Friday, January 11, 2019

Rauner Exhibit: "Limits to Power: Daniel Webster and the Dartmouth College Case"

Poster of Daniel Webster exhibit
This year marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of Dartmouth College. In addition to our podcast, "Hindsight is 20/19", Special Collections is starting the year-long celebration with an exhibit titled "Limits to Power: Daniel Webster and the Dartmouth College Case." The Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, better known as the Dartmouth College Case, is a critical turning point in Dartmouth's history. Had this case been settled in favor of Woodward, and by extension, the State of New Hampshire, Dartmouth as we know it would not exist today.
The case was also a turning point for our country. The outcome of the Dartmouth College Case cemented the concept into United States Constitutional law, already present in English common law, that private charitable organizations serve the public good.
In addition, the case is one of several that is still cited today as the basis for the protection of corporate persons under the Constitution. Justice John Marshall’s opinion in this case has been cited in recent Supreme Court cases such as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Citizens United v. FEC.
This case also solidified Daniel Webster's, Class of 1801, already significant reputation as a constitutional lawyer. Webster was only 37 years old at the time, and his oratorical style, persuasive argument, and keen sense of strategy vaulted him to fame. Webster would go on to argue some 170 cases before the Supreme Court during his lifetime, but none are as well-known as this one.
While the emotional pull of his peroration, and the often-quoted line from it "It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it!" is the focus within the College community, it was his strategic decision to argue the case of corporate personhood based on English common law that won the day. Chief Justice Marshall had used this argument himself several times, both as a lawyer and in judicial opinions. It is likely that Webster was aware of this and made a conscious decision to cast his argument in a light that would appeal to the justices and to Marshall in particular.*
We invite you to enjoy this exhibit which lays out the narrative of the Dartmouth College Case. It was curated by Peter Carini, the College Archivist, and will be on display in the Class of 1965 Galleries in Webster Hall from January 2nd through March 27th, 2019. If you can't make it to Special Collections in person, you can read the exhibit text online here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Hindsight is 20/19

Eyeglasses over the text of the College Charter
This week kicks off Dartmouth's celebration of our 250th anniversary. There is going to be a lot going on in 2019 and we are joining in the fun with a podcast series to tell some of Dartmouth's most important stories through 25 objects from the collections--one item per decade.

We are pretty happy with how it is coming together. We will be exploring key moments in Dartmouth's history and spinning them out to talk about larger cultural issues. We are unsparing in our look at Dartmouth's past. We applaud Dartmouth's moments of forward thinking and the times when students took the lead in creating progress on campus, but we also look at Dartmouth's complex relationship with slavery, race, and gender, and point out the times we failed as an institution. We have a sense of humor about the past as well. A lot of weird things have happened, and we love talking about them.

The first episode is out and more will follow soon. Take a listen at Hindsight is 20/19.