Dartmouth vs Woodward Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

The Supreme Court case of Dartmouth versus Woodward in 1819, is a significant case that continues to have an impact on current court cases. This case helped define what a charter is and the “contract clause” of the U.S. constitution. The case of Dartmouth college versus Woodward had an effect on private and public colleges. It set the standard for contract clauses and limited the state of New Hampshire power in regards to private schools.

Reverend Eleaszer Wheelock first started Dartmouth college as a school for missionaries and Native Americans. Reverend Wheelock contributed his own money and also received funding from England and Scotland. He then set up an English board to help with the finances towards the school. The Royal Governor of New Hampshire granted a charter to Wheelock in 1769, which stated how the school was going to be ran. In order to maintain the charter, King George of England granted Dartmouth a written grant to establish a university in New Hampshire. In 1769, King George III established Dartmouth College. Thirty years later in 1815, after the United States was formed, the state of New Hampshire attempted to change the status of the school from private to public.

The state of New Hampshire then passed laws that revised the charter. Therefore, they thought they were able to change the university from private to public. New Hampshire also selected new trustees for the state. The previous trustees and friends of Dartmouth did not approve of this new law and therefore filled a lawsuit. They hired Daniel Webster, who at the time, was known as the most famous alumni of the school. Webster defended Dartmouth in court against William Woodward; which is how this court case originated its name. Webster argued that when the school was founded certain rights were supposed to be upheld. Therefore, all private colleges could be subject to the same law, and could be changed from private to public.He also argued that without the due process of law, that their property, immunity, and privileges can not be taken away. The trustees that filed the lawsuit claimed that New Hampshire violated the constitution. They used Article 1, Section 10, claiming that the state was trying to cancel the contract(The Oyez Project).

On February 2, 1819, the final decision was made in the favor of the college. In a six to one decision, the Court stated that the state could not interfere because there was still a contract between private parties. The contract was valid because the Constitution stated that states can not dissolve contracts. Even though the contract was written when there was royal colonies and before the United States was formed, the fact remained that it was a contract between property rights

and not between the government and its regulations. In Court, Marshall read the courts opinion that

he had written, “The opinion of the court….is, that (the charter) is a contract, the obligation of which cannot be impaired without violating the constitution.”(Enotes)

The majority of the opinion was written by Chief Justice John Marshall which included his belief in that a contract can not be broken. An earlier Court case had the deciding factor in the decision against Dartmouth. This case was Fletcher v. Peck in the year 1810. The state was trying to break a contract in the cases in both Fletcher v. Peck and Dartmouth college v. Woodward. During this time, people were against the decisions on the cases of Fletcher v. Peck and Dartmouth v. Woodward. The reason why people were discouraged was because they felt the government had the right to end contracts(Enotes).

This now famous case had a significant impact in the nineteenth and early twentieth century and is still cited in business litigations today. Many businesses were able to grow in the early centuries because of the ruling on this case. They did not have to worry about the state interfering because they could follow the terms that were written in their charters. This case was the first to establish the fact that a cooperation is a (person) and can be sued, and that property rights, like those in a charter, are protected under the contract clause. The contract clause protected the right to buy and sell property(Key Supreme Court Cases).

This case also helped promote the development of higher institutions in the United States. Because the state had no control over private colleges, this in turn created a growth of private colleges. Another beneficial gain that was derived from this court case was the idea of tenure for faculty.

The Supreme Court case of Dartmouth college versus Woodward in 1819 continues to be one of the most important Supreme Court rulings of all times. It set the standard for Contract Clauses and limited the states power in regards to private schools. The impact of this case continues to be evident today as private schools are protected against the government from total interference. Since this law has been in effect, many people felt secure to open up businesses and charters because they felt protected(Enotes).

In regards to the case of Dartmouth college versus Woodward, I feel that it was good that they filed a lawsuit because they won, and it helped protect other private colleges. As a result, Dartmouth University today would not have been a private Ivy League University because the state would have been involved. Therefore, Dartmouth would have not had its own traditions. If they did not win or not fight for their beliefs, there might not be any private colleges in existence today. This in turn most likely helped Ivy League Universities stay private. Therefore today, we have a vast amount of private universities to choose from. Each of these universities has its own traditions that have been around for hundreds of years and are deeply vested in American history and famous alumni.

I feel that another important aspect that came out of this Supreme Court
Case was the Contract Clause. The Contract Clause is important to small business because it protects the government from interfering. This allows business owners to run their businesses how they want to and not how the government feels like they should. This in turn allowed more people to want to own a business because they could be in charge of it. No one wants to own and run a business if they have to be told what to do. Because of this Clause, a rapid development in businesses began to spring. Many businesses that exist today most likely benefited from this Court Case.

Works Cited

“Dartmouth College v. Woodward – ENotes.com Reference.” ENotes – Literature Study Guides, Lesson Plans, and More. Web. 27 Nov. 2011. . “Dartmouth College v. Woodward | The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.” The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law | A Multimedia Archive of the Supreme Court of the United States. Web. 27 Nov. 2011. . “Key Supreme Court Cases: Dartmouth College v. Woodward (ABA Division for Public Education).” American Bar Association. Web. 27 Nov. 2011. .

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