You young men are right now making a major adjustment in your lives. You have come from your homes where you have known what your environment was like in its present state, and in most cases you have probably understood something of what it has been in the past. You have left your families and your home towns to plunge into a new place and a new environment, Dartmouth College, and you find it doubtless quite different from any that you have known before. Yet here, as everywhere, the past is with you in the present. Therein lies the basic reason for this lecture this afternoon, which aims to make the past of Dartmouth College come alive for you today, and thereby to aid you, as you make your adjustment to college life, in understanding and feeling something of the meaning of the College.
Now it is obvious that I can't cover l88 years of history in fifty minutes, nor can I indulge in much detail at any one point. Therefore, what I am going to do is to talk to you about three main events in the history of Dartmouth: first, the founding of the College by Eleazar Wheelock in l769; second the refounding by Daniel Webster in the winning of the Dartmouth College Case in l8l9; and third, the shaping of the modern Dartmouth by President William Jewett Tucker at the turn of the present century.
First, then, the founding of the College. To most of you, I suppose, Eleazar Wheelock means the rollicking College song that is built around his name. That song was written 70 years ago by Richard Hovey with entirely humorous intent, but it has unfortunately been taken by some not too humorous people in modern times as a source of fact about the beginning of the College. Actually, there are only two lines in that song that have any truth in them. Eleazar Wheelock was a very pious man, and he did go into the wilderness to teach the Indian. The rest of it is a product of poetic license and comic exaggeration, for as was the case in nearly all of the other colonially founded liberal arts colleges, the original purpose of Dartmouth was a religious one.
Eleazar Wheelock was actually a serious, high-minded, adventurous, courageous, purposeful clergyman of the eighteenth century in Connecticut and New Hampshire. He was born in Connecticut in 1711, was graduated from Yale in 1733, studied theology, settled as minister of the town church in the rural community of Lebanon, Connecticut, and, like many clergymen of his time, in order to eke out his meager salary, took into his home boys who were studying to go to college. And there came to him, almost by chance, in the year 1743 a full-blooded Mohican Indian, then twenty years old, by the name of Samson Occom. Occom never stepped foot on the Hanover plain, but if it had not been for him, it is not unreasonable to guess that there would never have been the Dartmouth College we know. Occom grew to be a remarkable pupil in the four years that he stayed with Wheelock, and he developed so well that he prepared himself to be a minister. He was later ordained and went back among his own people in Montauk on Long Island as a preacher. I will return to him in a moment.
Wheelock, stirred by his success with Occom, determined to set up a school in which he could educate other Indians in order that they might be trained as ministers and teachers among their own people to spread civilization and Christianity among the savages. This Indian charity school, which he instituted in 1755, proved reasonably successful; quite a good many Indian boys came to it, and quite a good many English youths, also on charity, came there to prepare for college. Wheelock saw that if these English youths could be induced to become missionaries to the Indians, they might be of even greater worth than the Indians themselves.
But it costs money to run a charity school, and Wheelock was in moderate circumstances. Consequently, he tried to raise money for this purpose among his friends and in the churches in the vicinity. He met with some success, but he fell far short of the funds that he found he needed, and was therefore compelled to go farther afield in his search. Under his instigation in 1766 Samson Occom, the Indian preacher and devoted follower whom he had trained, accompanied by a regular clergyman of the day, Reverend Nathaniel Whitaker, sailed to England in order to raise money in the dissenting churches of that country. They spent two years there with great success; an Indian preaching in the pulpits of English churches was naturally a sensation, and large throngs came to hear him and his colleague. The subscription papers which they carried were filled with all the way from small contributions indeed to ones of considerable amount from wealthy, pious-minded persons. In fact, they ranged all the way from 5 shillings given by an anonymous widow to two hundred pounds donated by King George III himself. One of the gentlemen who headed the list was William, Second Earl of Dartmouth. Another was a philanthropic and well-to-do merchant of London, John Thornton.
