Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Charter Day!

Or Why We are Dartmouth College, not Dartmouth Academy or Dartmouth University - The Rev. Eleazar Wheelock was a very pious, and ambitious, man. On August 22, 1769, he wrote to John Wentworth, Governor of the Province of New Hampshire, forwarding a draft of the charter for the institution he hoped to establish. In the postscript he wondered if it would be possible to use the word College rather than Academy in the document. Apparently it was; on December 13th of that year, Wentworth signed the royal charter that did "by these Presents will, ordain, grant and constitute that there be a College erected in our said Province of New Hampshire by the name of DARTMOUTH COLLEGE."

In 1816, the state of New Hampshire passed "An Act to Amend the Charter and Enlarge and Improve the Corporation of Dartmouth College" which, among other things, called for an expanded board of overseers and renamed the institution Dartmouth University. Not surprisingly, the existing Board of Trustees felt the act did not improve the corporation and filed suit against the state. This case ultimately resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of the College which has had long reaching impact on contract law, and most likely on the name of the institution.

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