would have been given medals instead..." Following the mistrial of the 11, it was agreed that each of them would be tried individually. Darrow alongside Thomas Chawke would first defend Ossian's brother Henry, who had confessed to firing the shot on Garland Street. Henry was found not guilty on grounds of self defense and the prosecution determined to drop the charges on the remaining 10. The trials were presided over by the Honorable Frank Murphy, who went on to become Governor of Michigan and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.[7] Darrow's final closing statement, which lasted over 7 hours, is seen as a landmark in the Civil Rights movement, and was included in the book 'Speeches that Changed the World' (given the name 'I Believe in the Law of Love'). Uniquely, the two closing arguments of Clarence Darrow, from the first and second trials, are available, and show how he learned from the first trial and reshaped his remarks.[8]

Massie Trial

Aged 68, Darrow had already announced his retirement before he volunteered to take part in the Scopes Trial, apart from the Sweet trial later that same year. After those final trials, Darrow would retire from full-time practice, emerging only occasionally to undertake cases such as the 1932 Massie Trial in Hawaii.

In his last headline making case, the Massie Trial, Darrow—devastated by the Great Depression—was hired to come to the defense of Grace Hubbard Fortescue, Edward J. Lord, Deacon Jones and Thomas Massie, Fortescue's son-in-law, accused of murdering Joseph Kahahawai. Kahahawai had been accused, along with four other men, of raping and beating Thalia Massie, Thomas' wife and Fortescue's daughter; the resulting 1931 case ended in a hung jury (though the charges were later dropped and repeated investigation has shown them to be innocent). Enraged, Fortescue and Massie then orchestrated the murder of Kahahawai in order to extract a confession and were caught by police officers while transporting his dead body.

Darrow entered the racially charged atmosphere as the defense lawyer for the murderers. Darrow reconstructed the case as a justified honor killing. Considered by the New York Times to be one of Darrow's three most compelling trials (along with the Scopes Trial and the Leopold and Loeb case), the case captivated the nation and most of white America strongly supported the honor killing defense. In fact, the final defense arguments were transmitted to the mainland through a special radio hook-up. In the end the jury came back with a unanimous verdict of guilty, but on the lesser crime of manslaughter.[9]

Books by Darrow

A volume of Darrow's boyhood Reminiscences, entitled "Farmington," was published in Chicago in 1903 by McClurg and Company.

Darrow shared offices with Edgar Lee Masters, who achieved more fame for his poetry, in particular the Spoon River Anthology, than for his advocacy.

The papers of Clarence Darrow are located at the Library of Congress. The Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center of the University of Minnesota Law School has the largest collection of letters to and from Darrow, though they remain closed to the public.

List of books

  • Crime: Its Cause and Treatment
  • Persian Pearl
  • The Story of My Life
  • Farmington
  • Resist Not Evil

Works about Darrow

Henry Drummond (left), a greatly fictionalized version of Clarence Darrow, as portrayed by Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind.

After his death, a full-length one-man play was created, Darrow, featuring Darrow's reminiscences about his career. Originated by Henry Fonda, many actors, including Leslie Nielsen, have since taken on the role of Darrow in this play.

The play Inherit the Wind (later adapted to the screen) is a broadly fictionalized account of the Scopes Trial. Though the authors note that the 1925 trial was "clearly the genesis" of their play, they insist that the characters had "life and language of their own." They also mention that the issues raised in the play "have acquired new dimension and meaning" a possible reference to the political controversies of the 1950s. Still, they finish their foreword by inviting a more universal reading of the play: "It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow."[10]

Darrow was the inspiration for the character of Johnathan Wilk in the 1956 novel Compulsion, a thinly fictionalized account of the Leopold and Loeb case. In 1959, the novel was adapted into a film of the same name, starring the legendary filmmaker Orson Welles as Wilk. Welles, whose closing monologue was the longest ever committed to film at that time, shared the Best Actor award with co-stars Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell at that year's Cannes Film Festival.

