Friday, July 5, 2013

Declaration of Independency

By 1776, Dartmouth College had been operating in Hanover for nearly six years, its student body had expanded from the 4 original students who came north with Eleazar Wheelock to about 90, and significant growth also had occurred in the population of the town. Clearly, Wheelock's enterprise was off to a very successful start.

However, with unrest growing between the colonies and Great Britain, the College feared breaks with its patrons and the resulting financial hardships. New Hampshire's Royal Governor John Wentworth, who had been instrumental in the College acquiring its charter in 1769 and on many occasions in disagreement with the Crown on its handling of the colonies, nevertheless had been forced to leave New Hampshire, perceived as a loyalist.

On June 16, 1776, John Phillips, prosperous and influential businessman, Dartmouth Trustee and, several years later, founder of Phillips Exeter Academy, wrote to President Wheelock from Exeter. He and other trustees in that area had determined it was unsafe to travel to Hanover for Commencement. He also mentioned that he had seen the Declaration of Independence:
"I have just now seen the Declaration of Independency, and perhaps it will not be long before we shall experience whether we are able to support it - or whether the measures taken by Government on both sides will not be ruinous - The Lord in mercy prevent it, and make us mutual blessings to and [not] destroyers of one another."
It is not completely evident how an Exeter merchant, albeit an important one, would have had access to the document. On the other hand, some scholars contend that there were dozens of declarations and legislative acts relating to separating from Great Britain issued by individual colonies prior to the document drafted and adopted by the Continental Congress in July. Could Phillips be referring to a New Hampshire effort? We would like to believe that he is speaking of THE declaration!

Ask for D.C. Hist Mss 776366.

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