Friday, January 10, 2014

Proper Motivation

A photograph of a man with cloth draped around his shoulders.On May 15th, 1872, Charles Edwin Hall, Class of 1870, petitioned President Asa Dodge Smith for mercy. At the end of the winter term in 1870, Hall had been expelled after standing before the faculty to answer for his participation in what he calls "the mock programme affair." Hall had apparently written a scurrilous essay about a fellow Dartmouth student that had then been published and distributed widely among the student body without Hall's knowledge. In his letter to President Smith, Hall acknowledges that he was at fault for writing the essay but states that he was unable to defend himself fully before the faculty. He now writes to clear up his involvement in the matter, with the hopes of finally receiving his degree.

As he describes the limits of his participation in the affair, Hall repeatedly underscores the fact that he is suffering from "mental discomfort" as a result of his lack of Dartmouth credentials and that the punishment has been "very hard" to him. He asserts that he would do almost anything to be a graduate of the class of 1870. Finally, after much handwringing, Hall divulges his true motivation for seeking a presidential pardon: he is engaged to a woman whose father belongs to the class of 1843 and won't let him marry her until he has been enrolled as an "honorable graduate" of Dartmouth College.

A page from a handwritten letter.A page from a handwritten letter.
A page from a handwritten letter.A page from a handwritten letter.

Faced with such a powerful plea, President Smith relented and Charles E. Hall was granted his diploma from Dartmouth College within the month. He went on to marry Nellie A. Barnard, daughter of Rev. Pliny F. Barnard, '43, three years later and moved to Greenville, NH, where he worked as a physician and pharmacist. Hall took to heart the hard lesson he had initially received at the hands of Dartmouth: he became a public servant, acting as the superintendent of schools for more than a decade before joining the New Hampshire state senate, where he served as chairman of the Committee on Education.

To learn more about Charles Edwin Hall, class of 1899, ask to see his alumni file at Rauner Library.

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