The Clarence Darrow Memorial Bridge is located in Chicago, just south of the Museum of Science & Industry.

Darrow is a main character in the fictional Caleb Carr novel The Angel of Darkness.

Historical novelist Irving Stone wrote a biography of Darrow entitled Clarence Darrow for the Defense.

Kevin Boyle's book, Arc of Justice (Owl Books, 2004), looks in depth at the Ossian Sweet trial.

The Sweet Trials: Malice Aforethought is a play written by Arthur Beer, based on the trials of Ossian and Henry Sweet, and derived from Kevin Boyle's Arc of Justice.[11]

There is also a film, Darrow, starring Kevin Spacey and released by American Playhouse in 1991.

Arguably the most penetrating analysis of Darrow, both as a lawyer and as a person, is Geoffrey Cowan's biographical The People v. Clarence Darrow.

References and further reading

  • Baatz, Simon. For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder that Shocked Chicago (New York: HarperCollins, 2008)
  • Blum, Howard, American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century, 2008, Crown.[12]
  • Boyle, Kevin, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age (Henry Holt & Company, New York: 2004). (National Book Award Winner) ISBN 0805079335; ISBN 978-0805079333.
  • Darrow, Clarence, The Story of My Life, "The Negro in the North" (1932).[13]
  • Hakim, Joy (1995). War, Peace, and All That Jazz. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-19-509514-6. 
  • Mackey, Judge Alfred W. Clarence Darrow biography
  • Montefiore, Simon. Speeches That Changed the World: The Stories and Transcripts of the Moments That Made History (Englewood Cliffs: Quercus, 2007.) (Smith-Davies Publishing in Books, 2006), 224 pages - ISBN 1-84724-606-0; ISBN 9781847246066; ISBN 1847240879; ISBN 978847242198; ISBN 184724 2197; ISBN 9781847242198).
  • Morton, Richard Allen, "A Victorian Tragedy: The Strange Deaths of Mayor Carter H. Harrison and Patrick Eugene Pendergast," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, spring 2003. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3945/is_200304/ai_n9171948
  • Ossian Sweet Murder Trial Scrapbook, 1925. Scrapbook and photocopy of the Nov. 1925 murder trial of Ossian Sweet. Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University.[14]
  • St. Johns, Adela Rogers: Final Verdict (Doubleday, 1962; biography of Earl Rogers, relating the events of Darrow's trials for jury bribery)
  • Stone, Irving, Clarence Darrow For The Defense (Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1941).
  • Toms, Robert, Speech on the Sweet murder trials upon retirement of the prosecuting attorney in 1960, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University.[15]
  • Vine, Phyllis. One Man's Castle: Clarence Darrow in Defense of the American Dream. (New York: Amistad, 2005). ISBN 9780066214153.
  • Weinberg, Arthur, Editor, Attorney for the Damned, "You Can't Live There!" (1957) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989). ISBN 9780226136493.

Notes

  1. ^ Linder, Douglas O. (1997). "Who Is Clarence Darrow?", The Clarence Darrow Home Page
  2. ^ Hakim, Joy (1995). War, Peace, and All That Jazz. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-19-509514-6. 
  3. ^ Crow, L (June 18, 2006). "Show focuses on Darrow, infamous Mahoning native". The Vindicator: p. D-1. 
  4. ^ a b Clarence Darrow: Biography and Much More from Answers.com at www.answers.com
  5. ^ see in Adela Rogers St. Johns: Final Verdict, (Doubleday, 1962)and "Clarence Darrow: A Sentimental Rebel" by Arthur and Lila Weinberg.
  6. ^ See, A. Weinberg, ed., Attorney for the Damned, pp. 17-18, n. 1 (Simon & Schuster, 1957)); Hulbert papers, Northwestern University.
  7. ^ *Boyle, Kevin, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age (Henry Holt & Company, New York: 2004) (National Book Award Winner) ISBN 0805079335; ISBN 978-0805079333.
  8. ^ Darrow closing arguments, People vs. Sweet, Famous American Trials, University of Missouri, Kansas City.]
  9. ^ David Stannard."The Massie case: Injustice and courage". The Honolulu Advertiser, October 14, 2001.
  10. ^ Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. Inherit the Wind. Bantam, 1955.
  11. ^ The Sweet Trials: University of Detroit Mercy
  12. ^ NPR: Books We Like by Maureen Corrigan.
  13. ^ Project Guttenberg The Story of My Life.
  14. ^ Clarke Historical Library manuscript, Scrapbook of Sweet Murder Trial.
  15. ^ Clarke Historical Library manuscript, Robert Toms speeches.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free.

