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IN THE CASE, THE TRUSTEES OF DARTMOUTH COLLEGE vs. WIL
LIAM H. WOODWARD, BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE 10th DAY OF MARCH, 1818.
[ The action, The Trustees of Dartmouth College vs. William H. Woodward, was commenced at the Court of Common Pleas, Grafton County, State of New Hampshire, February Term, 1817. The declaration was Trover for the Books of Record, original Charter, common Seal and other corporate property of the College. The conversion was alleged to have been made on the 7th day of October, 1816. The proper pleas were filed, and by consent, the cause was carried directly to the Superior Court, by Appeal, and entered May Term 1817. The general issue was pleaded by the defendant and joined by the plaintiffs. The facts in the case were then agreed upon, by the parties, and drawn up in the form of a Special Verdict, reciting the Charter of the College and the acts of the Legislature of the State, passed June and December 1816, by which the said Corporation of Dartmouth College was enlarged and improved and the said Charter amended.
The question made in the case was, whether those acts of the Legislature were valid and binding upon the Corporation, without their acceptance or assent, and not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. If so, the verdict found for the defendant ; otherwise, it found for the plaintiffs. .. · The cause was continued to the September Term of the Court in Rockingham County, where it was argued; and at the November Term of the same year, in Grafton County, the opinion of the Court was delivered by Chief Justice Richardson, in favor of the validity and constitutionality of the acts of the Legislature; and judgment was accordingly entered for the defendant on the Special Verdict.
Thereupon a Writ of Error was sued out by the original plaintiffs to remove the cause to the Supreme Court of the United States; where it was entered at the Term of the Court holden at Washington on the first Monday of February, A. D. 1818.
The cause came on for argument on the 10th day of March 1818, before all the judges. It was argued by Mr. Webster and Mr. Hopkinson for the plaintiffs in error, and by Mr. Holmes and the Attorney General for the defendant in error.
At the Term of the Court bolden February 1819, the opinion of the judges was deliver. ed, declaring the acts of the Legislature unconstitutional and invalid, and reversing the judgment of the State Court. ]
ARGUMENT OF MR. WEBSTER FOR PLAINTIFFS IN ERROR. The general question is, whether the acts of the 27th of June, and of the 18th and 26th of December, 1816, are valid and binding on the rights of the plaintiffs, without their acceptance or assent.
The charter of 1769 created and established a corporation, to consist of twelve persons, and no more; to be called the “ Trustees of Dartmouth College.” The preamble to the charter recites, that it is granted on the application and request of the Rev. Eleazer
Wheelock: That Dr. Wheelock, about the year 1754, established a charity school, at his own expense, and on his own estate and plantation: That, for several years, through the assistance of well disposed persons in America, granted at his solicitation, he had clothed, maintained, and educated a number of the native Indians, and employed them afterwards as missionaries and schoolmasters among the savage tribes: That his design promising to be useful, he had constituted the Rev. Mr. Whitaker to be his attorney, with power to solicit contributions, in England, for the further extension and carrying on of his undertaking; and that he had requested the Earl of Dartmouth, Baron Smith, Mr. Thornton, and other gentlemen, to receive such sums as might be contributed, in England, towards supporting his school, and to be trustees thereof, for his charity; which these persons had agreed to do. And thereupon Dr. Wheelock had executed to them a deed of trust, in pursuance to such agreement, between him and them, and for divers good reasons, had referred it to these persons, to determine the place in which the school should be finally established: And to enable them to form a proper decision on this subject, had laid before them the several offers which had been made to him by the several governments in America, in order to induce him to settle and establish his school within the limits of such governments for their own emolument, and the increase of learning in their respective places, as well as for the furtherance of his general original design. And in as much as a number of the proprietors of lands in New Hampshire, animated by the example of the governor himself and others, and in consideration that without any impediment to its original design, the school might be enlarged and improved, to promote learning among the English, and to supply ministers to the people of that province, had promised large tracts of land, provided the school should be established in that province, the persons before mentioned, having weighed the reasons in favor of the several places proposed, had given the preference to this province, and these offers; that Dr. Wheelock therefore represented the necessity of a legal incorporatio 1, and proposed that certain gentlemen in America, whom he had already named and appointed in his will, to be trustees of his charity after his decease, should compose the corporation. Upon this recital, and in consideration of the laudable original design of Dr. Wheelock, and willing that the best means of education be established in New Hampshire, for the benefit of the province, the king grants the charter, by the advice of his provincial council.
