Dartmouth College Case - Webster's Peroration

The Dartmouth College Case
Peroration of Daniel Webster

"This, Sir, is my case! It is the case not merely of that humble insti tution, 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 radiance over our land! It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it!" Here the feelings which he had thus far succeeded in keeping down, broke forth. His lips quivered; his firm cheeks trembled with emotion; his eyes were filled with tears; his voice choked; and he seemed struggling to the utmost, simply to gain that mastery over himself which might save him from an unmanly burst of feeling. I will not attempt to give the few broken words of tenderness in which he went on to speak of his attachment to the college. It seemed to be mingled throughout with the recollections of father, mother, brother, and all the trials and preventions through which he had made his way into life. Every one saw that it was wholly unpremeditated — a pressure on his heart which sought relief in words and tears. Recovering himself, after a few moments, and turning to Judge Marshall, he said, "Sir, I know not how others may feel, (glancing at the opponents of the college before him), but for myself, when I see my Alma Mater surrounded, like Cesar [sic] in the senate house, by those who are reiterating stab upon stab, I would not for this right hand have her say to me, 'Et tu quoque, mi fili!'



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