Clarence Darrow (April 18, 1857March 13, 1938) was an American lawyer, best known for having defended teenaged thrill killers Leopold and Loeb in their trial for murdering 14 year old Bobby Franks (1924) and defending John T. Scopes in the so-called "Monkey" Trial (1925), opposing William Jennings Bryan.

Contents

Sourced

  • In the great flood of human life that is spawned upon the earth, it is not often that a man is born.
    • Funeral oration for John Peter Altgeld (14 March 1902); published in an appendix to The Story of My Life (1932)
  • Liberty is the most jealous and exacting mistress that can beguile the brain and soul of man. She will have nothing from him who will not give her all. She knows that his pretended love serves but to betray. But when once the fierce heat of her quenchless, lustrous eyes has burned into the victim's heart, he will know no other smile but hers.
    • Funeral oration for John Peter Altgeld (14 March 1902)
  • With all their faults, trade-unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in man, than any other association of men.
    • The Railroad Trainman (November 1909)
  • The objector and the rebel who raises his voice against what he believes to be the injustice of the present and the wrongs of the past is the one who hunches the world along.
    • Address to the court in "The Communist Trial", People v. Lloyd (1920)
  • You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free.
    • Address to the court in People v. Lloyd (1920)
  • The Constitution is a delusion and a snare if the weakest and humblest man in the land cannot be defended in his right to speak and his right to think as much as the strongest in the land.
    • Address to the court in People v. Lloyd (1920)
  • It is often said that the accused should be given an immediate trial; that this and subsequent proceedings should not be hindered by delay; that the uncertainties of punishment furnish the criminal with the hope of escape and therefore do not give the community the benefit of the terror that comes with the certainty of punishment that could prevent crime. I can see no basis in logic or experience for this suggestion. It is based on the theory that punishment is not only a deterrent to crime, but the main deterrent. It comes from the idea that the criminal is distinct from the rest of mankind, that vengeance should be sure and speedy and that then crime would be prevented. If this were true and the only consideration to prevent crime, then the old torture chamber and the ancient prison with all its hopelessness and horror should be restored. Logic, humanity and experience would protest against this. If there is to be any permanent improvement in man and any better social order, it must come mainly from the education and humanizing of man. I am quite certain that the more the question of crime and its treatment is studied the less faith men have in punishment.
    • Crime : Its Cause And Treatment (1922) Ch. 36 "Remedies"
  • I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure — that is all that agnosticism means.
  • All men do the best they can. But none meet life honestly and few heroically.
    • As quoted in Infidels and Heretics : An Agnostic's Anthology (1929) edited by Clarence Darrow and Wallace Rice, p. 206
  • The purpose of life is living. Men and women should get the most they can out of their lives. The smallest, tiniest intellect may be quite as valuable to society as the largest. It may be still more valuable to itself: it may have all the capacity for enjoyment that the wisest has. The purpose of man is like the purpose of the pollywog — to wriggle along as far as he can without dying; or to hang on until death takes him.