The substance of the facts thus recited, is, that Dr. Wheelock had founded a charity, on funds owned and procured by himself; that he was at that time the sole dispenser and sole administrator, as well as the legal owner of these funds; that he had made his will, devising this property in trust, to continue the existence and uses of the school, and appointed trustees; that, in this state of things, he had been invited to fix his school, permanently, in New Hampshire, and to extend the design of it to the education of the youth of that province; that before he removed his school, or accepted this invitation, which his friends in England had advised him to accept, he applied for a charter, to be granted, not to whomsoever the king or govern
augment the prices of its great staples, it is reasonable to expect, that these objects will be pursued by the best means which offer. And it may therefore well deserve consideration, whether the commercial, and navigating, and manufacturing interests of the North do not call on us to aid and support them, by united counsels, and united efforts. But I abstain from enlarging on this topic. Let me rather say, sir, that in regard to the whole country, a new era has arisen. In a time of peace, the proper pursuits of peace engage society with a degree of enterprise, and an intenseness of application, heretofore unknown. New objects are opening, and new resources developed, on every side. We tread on a broader theatre; and if instead of acting our parts, according to the novelty and importance of the scene, we waste our strength in mutual crimination and recrimination about the past, we shall resemble those navigators, who having escaped from some crooked and narrow river to the sea, now that the whole ocean is before them, should, nevertheless, occupy themselves with the differences which happened as they passed along among the rocks and the shallows, instead of opening their eyes to the wide horizon a nd them, spreading their sail to the propitious gale that woos it, raising their quadrant to the sun, and grasping the helm, with the conscious hand of a master.
At a publie dinner given him, by the citizens of Boston, as a mark of respect for his public services as Senator of the United States, and late their Representative in Congress,-after the annunciation of the following toast :-“ Our distinguished Guest-worthy the noblest homage, which freemen can give, or a freeman receive: the homage of their hearts:” Mr. Webster rose and said :
MR. CHAIRMAN,—The honor conferred by this occasion, as well as the manner in which the meeting has been pleased to receive what has now been proposed to them from the Chair, requires from me a most respectful acknowledgement, and a few words of honest and sincere thanks. I should, indeed, be lost to all just feeling, or guilty of a weak and peurile affectation, if I should fail to manifest the emotions which are excited by these testimonials of regard, from those among whom I live, who see me oftenest, and know me best. If the approbation of good mer be an object fit to be pursued, it is fit to be enjoyed; if it be, as it doubtless is, one of the most stirring and invigorating motives, which operate upon the mind, it is, also, among the richest rewards which console and gratify the heart.
I confess myself particularly touched and affected, Mr. President, and gentlemen, by the kind feeling which you manifest towards me, as your fellow citizen, your neighbour, and your friend. Respect and confidence, in these relations of life, lie at the foundation of all valuable character; they are as essential to solid and permanent reputation, as to durable and social happiness. I assure you, sir, with the utmost sincerity, that there is nothing which could flow from human approbation or applause, no distinction, however high or alluring, no object of ambition, which could possibly be brought within the horizon of my view, that would tempt me, in any degree, justly to forfeit the attachment of my private friends, or surrender my hold, as a citizen, and a neighbour, on the confidence of the community in which I live; a community, to which I owe so much, in the bosom of which I have enjoyed so much, and where I still hope to remain, in the exercise of mutual good offices, and the interchange of mutual good wishes, for the residue of life.'
The commendation which the meeting has bestowed on my attempts at public service, I am conscious, is measured rather by their own kindness, than by any other standard. Of those attempts, no one can think more humbly than I do. The affairs of the general