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It is therefore contended, that this case falls within the true meaning of this provision of the Constitution, as expounded in the decisions of this court; that the charter of 1769 is a contract, a stipulation or agreement, mutual in its considerations, express and formal in its terms, and of a most binding and solemn nature. That the acts in question impair this contract, has already been sufficiently shown. They repeal and Abrogate its most essential parts. o A single observation may not be improper on the opinion of the court of New Hampshire, which has been published. The learned judges who delivered that opinion have viewed this question in a very different light from that in which the plaintiffs have endeavored to exhibit it. After some general remarks, they assume that this college is a public corporation; and on this basis their judgment rests. Whether all colleges are not regarded as private and eleemosynary corporations, by all law writers and all judicial decisions; whether this college was not founded by Dr. Wheelock; whether the charter was not granted at his request, the better to execute a trust, which he had already created; whether he and his associates did not become visitors, by the charter; and whether Dartmouth College be not, therefore, in the strictest sense, a private charity, are questions which the learned judges do not appear to have discussed. It is admitted in that opinion, that, if it be a private corporation, its rights stand on the same ground as those of an individual. The great question, therefore, to be decided is, To which class of corporations do colleges thus founded belong? And the plaintiffs have endeavored to satisfy the court, that, according to the well-settled principles and uniform decisions of law, they are private, eleemosynary corporations. Much has heretofore been said on the necessity of admitting such a power in the legislature as has been assumed in this case. Many cases of possible evil have been imagined, which might otherwise be without remedy. Abuses, it is
contended, might arise in the management of such institutions, which the ordinary courts of law would be unable to correct. But this is only another instance of that habit of supposing extreme cases, and then of reasoning from them, which is the constant refuge of those who are obliged to defend a cause, which, upon its merits, is indefensible. It would be sufficient to say in answer, that it is not pretended that there was here any such case of necessity. But a still more satisfactory answer is, that the apprehension of danger is groundless, and therefore the whole argument fails. Experience has not taught us that there is danger of great evils or of great inconvenience from this source. Hitherto, neither in our own country nor elsewhere have such cases of necessity occurred. The judicial establishments of the State are presumed to be competent to prevent abuses and violations of trust, in cases of this kind, as well as in all others. If they be not, they are imperfect, and their amendment would be a most proper subject for legislative wisdom. Under the government and protection of the general laws of the land, these institutions have always been found safe, as well as useful. They go on, with the progress of society, accommodating themselves easily, without sudden change or violence, to the alterations which take place in its condition, and in the knowledge, the habits, and pursuits of men. The English colleges were founded in Catholic ages. Their religion was reformed with the general reformation of the nation; and they are suited perfectly well to the purpose of educating the Protestant youth of modern times. Dartmouth College was established under a charter granted by the Provincial government; but a better constitution for a college, or one more adapted to the condition of things under the present government, in all material respects, could not now be framed. Nothing in it was found to need alteration at the Revolution. The wise men of that day saw in it one of the best hopes of future times, and commended it as it was, with parental care, to the
protection and guardianship of the government of the State. A charter of more liberal sentiments, of wiser provisions, drawn with more care, or in a better spirit, could not be expected at any time or from any source. The college needed no change in its organization or government. That which it did need was the kindness, the patronage, the bounty of the legislature; not a mock elevation to the character of a university, without the solid benefit of a shilling’s donation to sustain the character; not the swelling and empty authority of establishing institutes and other colleges. This unsubstantial pageantry would seem to have been in derision of the scanty endowment and limited means of an unobtrusive, but useful and growing seminary. Least of all was there a necessity, or pretence of necessity, to infringe its legal rights, violate its franchises and privileges, and pour upon it these overwhelming streams of litigation. But this argument from necessity would equally apply in all other cases. If it be well founded, it would prove, that, whenever any inconvenience or evil is experienced from the restrictions imposed on the legislature by the Constitution, these restrictions ought to be disregarded. It is enough to say, that the people have thought otherwise. They have, most wisely, chosen to take the risk of occasional inconvenience from the want of power, in order that there might be a settled limit to its exercise, and a permanent security against its abuse. They have imposed prohibitions and restraints; and they have not rendered these altogether vain and nugatory by conferring the power of dispensation. If inconvenience should arise which the legislature cannot remedy under the power conferred upon it, it is not answerable for such inconvenience. That which it cannot do within the limits prescribed to it, it cannot do at all. No legislature in this country is able, and may the time never come when it shall be able, to apply to itself the memorable expression of a Roman pontiff.: “Licet hoc de jure non possumus,