Occom and Whitaker raised twelve thousand pounds -- a large sum for that time -- which was put in trust in England and the income of it sent over here to help Wheelock. Although temporarily relieved from financial worries, Wheelock soon discovered that there were other troubles. His little school in Connecticut was not drawing the Indians that it should, for it was too far from the source of supply; moreover, there was not the room that he needed. Therefore he conceived the idea of enlarging the school and of moving it. He thought of many places: the valley of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania; the Mohawk Valley in New York; the Berkshire hills in Western Massachusetts; and then, more frequently than of any other, the Connecticut Valley of northern New Hampshire, which was on the route to the Indians. Indeed, it was on the direct route from the New England coast to Crown Point by an Indian trail through the woods, and it was the nearest point of contact to the Indians of Canada.
Soon he attempted to set on foot means for moving. He got better offers of land from New Hampshire than from any other section, and he decided to come here. He therefore approached John Wentworth, Royal Governor of the Province of New Hampshire. Wentworth was, like Wheelock, interested in education and missionary work. Wheelock asked him for a charter for an academy, and in the letter which he sent asking for this establishment of an academy and outlining the kind of charter that he wanted, he added a postscript in which he said to Wentworth, "If you should use the word College instead of Academy, it would please me." And on the 13th of December, 1769, Governor John Wentworth, acting in the name of George III, King of Great Britain, granted the charter. Wheelock had suggested that the school be called Wentworth, but the governor modestly preferred to name it for his English friend, the Earl of Dartmouth.
The charter is a long, complicated, involved document. The core of it, however, lies in two sentences: first, : "that there be a college erected in the province of New Hampshire by the name of Dartmouth College for the education and instruction of youth of the Indian tribes in this land in reading, writing, and all parts of learning which shall appear necessary and expedient for civilizing and Christianizing children of pagans, as well as in all liberal arts and sciences, and also of English youth and others"-- a fortunate addition, you see. The second sentence to which I referred insures that the Trustees shall not (and I quote) "exclude any person of any religious denomination whatsoever from any of the liberties and privileges or immunities of the said College on account of his or their speculative sentiments on religion."
Thus it was determined that Wheelock would bring his school to New Hampshire. There was still a good deal of question as to exactly where it should be located, but in that next spring, 1770, Wheelock on a tour of inspection through New Hampshire chose among the offers from various towns the township of Hanover. He chose it because more contiguous land was offered him here than in any other one spot. He received grants, part for the College and part for himself personally, of 3300 acres altogether in this corner of Hanover and of 1400 acres over the line in Lebanon. These grants determined him. He went back to Connecticut and immediately began preparation for setting up his new college in the wilderness.
He arrived here in August 1770, bringing with him some thirty laborers whom he had collected in Connecticut and in places nearer here, who should clear the land and start the buildings. The story is much like that of any pioneer settlement except that in this case Eleazar, differing from the ordinary settler in the wilderness, was making a home not just for his family but for a school. It is hard for us today surrounded by all these modern buildings, streets, lawns, to realize what this land was like. There wasn't a settler within 2 1/2 miles of what is now the College campus when Eleazar Wheelock arrived here. All this plain was covered with a virgin forest of huge white pine trees. Some of them when cut were measured and proved to be actually 270 feet in height with a distance of a hundred feet from the ground to the first branch. The men started their labor at once. They built a log hut and Wheelock sent back to Connecticut for his wife and students and family. He had barely begun, however, before he encountered difficulties. He placed his log hut where the west end of Silsby Hall now stands, but when the workmen started to dig wells they could find no water. They did find water, however, on what is now the southeast corner of the College Green; so they moved the partly constructed hut and began the erection of other buildings there. Madam Wheelock arrived in late September, coming in an English coach that had been sent from London by John Thornton as a present to her husband two years before. It was a long and arduous journey; some of the roads were little more than bridle paths through the forest. With her came her children, thirty students, three Indians, four Negro slaves, and two or three farm laborers. The students came on foot and one of the Indians drove the cows that would supply the little settlement with milk. They brought with them also an oxcart loaded with their belongings and a barrel of rum -- not 500 gallons. A barrel, gentlemen, holds only 32 gallons and a half.