    • As quoted in Infidels and Heretics : An Agnostic's Anthology (1929) edited by Clarence Darrow and Wallace Rice, pp. 206 - 207
  • I don't believe in God because I don't believe in Mother Goose.
    • Speech in Toronto (1930); as quoted in "Breaking the Last Taboo" (1996) by James A. Haught.
    • Variant: I believe that religion is the belief in future life and in God. I don’t believe in either. I don’t believe in God as I don’t believe in Mother Goose.
      • As quoted in Jesus: Myth Or Reality? (2006) by Ian Curtis
    • Religion is the belief in future life and in God. I don't believe in either.
      • As quoted in The New York Times (19 April 1936)
  • There is no such thing as justice — in or out of court.
    • Interview in Chicago (April 1936)
  • Chase after the truth like all hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coat tails.
    • The Sign (May 1938) This has been misquoted as: The pursuit of truth will set you free; even if you never catch up with it.
  • I feel as I always have, that the earth is the home and the only home of man, and I am convinced that whatever he is to get out of his existence he must get while he is here.
  • I am an Agnostic because I am not afraid to think. I am not afraid of any god in the universe who would send me or any other man or woman to hell. If there were such a being, he would not be a god; he would be a devil.
    • As quoted in a eulogy for Darrow by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (1938)
  • Do you, good people, believe that Adam and Eve were created in the Garden of Eden and that they were forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge? I do. The church has always been afraid of that tree. It still is afraid of knowledge. Some of you say religion makes people happy. So does laughing gas. So does whiskey. I believe in the brain of man. I'm not worried about my soul.
    • In a debate with religious leaders in Kansas City, as quoted in a eulogy for Darrow by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (1938)
  • Calvin Coolidge was the greatest man who ever came out of Plymouth Corner, Vermont.
    • As quoted in Foundations of Democracy: A Series of Debates (1939) by Thomas Vernor Smith and Robert Alphonso Taft, p. 10
  • When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. I’m beginning to believe it.
    • As quoted in Clarence Darrow for the Defence (1941) by Irving Stone, Ch. 6
  • History repeats itself. That's one of the things wrong with history.
    • As quoted in Peter's Quotations: Ideas For Our Time (1977) edited by Laurence J. Peter, p. 248
  • It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.
    • As quoted in Improving the Quality of Life for the Black Elderly: Challenges and Opportunities : Hearing before the Select Committee on Aging, House of Representatives, One Hundredth Congress, first session, September 25, 1987 (1988); this and a slight variant of it ("...rather the one most responsive to change") have also become attributed to Charles Darwin since at least 1997, but without any citation of an original source.
  • I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood.
    • As quoted in Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do" by Peter McWilliams, from 2000 Years of Disbelief (1996) edited by James A Haught p. 817
  • As long as the world shall last, there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.
    • As quoted in American Dream, a Search for Justice (2003) by Sherman D. Manning, p. 125
  • Hell, that's why they make erasers.
    • On mistakes, reported in Irving Stone, Clarence Darrow for the Defense (1941), p. 75.

Voltaire (1916)