volumus tamen de plenitudine potestatis.” Žshe case before the court is not of ordinary importance, nor of every-day occurrence. It affects not this college only, but every college, and all the literary institutions of the country. They have flourished hitherto, and have become in a high degree respectable and useful to the community. They have all a common principle of existence, the inviolability of their charters. It will be a dangerous, a most dangerous experiment, to hold these institutions subject to the rise and fall of popular parties, and the fluctuations of political opinions. If the franchise may be at any time taken away, or impaired, the property also may be taken away, or its use perverted. Benefactors will have no certainty of effecting the object of their bounty; and learned men will be deterred from devoting themselves to the service of such institutions, from the precarious title of their offices. Colleges and halls will be deserted by all better spirits, and become a theatre for the contentions of politics. Party and faction will be cherished in the places consecrated to piety and learning. These consequences are neither remote nor possible only. They are certain and immediate. / When the court in North Carolina declared the law of the State, which repealed a grant to its university, unconstitutional and void, the legislature had the candor and the wisdom to repeal the law. This example, so honorable to the State which exhibited it, is most fit to be followed on this occasion. And there is good reason to hope that a State, which has hitherto been so much distinguished for temperate counsels, cautious legislation, and regard to law, will not fail to adopt a course which will accord with her highest and best interests, and in no small degree elevate her reputation. It was for many and obvious reasons most anxiously desired that the question of the power of the legislature over this charter should have been finally decided in the State court. An earnest hope was entertained that the judges of the court might have viewed the case in a light favorable to the rights of the trustees. That hope has failed. It is here that those rights are now to be maintained, or they are prostrated for ever. “Omnia alia perfugia bonorum, sub
sidia, consilia, auxilia, jura ceciderunt. Quem enim alium appellem? quem obtester? quem implorem? Nisi hoc loco, nisi apud vos, nisi pervos, judices, salutem nostram, quae spe exigua extremaque pendet, tenuerimus; nihil est praeterea quo confugere possimus.”
FIRST SETTLEMENT OF NEW ENGLAND.
A DISCOURSE DELIVERED AT PLYMOUTH, ON THE 22D OF DECEMBER, 1820.
[THE first public anniversary celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth took place under the auspices of the “Old Colony Club,” of whose formation an account may be found in the interesting little work of William S. Russell, Esq., entitled “Guide to Plymouth and Recollections of the Pilgrims.’ This club was formed for general purposes of social intercourse, in 1769; but its members determined, by a vote passed on Monday, the 18th of December, of that year, “to keep” Friday, the 22d, in commemoration of the landing of the fathers. A particular account of the simple festivities of this first public celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims will be found at page 220 of Mr. Russell's work. The following year, the anniversary was celebrated much in the same manner as in 1769, with the addition of a short address, pronounced “with modest and decent firmn&ss, by a member of the club, Edward Winslow, Jr., Esq.,” being the first address ever delivered on this occasion. In 1771, it was suggested by Rev. Chandler Robbins, pastor of the First Church at Plymouth, in a letter addressed to the club, “whether it would not be agreeable, for the entertainment and instruction of the rising generation on these anniversaries, to have a sermon in public, some part of the day, pe. culiarly adapted to the occasion.” This recommendation prevailed, and an appropriate discourse was delivered the following year by the Rev. Dr. Robbins. In 1773 the Old Colony Club was dissolved, in consequence of the conflicting opinions of its members on the great political questions then agitated. Notwithstand. ing this event, the anniversary celebrations of the 22d of December continued without interruption till 1780, when they were suspended. After an interval of fourteen years, a public discourse was again delivered by the Rev. Dr. Robbins. Private celebrations took place the four following years, and from that time till the year 1819, with one or two exceptions, the day was annually commemorated, and public addresses were
delivered by distinguished clergymen and laymen of Massachusetts.
