Corporations Turn 192

On this day in 1819 the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, in which the Court made law the notion that private corporations ought to be protected from takeover-at-will by the states in which they reside, thereby establishing the modern American corporation. Dartmouth’s own Daniel Webster argued the College’s case, concluding thus:

This, Sir, is my case! It is the case not merely of that humble institution, it is the case of every college in our Land! It is more! It is the case of every eleemosynary institution throughout our country – of all those great charities founded by the piety of our ancestors to alleviate human misery, and scatter blessings along the pathway of life! It is more! It is, in some sense, the case of every man among us who has property of which he may be stripped, for the question is simply this, ‘Shall our State Legislatures be allowed to take that which is not their own, to turn it from its original use, and apply it to such ends and purposes as they in their discretion shall see fit!’

Sir, you may destroy this little institution; it is weak, it is in your hands! I know it is one of the lesser lights in the literary horizon of our country. You may put it out! But if you do so, you must carry through your work! You must extinguish, one after another, all those great lights of science which for more than a century have thrown their radience over our land! It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it.”

File:Daniel Webster 1969 Issue-6c.jpg

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