The workmen erected two buildings, one for Eleazar and his family, and one for the students, containing sixteen rooms and the hall and the kitchen. They had not finished them when cold weather set in, so that most of the students spent that first winter in log huts. There wasn't food enough to take care of them all, and before snow fell Wheelock sent ten of them back to Connecticut for the winter, but the rest of the little band endured. The snow lay four feet deep on the newly cut trees on the campus, but through the winter they existed, the College went on, and in the spring the buildings were finished. The first class was graduated in August of 1771. It consisted of four men, all of whom had had the first three years of their college education at Yale.
So the little institution was started, and a village grew up around it. Difficulties beset it on all counts, especially financial, and before the fifth commencement the Revolutionary War broke out. Soon all the Indians left. Other Indians, however, whom Eleazar had previously educated and who were not back amongst their own tribes, had made friends for the colonists with the result that Dartmouth alone of all the nine colleges in existence in America kept on through the Revolutionary War without any suspension of her exercises. The others, of course, were nearer the shifting seats of war, yet up here there was felt to be great danger of attacks by Indians from the north. However, the work that Eleazar had done had apparently paid off, for no Indian raid came nearer than 25 miles away in Royalton, Vermont.
Wheelock did not survive the war. He was an old man when he came here. It is easy to forget than when we recount his vigorous activities, but he was 59 years old when he arrived in Hanover, and that, in the eighteenth century with a far shorter expectation of life than in our own time, was an age when most men were looking forward to retirement, not to new activities. He died in April of 1779, his little college still in its infancy. But the adventurous, creative, and religious impulse that had brought him here and founded the institution. His own sheer courage and persistence and unconquerable faith had started it on its way to maturity. He lies buried in the village graveyard over here west of the dormitories, and if you wander through there, you may look at the huge stone slab that covers his grave and read his epitaph. Don't get discouraged -- the first half if it is in Latin. But for the unlearned it is also translated on the lower half of the tombstone, and after giving the facts of his career, the epitaph concludes:
"By the Gospel he subdued the
ferocity of the savage,
And to the civilized he opened
new paths of Science.
Traveler, go if you can
and deserve the sublime reward
of such merit."
Those words, gentlemen, are truer than most epitaphs, and over the long decades since their engraving they have proved an inspiration to many a Dartmouth graduate.
Let us turn now to the second of the events of the College which I wish to discuss and which I have called its refounding and the Dartmouth College Case.
Wheelock was succeeded in the presidency by his son, John Wheelock, who for the rest of that century, twenty years, carried on, building the College up, improving its surroundings, its funds, and to a certain amount the kind of instruction that was given. Then he got into trouble, and plunged the College into trouble -- trouble that grew until it brought Dartmouth into the greatest crisis it has ever had to undergo. John Wheelock was a pompous, obstinate, wilful man. He looked upon the College as his own possession, and he felt that he could dictate everything connected with it. That determination to have his own way was what ultimately led to his downfall and almost destroyed the College. It started in a simple little fight in the village church -- The Church of Christ at Dartmouth College -- which had been founded by Wheelock's father, Eleazar, and which had always been served by ministers who were members of the faculty of the College -- Professors of Theology. In 1805 there was a change of pastors, and Wheelock undertook to dictate to the church who should be their next preacher. That did not set well with this New England community. The church members disagreed with him, and the little quarrel thus begun grew and grew until Wheelock, seeing that he was on the point of defeat, appealed to the Trustees of the College and asked them to enforce the use of his chosen pastor in the church. The Trustees refused, saying rightly that it was none of their business, and in addition criticizing, reproving, and warning the president for his conduct. Thereupon he became very angry and resorted first to the public press. He brought out two anonymous pamphlets which made savage attacks upon the Trustees for their actions. These attacks naturally were taken up by the general press of the state, the weekly papers of Concord and Portsmouth, and very soon, the Dartmouth College affair became a political football. Politics ran very high at this time. The Federalists, who had been in control of the governorship and of the legislature of the state of New Hampshire for several years, were on the side of the Trustees of the College. The anti-Federalists were struggling for supremacy, and they took up the side of John Wheelock.