In 1820 the “Pilgrim Society” was formed by the citizens of Plymouth and the descendants of the Pilgrims in other places, desirous of uniting “to commemorate the landing, and to honor the memory of the intrepid men who first set foot on Plymouth rock.” The foundation of this society gave a new impulse to the anniversary celebrations of this great event. The Hon. Daniel Webster was requested to deliver the public address on the 22d of December of that year, and the following discourse was pronounced by him on the ever-memorable occasion. Great public expectation was awakened by the fame of the orator; an immense concourse assembled at Plymouth to unite in the celebration; and it may be safely anticipated, that some portion of the powerful effect of the following address on the minds of those who were so fortunate as to hear it, will be perpetuated by the press to the latest posterity.
From 1820 to the present day, with occasional interruptions, the 22d of December has been celebrated by the Pilgrim Society. A list of all those by whom anniversary discourses have been delivered since the first organization of the Old Colony Club, in 1769, may be found in Mr. Russell's work.
Nor has the notice of the day been confined to New England. Public celebrations of the landing of the Pilgrims have been frequent in other parts of the country, particularly in New York. The New England Society of that city has rarely permitted the day to pass without appropriate honors. Similar societies have been formed at Philadelphia, Charleston, S. C., and Cincinnati, and the day has been publicly commemo in several other parts of the country.
LET us rejoice that we behold this day. Let us be thankful that we have lived to see the bright and happy breaking of the auspicious morn, which commences the third century of the history of New England. Auspicious, indeed, —bringing a happiness beyond the common allotment of Providence to men, – full of present joy, and gilding with bright beams the prospect of futurity, is the dawn that awakens us to the commemoration of the landing of the Pilgrims. Living at an epoch which naturally
marks the progress of the history of our.
native land, we have come hither to celebrate the great event with which that history commenced. For ever honored be this, the place of our fathers' refuge! For ever remembered the day which saw them, weary and distressed, broken in every thing but spirit, poor in all but faith and courage, at last secure from the dangers of wintry seas, and impressing this shore with the first footsteps of civilized man! It is a noble faculty of our nature which enables us to connect our thoughts, our sympathies, and our happiness with what is distant in place or time; and, looking before and after, to hold communion at once with our ancestors and our posterity. Human and mortal although we are, we are nevertheless not mere insulated beings, without relation to the past or the future. Neither the point of time, nor the spot of earth, in which we physically live, bounds our rational and intellectual enjoyments. We live in the past by a knowledge of its history; and in the future, by hope and anticipation. By ascending to an association with our ancestors; by contemplating their example and studying their character; by partaking their sentiments, and imbibing their spirit; by accompanying them in their toils, by sympathizing in their sufferings, and rejoicing in their successes and their triumphs; we seem to belong to their age, and to mingle our own existence with theirs. We become their contemporaries, live the lives which they lived, endure what they endured, and partake in the rewards which they enjoyed. And in like manner, by running along the line of future time, by contemplating the probable fortunes of those who are coming after us,
by attempting something which may promote their happiness, and leave some not dishonorable memorial of ourselves for their regard, when we shall sleep with the fathers, we protract our own earthly being, and seem to crowd whatever is future, as well as all that is past, into the narrow compass of our earthly existence. As it is not a vain and false, but an exalted and religious imagination, which leads us to raise our thoughts from the orb, which, amidst this universe of worlds, the Creator has given us to inhabit, and to send them with something of the feeling which nature prompts, and teaches to be proper among children of the same Eternal Parent, to the contemplation of the myriads of fellow-beings with which his goodness has peopled the infinite of space; so neither is it false or vain to consider ourselves as interested and connected with our whole race, through all time; allied to our ancestors; allied to our posterity; closely compacted on all sides with others; ourselves being but links in the great chain of being, which begins with the origin of our race, runs onward through its successive generations, binding together the past, the present, and the future, and terminating at last, with the consummation of all things earthly, at the throne of God. There may be, and there often is, indeed, a regard for ancestry, which nourishes only a weak pride; as there is also a care for posterity, which only disguises an habitual avarice, or hides the workings of a low and grovelling vanity. But there is also a moral and philosophical respect for our ancestors, which elevates the character and improves the heart. Next to the sense of religious duty and moral feeling, I hardly know what should bear with stronger obligation on a liberal and enlightened mind, than a consciousness of alliance with excellence which is departed; and a consciousness, too, that in its acts and conduct, and even in its sentiments and thoughts, it may be actively operating on the happiness of those who come after it. Poetry is found to have few stronger conceptions, by which it would affect or over