Full text online
  • When Voltaire was born there was really but one church which, of course, was ignorant, tyrannical and barbarous in the extreme. All creeds are alike, and whenever there is but one, and the rulers honestly believe in that one, they are bound to be ignorant, barbarous and cruel. All sorts of heresies were punishable by death. If anyone dared to write a pamphlet or book that questioned any part of the accepted faith, the book was at once consigned to flames and the author was lucky if he did not meet the same fate. Religion was not maintained by the precepts of the priest, but by the prison, the torture chamber and the fagot. Everyone believed; no one questioned. The religious creeds, while strict and barbarous, did not interfere with the personal conduct of any of the rulers. They were left free to act as they pleased, so long as they professed to believe in the prevailing faith.
  • Had the modern professors of eugenics had power in France in 1694, they probably would not have permitted such a child to have been born. Their scientific knowledge would have shown conclusively that no person of value could have come from the union of his father and mother. In those days, nature had not been instructed by the professors of eugenics and so Voltaire was born.
  • Even Voltaire's father could not make a lawyer out of a genius. To be a good lawyer, one must have a mind and a disposition to venerate the past; a respect for precedents; a belief in the wisdom and the sanctity of the dead. Voltaire had genius, imagination, feeling, and poetry, and these gifts always have been, and always will be, incompatible with the practice of law.
  • The usual is always mediocre. When nature takes it into her head to make a man, she fits him with her own equipment and educates him in her own school.
  • Whatever else he was during his life, he was never dull, and the world forgives almost anything but stupidity.
  • Voltaire was not the first or last man to convert a prison into a hall of fame. A prison is confining to the body, but whether it affects the mind, depends entirely upon the mind.
    It was while in prison that he changed his name from the one his father gave him — Arouet — to the one he has made famous throughout all time — Voltaire. He said, "I was very unlucky under my first name. I want to see if this one will succeed any better."
  • Pensions are the favors of the powerful, and dangerous to any great intellect. It is only here and there down throughout the ages that a Voltaire is born who does not fall a victim to their blandishments.
  • Much of his work he did while confined to his bed. He was always an invalid, always obliged to take great care of himself, living constantly with death just before him, never idle a moment for fear his work would not be done. Probably no man ever lived who assailed the Church and the State with the same wit and keenness that was always at Voltaire's command; and yet in spite of this he managed to live comfortably, accumulate riches and die in peace.
  • No iconoclast can possibly escape the severest criticism. If he is poor he is against existing things because he cannot succeed. If he is rich, he is not faithful to his ideals. The world always demands of a prophet a double standard. He must live a life consistent with his dreams, and at the same time must obey the conventions of the world. He cannot be judged either by one or the other, but must be judged by both.
  • The truth is always modern and there never comes a time when it is safe to give it voice.
  • There are two things that kill a genius — a fatal disease and contentment. When a man is contented he goes to sleep. Voltaire had no chance to be contented, and so he wrote eternally and unceasingly, more than any other man in the history of the world.
  • In Geneva lived Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He too was a rebel, mighty in war. Voltaire was keener, wittier, deeper, greater. Rousseau was more fiery, emotional, passionate. Both were really warriors in the same great cause. From their different places, three miles apart, both sent forth their thunderbolts to wake a sleeping world. When the world awakened and shook itself, churches, thrones, institutions, laws, and customs were buried in the wreck. Some charged the wreck to Voltaire, some to Rousseau.
  • No doubt there is much immature talking and hasty writing and will always be where liberty of speech and press prevails. The political, religious, and social views of any age and even of the most radical members of society, were born, long before their time. Those who invented the alphabet and the printing press are indirectly responsible for much of the violence of a changing social state; but in the same way, they are responsible for the progress of the world, for the enlightenment, for the civilization, and for all that makes the present better than the past.
  • Valiantly he fought on every intellectual battlefield. True he bowed and dodged and lied over and over again, that he still might live and work. Many of his admirers cannot forgive this in the great Voltaire. Rather they would have had him, like Bruno and Servetus, remain steadfast to his faith while his living body was consumed with flames. But, Voltaire was Voltaire, Bruno was Bruno, and Servetus was Servetus. It is not for the world to judge, but to crown them all alike. Each and all lived out their own being, did their work in their own way, and carried a reluctant, stupid humanity to greater possibilities and grander heights.