In the meantime, the Trustees of the College in the summer of 1815, as a result of Wheelock's pamphlet publications and the agitation of the press, by the power that was vested in them by the Charter, removed Wheelock from the presidency and appointed in his place a young man, the Reverend Francis Brown, a graduate of the College of the Class of 1805 and since that time a successful minister in Maine. John Wheelock thereupon went directly to the Legislature. In that year there was an overturn in the politics of the state, and the Governor and the Legislature were both elected by a small majority against the Federalists. As a result, in the summer of 1816, the New Hampshire Legislature under the leadership of the new governor, William Plummer, passed on a strictly partisan vote an act which changed the makeup of the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College, enlarging it from twelve to 21, instituting a Board of Overseers of 25 to be appointed by the governor and to have veto powers over the Trustees, and establishing not Dartmouth College but Dartmouth University. Organization was effected and John Wheelock was chosen president of this new University, but he died within a year and was succeeded by his son-in-law, William Allen.
Of course, the Trustees of the College did not take all this lying down. President Brown and the Board of Trustees at once refused to recognize this act of the Legislature as valid, and continued to proceed on their own, going on with the College, although they could foresee the great difficulties that were coming. For the next three years on this plain there were two institutions, side by side: Dartmouth College and Dartmouth University. The University, moving under the Act of the Legislature, had seized the buildings and other property of the College, including the Great Seal and the College records. The College was forced to move out. It went into a private building called Rowley Hall that stood where Rollins Chapel does now, continued its classes, and fortunately had almost all the students. In the first year of the two institutions there were enrolled 95 students in the College without any buildings and fourteen students in the newly established university with the buildings. Of course the real test was to come elsewhere than on the campus....
The real test, as I have implied, came in the courts. The College had no money, but it knew that to survive, it must somehow finance the expensive legal proceedings necessary for its defense. The village storekeeper in the small town of Orford, twenty miles north of us on the river, was the man who saved the day that time. He came to President Brown and said, "If you wish to take this to court, I have a thousand dollars which is yours." A thousand dollars in 1816 represented a very much larger sum than it does today. This man's name was John Wheeler, and those of you who live in Wheeler Hall will be interested to know that your dormitory is a memorial to that country storekeeper who helped to save Dartmouth College nearly l50 years ago. President Brown and several members of the Board of Trustees travelled about in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts and raised about $5,000 more.
The College brought a suit of trover against the Treasurer of the University for the property which had been taken over, and for the Seal and the records. The case was first tried in the Superior Court of New Hampshire. It was based on three points and was pleaded by three distinguished New Hampshire lawyers: Jeremiah Mason, Jeremiah Smith, and Daniel Webster.
The three points on which the plea was based were these: that the act of the Legislature setting up the University was not within the general scope of the legislative power; second, that it violated the Constitution of the State of New Hampshire; and, third, that it violated the Constitution of the United States. The result of the trial was a decision against the College and for the University.
An appeal, however, was made at once to the Supreme Court of the United States on a Writ of Error, and it came to trial in that body in March of 1818. The counsel for the College there was Daniel Webster, Dartmouth's greatest graduate and in his day the most celebrated lawyer as well as orator in the country, and he had as his colleague a well-known lawyer of Philadelphia, Joseph Hopkinson. They made their plea on the same grounds and used the same three points that I have mentioned in connection with the trial in New Hampshire. Webster spoke extemporaneously, merely from notes, and afterwards the printed proceedings gave only, although in very great detail, his brief, not his speech as he delivered it. Nevertheless, we know something about that. Professor Chauncey A. Goodrich, Professor of Oratory in Yale College at that time, was sent by Yale, because all the colleges were interested in the case, to Washington to attend this trial. He has left us an account of Webster's famous peroration, parts of which are known to every Dartmouth man, and since it is the only contemporary narrative of this great incident I am going to read it to you:
"Mr. Webster entered upon his argument in the calm tone of easy and dignified conversation. His matter was so completely at his command that he scarcely looked at his brief, but went on for more than four hours with a statement so luminous, and a chain of reasoning so easy to be understood, and yet approaching so nearly to absolute demonstration, that he seemed to carry with him every man of his audience, without the slightest effort or uneasiness on either side. It was hardly eloquence in the strict sense of the term: it was pure reason. Now and then for a sentence or two, his eye flashed and his voice swelled into a bolder note as he uttered some emphatic thought, but he instantly fell back into the tone of earnest conversation, which ran throughout the great body of his speech.
