The Trustees have published a June 2010 revision of the Charter (pdf). The note beginning "By vote taken September 8, 2007" has changed slightly from the 2007 version.
The Trustees put out a large Governance Report in August, 2007 recommending the addition of eight seats to the Board, as noted below. The Trustees added five of these seats in September, 2008.
Minor corrections and additions made to this page. Thanks to the Volokh Conspiracy for the citation to this page.
Minor corrections and additions.
Conventional section designations added to the text of the Charter.
Amendments section refined using October 2007 copy of Charter provided by Dartmouth in the exhibits (pdf) appended to the Board's memo in support of its motion to dismiss the alumni lawsuit. The new annotations for this version of the Charter must be read carefully to avoid the conclusion that the Charter actually refers to nominations for the first time:
By vote taken September 8, 2007, the charter was amended to increase the number of Trustees to twenty-six, provided that the number of Trustees to be elected upon nomination by the alumni shall be eight, and that the Governor ex-officio and the President during his or her term of service shall continue to be Trustees.In other words, the Board voted to amend the Charter to increase the number of Trustees, and it resolved to alter its rules regarding nominations. One presumes it did not amend the Charter to state anything regarding nominations.
Amendments section refined and recent amendments added.
This site reformatted and reorganized.
The state legislature last year granted the Trustees permission to alter the charter. The Trustees voted to expand the board from 16 to 22 members, or one more than the number to which the legislature tried and failed to expand the board in 1816. The Trustees in fact added two members.
This site on line.
Eleazar Wheelock, who had operated Latin and Indian schools in Connecticut since the mid-1730s and a collegiate department of Moor's School since 1768, drafted Dartmouth's charter during the spring and summer of 1769; it is written in the voice of King George III (the royal "we," referring to "our trusty and well beloved John Wentworth"). Wheelock sent it to The Royal Governor of the Province of New Hampshire, John Wentworth, during August, and Wentworth granted the charter to Dartmouth College on December 13, 1769. This act was the last royal chartering of a college in the North American Colonies that would become the United States: the crown itself or colonial governments had granted eight charters earlier, of which seven had so far created institutions in operation.
Wheelock soon selected from among various offers the township within New Hampshire where he would place his school, picking Hanover, which John's uncle Benning Wentworth had given a charter in 1761. Wheelock arrived during August of 1770 to build the college on lands that Wentworth gave the school as well as Wheelock personally. Classes began soon after for the students who arrived that October, several of whom had begun their undergraduate work at Yale College. The first class graduated during 1771 at a Commencement ceremony that Wentworth managed to attend by having a road cut through the wilderness, the Wolfeboro Road.
The charter is important to the school as well as to legal history, since it is the document around which the Dartmouth College Case revolved. In deciding that the Constitution's prohibition against government interference in contracts also applied to a government grant, preventing the state legislature from altering a charter that their predecessors the royal government had issued,, the case provided a foundation of American corporation law.
Along with an outline of the charter and list of notable clauses; and a list of amendments to the charter, this page links to a copy of the charter taken from Charles Franklin Emerson, preparer, General Catalogue of Dartmouth College and the Associated Schools 1769-1910 including a Historical Sketch of the College (Hanover, N.H.: Dartmouth College, 1910-11), 1-13. Line breaks and orthography follow those of the General Catalog; I have added line numbers and inserted section indicators in the conventional places.
Some Other Charters
Wheelock considered naming the first building after Governor Wentworth and the college itself after Lord Dartmouth; after advice he suggested naming the school for Wentworth instead, but the Governor demurred. Lord Dartmouth was neither a major benefactor nor the founder of the college, though he was president of the board of trustees in England that oversaw the money raised there for Moor's Charity School. The proposal to use Dartmouth's name may have been intended to appease the English Trustees since the school had been transformed into an English college.2
Eleazar Wheelock, specifically titled "founder" in the document  described the new school as an "academy" but suggested Wentworth elevate its status as he reveals in a letter to the Governor: "Sir, if proper to use the word 'College' instead of 'Academy' in the charter, I shall be well pleased with it."1
The crucial words that allowed the school to be an English college and not an Indian academy comprise the phrase "English Youth": "[We do ordain] that there be a college erected in our said Province of New Hampshire by the name of DARTMOUTH COLLEGE for the education & instruction of Youth of the Indian Tribes in this Land in reading, writing & all parts of Learning which shall appear necessary and expedient for civilizing & christianizing Children of Pagans as well as in all liberal Arts and Sciences; and also of English Youth and any others." [103-109]
The 1754 Moor's Charity School from which Dartmouth sprang was "coeducational;" however at the time the word "youth" often meant young males.