Resist Not Evil (1904)

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  • Every government on earth is the personification of violence and force, and yet the doctine of non-resistance is as old as human thought - even more than this, the instinct is as old as life upon the earth. p. 12
  • That men should ‘turn the other cheek,’ should ‘love their enemies,’ should ‘resist not evil,’ has ever seemed fine to teach to chilfen, to preach on Sundays, to round a period in a senseless oratorical flight; but it has been taken for granted that these sentiments cannot furnish the real foundation for strong characters or great states. p. 13
  • The nation that would to-day disarm its soldiers and turn its people to the paths of peace would accomplish more to its building up than by all the war taxes wrong from its hostile and unwilling serfs. p. 27
  • To disband the armies and destroy the forts, to diffuse love and brotherhood, and peace and justice in the place of war and strife, could tend only to the buidling up of character, the elevation of the soul, and the strenght and well-being of the state. p. 39
  • No nation can be really great that is held together by gat- ling guns, and no true loyalty can be induced and kept through fear. p. 40

Why I Am An Agnostic (1929)

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  • An agnostic is a doubter. The word is generally applied to those who doubt the verity of accepted religious creeds of faiths. Everyone is an agnostic as to the beliefs or creeds they do not accept. Catholics are agnostic to the Protestant creeds, and the Protestants are agnostic to the Catholic creed. Any one who thinks is an agnostic about something, otherwise he must believe that he is possessed of all knowledge. And the proper place for such a person is in the madhouse or the home for the feeble-minded. In a popular way, in the western world, an agnostic is one who doubts or disbelieves the main tenets of the Christian faith.
  • I am an agnostic as to the question of God. I think that it is impossible for the human mind to believe in an object or thing unless it can form a mental picture of such object or thing. Since man ceased to worship openly an anthropomorphic God and talked vaguely and not intelligently about some force in the universe, higher than man, that is responsible for the existence of man and the universe, he cannot be said to believe in God. One cannot believe in a force excepting as a force that pervades matter and is not an individual entity. To believe in a thing, an image of the thing must be stamped on the mind. If one is asked if he believes in such an animal as a camel, there immediately arises in his mind an image of the camel. This image has come from experience or knowledge of the animal gathered in some way or other. No such image comes, or can come, with the idea of a God who is described as a force.
  • To say that God made the universe gives us no explanation of the beginnings of things. If we are told that God made the universe, the question immediately arises: Who made God? Did he always exist, or was there some power back of that? Did he create matter out of nothing, or is his existence coextensive with matter? The problem is still there. What is the origin of it all? If, on the other hand, one says that the universe was not made by God, that it always existed, he has the same difficulty to confront. To say that the universe was here last year, or millions of years ago, does not explain its origin. This is still a mystery. As to the question of the origin of things, man can only wonder and doubt and guess.
  • Many Christians base the belief of a soul and God upon the Bible. Strictly speaking, there is no such book. To make the Bible, sixty-six books are bound into one volume. These books are written by many people at different times, and no one knows the time or the identity of any author. Some of the books were written by several authors at various times. These books contain all sorts of contradictory concepts of life and morals and the origin of things. Between the first and the last nearly a thousand years intervened, a longer time than has passed since the discovery of America by Columbus.
  • One believes in the truthfulness of a man because of his long experience with the man, and because the man has always told a consistent story. But no man has told so consistent a story as nature.
  • Can any rational person believe that the Bible is anything but a human document? We now know pretty well where the various books came from, and about when they were written. We know that they were written by human beings who had no knowledge of science, little knowledge of life, and were influenced by the barbarous morality of primitive times, and were grossly ignorant of most things that men know today.
  • Can anyone with intelligence really believe that a child born today should be doomed because the snake tempted Eve and Eve tempted Adam? To believe that is not God-worship; it is devil-worship.
    Can anyone call this scheme of creation and damnation moral? It defies every principle of morality, as man conceives morality. Can anyone believe today that the whole world was destroyed by flood, save only Noah and his family and a male and female of each species of animal that entered the Ark? There are almost a million species of insects alone. How did Noah match these up and make sure of getting male and female to reproduce life in the world after the flood had spent its force? And why should all the lower animals have been destroyed? Were they included in the sinning of man? This is a story which could not beguile a fairly bright child of five years of age today.
  • What of the tale of Balaam's ass speaking to him, probably in Hebrew? Is it true, or is it a fable? Many asses have spoken, and doubtless some in Hebrew, but they have not been that breed of asses. Is salvation to depend on a belief in a monstrosity like this?
  • When every event was a miracle, when there was no order or system or law, there was no occasion for studying any subject, or being interested in anything excepting a religion which took care of the soul. As man doubted the primitive conceptions about religion, and no longer accepted the literal, miraculous teachings of ancient books, he set himself to understand nature. We no longer cure disease by casting out devils.
  • The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is the death of wisdom. Skepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.