A single circumstance will show the clearness and absorbing power of his argument. I observed Judge Story sit, pen in hand, as if to take notes. Hour after hour I saw him fixed in the same attitude; but I could not discover that he made a single note. The argument ended, Mr. Webster stood for some moments silent before the Court while every eye was fixed intently upon him. At length, addressing Chief Justice Marshall, he said,--
"' This, sir, is my case. It is the case, not merely of that humble institution, it is the case of every college in the 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 human life. It is more. It is, in some sense, the case of every man who has property of which he may be stripped,--for the question is simply this: Shall our state legislature be allowed to take that which is not their own, to turn it from its original use and apply to such ends or 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, 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 radiance over the land! It is, sir, as I have said, a small college, and yet there are those that love it.'
"Here the feelings which he had thus far succeeded in keeping down broke forth. His lips quivered; his firm cheek trembled with emotion; his eyes filled with tears; his voice choked, and he seemed struggling to the utmost, simply to gain mastery over himself which might save him from an unmanly burst of feeling. I will not attempt to give you the few broken words of tenderness in which he went on to speak of his attachment to the College. The whole seemed to be mingled with the recollection of father, mother, brother, and all the privations through which he made his way into life. Everyone saw that it was wholly unpremeditated, -- a pressure on his heart which sought relief in words and tears.
"The courtroom during these two or three minutes presented an extraordinary spectacle. Chief Justice Marshall, with his tall, gaunt figure bent over as if to catch the slightest whisper, the deep furrows of his cheek expanded with emotion, and eyes suffused with tears; Mr. Justice Washington at his side, with his small emaciated frame, and countenance more like marble than I ever saw on any other human being, leaning forward with an eager, troubled look, and the remainder of the court at the two extremities, pressing, as it were, towards a single point, while the audience below were wrapping themselves round in closer folds beneath the bench to catch every look and every movement of the speaker's face. There was not one among the strong-minded men of that assembly who could think it unmanly to weep, when he saw standing before him the man who had made such an argument melted into the tenderness of a child.
"Mr. Webster having recovered his composure, and fixing his keen eye on the Chief Justice, said, in that deep tone with which he sometimes thrilled the heart of an audience, 'Sir, I know not how others may feel' (glancing at the opponents of the College, some of whom were its graduates), 'but, for myself, when I see my alma mater surrounded, like Caesar in the senate house, by those who are reiterating stab upon stab, I would not, for this right hand, have her turn to me and say, -- et tu quoque, mi fili! -- and thou too, my son. '
"He sat down: there was a death-like stillness throughout the room for some moments: everyone seemed to be slowly recovering himself, and coming back gradually to his ordinary range of thought and feeling."
There has never been a more dramatic moment in the history of the College than that. The Court took the case under advisement and adjourned, to reconvene almost a year later -- in February 1819 -- when they brought in with only one dissenting vote a verdict in favor of the College, and Dartmouth was saved from extinction. The University ceased to be, and the College came back into possession of its buildings, its records, its Seal, and went on to further progress.
You who are going to study law will learn how important the decision in the Dartmouth College Case was in matters other than just those of Dartmouth College. It has been said that this decision has been cited more times in State and Federal Courts than any other single decision of the Supreme Court, because it made sure that all chartered institutions -- not just educational but religious, charitable, even commercial -- should be saved from interference by the legislatures of the states.
The morning after the decision was given Webster's colleague, Joseph Hopkinson, wrote a letter to President Brown, and after congratulating him on the result he added this sentence, "I would have an inscription over the door of your building: Founded by Eleazar Wheelock -- refounded by Daniel Webster." In 1901 the cornerstone of this building named in honor of Daniel Webster was laid, and as you go out of it through the front doors under the portico, if you will look to the brick wall on your right you will see a bronze plaque on which are inscribed these words of Hopkinson.
