Daniel Webster: Dartmouth's Favorite Son

"It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet, there are those who love it!"


It is natural for people or communities to look for links to the past. History becomes personalized in issues such as ethnic or national pride. This manifests itself in College communities in the desire to look to the past to find historical luminaries who, like the present generation of scholars, prided themselves in claiming their particular institution as their alma mater.

The pride students have in Dartmouth College is particularly strong. The phrase "Dartmouth class of 19__" binds the oldest alumnus to the youngest 'shmen. Fortunately, Dartmouth's history has no shortage of luminaries, and chief among them is Daniel Webster, Class of 1801.

It is easy to think of Daniel Webster as more than a fellow student and alumnus, though. His role in defending the College in the famed Dartmouth College Case has elevated his status, and his words have become immortal. The suggestion of Joseph Hopkinson has particular appeal: "I would have an inscription over the door of your building, 'Founded by Eleazar Wheelock, Refounded by Daniel Webster'" (qtd. in Baxter 109). One could even think of Wheelock as being Dartmouth's Christopher Columbus, with Webster as its Washington.

But it can never be forgotten that Daniel Webster did not defend the College out of any sort of paternal instinct. He was not a trustee, nor did he play any other part in its governance. He defended Dartmouth as a son of the College; the filius of his alma mater. Webster, a hard-working and successful lawyer at the time, answered the call of his College when it was in need. He embodies the best of Dartmouth, serving as an example of devotion and filial love to all the sons and daughters of Dartmouth. As a result, he has become inextricably linked with Dartmouth College and its history:

The relation of Mr. Webster to his College, his living and his posthumous relation, is unique. It is doubtful if the name of any educational institution in the land is so inseperably blended with the name of a graduate, or even of a founder, as is the name of Dartmouth with that of Daniel Webster.

William J. Tucker (109).

This project serves to "inseperably blend" the name of Daniel Webster with another strong tradition of Dartmouth College: its computing services. Dartmouth has long been a pioneer in introducing cutting edge computing technology to its students. The advent of the World Wide Web has opened up the previously cryptic internet to anyone who knows how to use a computer. This exhibit on the World Wide Web will serve as a supplement to the superior teaching that takes place in Dartmouth's history department. It will also serve as a resource for everyone from the casual Dartmouth student to the serious Webster scholar. Already, it boasts a tremendous number of original manuscripts, many of which have never been transcribed before. A Web site does more than make these documents visible; it makes them available to anyone around the world.

This represents the union of Dartmouth's rich history with its strong technological tradition; a link between the past and the present. Webster once said that "the dignity of history consists in reciting events with truth and accuracy, and in presenting human agents and their actions in an interesting and instructive form" (qtd. in Shewmaker 132). It is hoped that this exhibit accomplishes that. Webster further continued that what was lacking was "a history of firesides," a history of personal and daily life. It is hoped that this exhibit will describe in detail a part of Webster's life that was very personal and very close to him: his association with Dartmouth College, an association that he maintained throughout his life.

With that in mind, I humbly offer Dartmouth's first on-line exhibit, Daniel Webster: Dartmouth's Favorite Son.

William S. Kartalopoulos '97
May 26, 1995


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