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Sparks, NV, USA
Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1816-1819) established significant precedents concerning state authority and the nature of private enterprise. Dartmouth College was incorporated under a royal charter in 1769 as a private corporation. In 1816 the New Hampshire Legislature attempted to transform the college into a state institution. Daniel Webster, representing the college trustees, convinced the U.S. Supreme Court that the royal charter was a contract that could not be invalidated by subsequent state legislation. The court concurred. Its decision initiated a significant constitutional limitation on state authority. It also helped to define corporations as relatively unregulated private economic entities that contributed to the public sphere through enlightened self-interest. Shirley offers a vivid account of the case, enriched by extensive quotation of primary archival sources. Reprint of the first edition. "The complete history of the Dartmouth college case is very curious and deserves more than a passing notice. Until within three years it is not too much to say that it was quite unknown, and its condition is but little better now. In 1879 John M. Shirley published a volume entitled the "Dartmouth College Causes" which is a monument of careful study and thorough research. Most persons would conclude that it was a work of merely legal interest, appealing to a limited class of professional readers. Even those into whose hands it chanced to come have probably been deterred from examining it as it deserves by the first chapter, which is very obscure, and by the confusion of the narrative which follows. Yet this monograph, which has so unfortunately suffered from a defective arrangement of material, is of very great value, not only to our legal and constitutional history, but to the political history of the time and to a knowledge of the distinguished actors in a series of events which resulted in the establishment of one of the most far-reaching of constitutional doctrines, one that has been a living question ever since the year 1819, and is at this moment of vast practical importance. Mr. Shirley has drawn forth from the oblivion of manuscript a collection of documents which, taken in conjunction with those already in print, throws a flood of light upon a dark place of the past and gives to a dry constitutional question the vital and human interest of political and personal history." --Henry Cabot Lodge, American Statesman: Daniel Webster (1883), 74-75 John M. Shirley practiced law in Andover, New Hampshire. He was the state reporter for the Reports of Decisions of the Supreme Judicial Court of New Hampshire.