The trial cost the College much in funds and the general support of the state, but above all it cost the life of one great man. President Francis Brown literally gave his life to the College; worn out and exhausted by his efforts to keep the institution going through these years, he died in the following year of tuberculosis at the early age of 36.
In the remaining time, I wish to discuss the third of the points that I have to bring before you: the building of the new Dartmouth under President William Jewett Tucker, whose administration extended from 1893 through 16 years to 1909. Seventy-five years had passed since the Dartmouth College Case, swiftly, with little change except in the growth of the number of students, a moderate increase in the size of the faculty and the number of buildings, and some little advance in education. In 1893 the College was, however, still local, narrow, and ill-equipped. Then Dr. Tucker came. He was a man of vigor, of courage, and of vision, and under his leadership the College was transformed.
In 1893 there were only 493 students; all but 67 of them came from New England. In 1909 there were 1134, and 295 of them came from outside New England. In other words, the percentage of New England students had dropped from 87% to 74. (Today, for your information it's about 23%.) The point is this: the College was already on the way to becoming what it has become today, a completely national institution in its clientele. The faculty also made progress from 24 to 73 in this period. When Dr. Tucker came here in 1893, the subjects taught were still just the traditional ones of the Languages, English, the Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Philosophy, Political Economy and Political Science, and the Bible. Dr. Tucker in his first year added the departments of History, Sociology, and Biology, and soon after those of Economics and Music. The teaching was old-fashioned, pedantic, and routine, consisting mainly of lectures and recitations from textbooks, with very little discussion or original investigation on the part of the students. Most of the courses were prescribed. In Dr. Tucker's time, the teaching became modernized, the elective system of studies greatly expanded, and the whole level of scholarship raised.
In 1893 the buildings were few and old -- just the old row (Wentworth, Dartmouth, Thornton, and Reed), the Observatory, Bissell Hall (which was then the gymnasium), Rollins Chapel, Wilson Hall (which was then the library), Bartlett Hall, and two old recitation buildings which are now gone. During Dr. Tucker's administration, thirteen new dormitories were built and five modern and well-equipped buildings for instruction. When he came there was no running water in any dormitory, and only two of the buildings were heated by furnaces, the rest by old-fashioned stoves. Under his influence, a water supply ample for both town and College was provided, and the decency of sanitation was made possible. The central heating and lighting plant was erected.
In other words, both the educational processes and the plant were modernized in his time to keep pace with the growing student body and the changing conditions of the country. But more than anything else it was Dr. Tucker's personality that attracted students here and changed the atmosphere of the College.
In his Chapel addresses which he gave every Sunday afternoon to the whole College (chapel attendance was required at that time) he reached an incredible number of men. His talks were sometimes definitely religious, sometimes purely practical, but they always stressed the need of every man's developing the highest capacities within himself in order that he might render the fullest service to society. As President Emeritus Hopkins has said of Dr. Tucker, "He revealed to college men the value of learning, the worth of moral purpose, the beauty of holiness. Men went out from his presence wishing to be larger and more unselfish." It is because of that quality in his administration that the Board of Trustees has set up in recent years in his memory the William Jewett Tucker Foundation to further and support the moral and spiritual welfare of the College. Beyond all this, Dr. Tucker developed a new sense of unity in the entire College constituency. Students were wholeheartedly with him from the very start, and he soon aroused an equal enthusiasm among the alumni. Dartmouth men from early times had been devoted to their College as a place, but now under Dr. Tucker's leadership they were led to feel themselves a real part of the continuing College and to assume along with the Trustees and the faculty a genuine share of responsibility for its welfare.
To choose one event which I think symbolizes better than any other the spirit of this period in the history of the College, I would select the burning and rebuilding of Dartmouth Hall. That happened when I was an undergraduate. I was a witness of both the burning and the rebuilding, but even making allowance for that personal bias, I don't think I overestimate its importance as a symbol.