The Story of My Life (1932)

  • Autobiography is never entirely true. No one can get the right perspective on himself. Every fact is colored by imagination and dream. The young look forth across the sea to a mirage of fairylands filled with hidden treasures; the aged turn to the fading past, and through the mist and haze that veils once familiar scenes, bygone events assume weird and fanciful proportions.
    • Ch. 1 "Before The Beginning"
  • One cannot live through a long stretch of years without forming some philosophy of life. As one journeys along he gains experiences and even some ideas. Accumulated opinions and philosophy may be more important to others than the bare facts about how he lived, so my ambition is not so much to relate the occurrences as to record the ideas that life has forced me to accept; and, after all, thoughts, impressions and feelings are really life itself. I should like to think that these reflections might make existence a trifle easier for some of those who may chance to read this story.
    • Ch. 1 "Before The Beginning"
  • Ancestors do not mean so much. The rebel who succeeds generally makes it easier for the posterity that follows him; so these descendants are usually contented and smug and soft. Rebels are made from life, not ancestors.
    • Ch. 1 "Before The Beginning"
  • I have always felt that doubt was the beginning of wisdom, and the fear of God was the end of wisdom.
    • Ch. 4 "Called To The Bar"
  • Every instinct that is found in any man is in all men. The strength of the emotion may not be so overpowering, the barriers against possession not so insurmountable, the urge to accomplish the desire less keen. With some, inhibitions and urges may be neutralized by other tendencies. But with every being the primal emotions are there. All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike some one they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.
    • Ch. 10 "Child Training" The last line here has sometimes been misquoted as "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with a lot of pleasure."
  • Wars always bring about a conservative reaction. They overwhelm and destroy patient and careful efforts to improve the condition of man. Nothing can be heard in the cannon's roar but the voice of might. All the safeguards laboriously built to preserve individual freedom and foster man's welfare are blown to pieces with shot and shell. In the presence of the wholesale slaughter of men the value of life is cheapened to the zero point. What is one life compared with the almost daily records of tens of thousands or more mowed down like so many blades of grass in a field? Building up a conception of the importance of life is a matter of slow growth and education; and the work of generations is shattered and laid waste by machine guns and gases on a larger scale than ever before. Great wars have been followed by an unusually large number of killings between private citizens and individuals. These killers have become accustomed to thinking in terms of slaying and death toward all opposition, and these have been followed in turn by the most outrageous legal penalties and a large increase in the number of executions by the state. It is perfectly clear that hate begets hate, force is met with force, and cruelty can become so common that its contemplation brings pleasure, when it should produce pain.
    • Ch. 26 "The Aftermath Of The War"
  • I had grown tired of standing in the lean and lonely front line facing the greatest enemy that ever confronted man — public opinion.
    • Ch. 27 "The Loeb-Leopold Tragedy" (p. 232)
  • I was truly sorry for Mr. Bryan. But I consoled myself by thinking of the years through which he had busied himself tormenting intelligent professors with impudent questions about their faith, and seeking to arouse the ignoramuses and bigots to drive them out of their positions.
    • p. 267

Misattributed

  • Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.
    • This quote is from Ethel Lina White's The Wheel Spins (1936). It was popularized in the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). In this film a similar line was spoken by "Jefferson Smith" (Jimmy Stewart).

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