Friday, April 10, 2015

Petitioning to Dance

Eleazar Wheelock’s vast collection in the Rauner Library contains everything from his early sermons to personal letters and bills, but also includes much of the College’s early history. The charter may be the most emblematic symbol of the College that is represented, but other documents also reveal the early character of the students.

A petition from November 1772 on behalf of the Sophomore and Freshmen classes was submitted to Wheelock by James Hutchinson, Samuel Stebbins, and John Ledyard (yes, that Ledyard ). After a lengthy opening paragraph to butter the president up, the boys requested to be allowed “to spend certain Leisure hours allotted us for the relaxation of our mind--in such sort as, stepping the Minuet & Learning To use the sword.”

This petition is particularly interesting in the context of Moving Dartmouth Forward. One of the more controversial policies of President Hanlon’s plan is the increase in academic rigor, with many students protesting that this institution is rigorous enough. These protests predate the speech, however, by nearly 250 years. Apparently it has been a part of Dartmouth’s character, since its founding, for students to find the college too demanding. Perhaps the students now don’t feel the need to duel and learn to dance, or even call Hanlon “our Patron and our Guide,” but their protests certainly are reminiscent of this petition.

Ask about the document at MS-1310, Folder 772640.

Posted for Maggie Baird '18

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