The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster: With an Essay on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Style

By Edwin P. Whipple; Daniel Webster | Go to book overview

THE
GREAT ORATIONS AND SPEECHES
OF
DANIEL WEBSTER.

THE DARTMOUTH COLLEGE CASE.

ARGUMENT BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, AT WASHINGTON, ON THE 10TH OF MARCH, 1818.

[THE action, The Trustees of Dartmouth College v. William H. Woodward, was commenced in 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 of New Hampshire, by appeal, and entered at the 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 defendants; 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, 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 ( Wirt) for the defendant in error.

At the term of the court holden in February, 1819, the opinion of the judges was delivered by Chief Justice Marshall, declaring the acts of the legislature unconstitutional and invalid, and reversing the judgment of the State Court. The court, with the exception of Mr. Justice Duvall, were unanimous.

The following was the argument of Mr. Webster for the plaintiffs in error.]

THE general question is, whether the acts of the legislature of New Hampshire of the 27th of June, and of the 18th and 26th of December, 1816, are valid and binding on 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 ex

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