Dartmouth Hall had stood there for 120 years. Built of wood, it look externally just as the present Dartmouth Hall looks today, although this building is a few feet longer, and a few feet higher, and the windows in it are larger. To all those generations of students who had come and gone it had been the center of the institution. It had contained all the recitation halls for most of its period. It had had the chapel in it from 1828 to 1885; the library in it from 1791 until 1840; and even to the time of its burning the top floor contained rooms still used as student dormitories. Through three quarters of the time, the second floor had also been thus used. So, to those men of earlier days, it was "The College" as they frequently called it rather than just "Dartmouth Hall." Even today, the name Dartmouth calls up first to graduates in distant places an image of that beautiful white colonial building with its lovely bell tower as the central spot in their remembered picture of the College.
Having survived fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, candles, oil lamps, and gas, the old building after it was heated and lighted from a central plant fell a victim to defective wiring. Fire broke out at 8 o'clock on the morning of February 18, 1904. We undergraduates were all in Chapel at the time. We heard the alarm and rushed out to see smoke coming from under the eaves all the way from the center of the building to the ends. The thermometer stood at 20 degrees below zero that morning. The volunteer fire company of the town was handicapped in their supply of water, but even if they hadn't been they couldn't possibly have saved the building. The huge oak and pine timbers of which it was constructed had been drying for 120 years, and they were like tinder. Before two hours were over there was nothing left except a heap of smoldering ashes and a little of the lower end of the south wall from which two window frames were saved and are now in the present building. You can see them on either side of the front entrance with plaques beneath them telling what they are.
With the burning of this hall there disappeared the last visible link with the early College. It seemed an irreparable loss. The Trustees met immediately, however, and voted to rebuild it in permanent form in brick as a replica of the original. And while the fire was still going on, a notice was sent out to the Boston alumni by Melvin O. Adams of the Class of 1871 asking all Dartmouth graduates in the vicinity to meet at Tremont Temple in Boston two days later to consider means of reconstruction, and that notice ended with a sentence that has become famous in Dartmouth annals: "This is not an invitation; it is a summons." The alumni assumed the entire responsibility for raising money to replace Dartmouth Hall, and in their campaign they got enough not only to build that building but also to erect this one which had had its cornerstone laid four years before, but for lack of funds had not yet risen above its foundation.
On the 25th of October of that same year the cornerstone of the new Dartmouth Hall was laid in the midst of a two-day celebration. The celebration was occasioned by the fact that there had come from England the man who was to lay the cornerstone. He was the sixth Earl of Dartmouth, great-great-grandson of the man for whom the College was named. This was the first visit, and to this day the only visit, of a member of that family to the College in this country that bears the family name.
I have called the burning and reconstruction of Dartmouth Hall a symbol, because in the replacing of the old and at that time inadequate building by a thoroughly modern one we see the change to the new, the forward look to the future. And by the reconstruction of it in the same form and appearance which it had before and by the presence of the Earl of Dartmouth for the laying of the cornerstone we are made conscious of the unbroken continuity of the College from its beginning to the present day.
I can conclude my comment on Dr. Tucker's service to Dartmouth in no better way, I think, than by quoting to you the words of Woodrow Wilson, then President of Princeton University, on the occasion of the inauguration of Dr. Tucker's successor, President Nichols. Before beginning his formal speech at the inaugural dinner, Mr. Wilson turned to Dr. Tucker and said, "It gives me great pleasure to be the bearer of admiring congratulations to the retiring President of Dartmouth, Dr. Tucker, from the institution I represent. We have watched at Princeton the extraordinary progress of Dartmouth under his administration with a growing conception of what the character and power of a single man can do." That phrase I would leave with you: "The character and power of a single man."
I have discussed with you this afternoon only three periods in the long history of the College, but I have brought before you three men who have left the deepest of impressions on the life of Dartmouth. And I am sure you can better understand what it means to be a Dartmouth man if you give your attentive contemplation to the unrelenting courage, high purpose, and unconquerable faith of Eleazar Wheelock, to the great intelligence and the equally great devotion of Daniel Webster, to the wisdom, vision, and noble character of William Jewett Tucker.
You young men are now entering into this historic heritage. You are now a part of Dartmouth, and for as long as your lives shall last Dartmouth will be a part of you.
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Last Updated: 1/5/12