The campus is created in language: The Trustees are "to purchase receive or build any House or Houses or any other buildings as they shall think needful & convenient for the use of said Dartmouth College and in such Town in the western part of our said Province of New Hampshire as shall by said Trustees or the major part of them be agreed." [142-150]
Religious tenets in the document seem particularly liberal: Seven of twelve Trustees must be laymen, and the Trustees may make laws "not excluding any Person of any religious denomination whatsoever from free & equal liberty & advantage of Education or from any of the liberties and privileges or immunities of the said college on account of his or their speculative sentiments in Religion, & of his or their being of a religious profession different from the said Trustees of the said Dartmouth College." [301-306]
The various officers are, in order of creation or mention: Trustees, President, Tutors, Professors, Ministers, other Officers, Students, Senior Professor or Tutor (a Trustee who acts as Vice President of the college), Treasurer, Clerk, Usher, and Steward.
The Trustees, President, Tutors and Professors were authorized to put the college laws into execution [309-313]. Before the faculty became known as such they were called the executive authority (also the Constitution's term for state governors), lasting until about the late 1820s.3
The charter required each officer to swear an oath and sign a declaration within a year of his appointment [198-213]. The oath and declaration were "provided by an act of Parliament made in the first year of King George the first entitled 'An act for the further security of his Majesty's Person & government & the succession of the crown in the heirs of the late princess Sophia being Protestants, & for the extinguishing the hopes of the pretended Prince of Wales & his open & secret Abettors.'" Such an oath was a standard inclusion in royal charters and commissions of the time, as demonstrated by the Commission appointing Thomas Graves Governor of Newfoundland (1763).
The Act for the Security of Her Majesty's Person (1707) required justices of the peace to swear to two sets of oaths:
1 Frederick Chase, A History of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover New Hampshire (to 1815) (Brattleboro: Vermont Printing Co., 1928), 114.
2 Ibid., 117; Leon Burr Richardson, A History of Dartmouth College (Hanover: Dartmouth College Publications, 1932), 1: 88-89.
3 Chase, 560n3; Richardson, 1: 298.
Outline of the Charter
The Most Famous Amendments
The New Hampshire Legislature purported to amend the charter in an act of June 27, 1816 in response to the Trustees' removal of President John Wheelock. The act changed the name of the institution to Dartmouth University; increased the number of Trustees from twelve to twenty-one; and created a board of twenty-five Overseers including ex officio the Governor and Council, the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, and the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of Vermont.
The Trustees refused to accept the amendments on August 27, 1816. The Legislature then voted on December 18, 1816 to give the Governor the power to fill the vacancies left by the Trustees who would not submit and lowered the number required for a quorum.1
The college continued to refuse to submit and commenced a state court suit to recover its status; the school had to sue for possession of the charter document itself, valued at $10,000, as well as the seal and the school's records. The case of Trustees of Dartmouth College v. William H. Woodward went to the Supreme Court, where Daniel Webster '01 argued the side of the college. He phrased his partisan view of the document this way: "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 other source."2
The Court's February 2,1819 decision in the Dartmouth College Case, in the opinion by Chief Justice John Marshall, declared the acts unconstitutional interferences with the obligations of a contract, whether between Wheelock and the Crown or between the donors and the Crown or in some other form. Thus the Court invalidated the Legislature's changes, dispatching Dartmouth University and restoring Dartmouth College to its buildings, charter, seal and existence. By the twentieth century the case had become a milestone in constitutional jurisprudence.3
It is not that the college was averse to university status or state influence per se. The school used the terms "college" and "university" almost interchangeably in its early years. The college accepted state grants of land and money, including state funding for the construction of its medical school a few years before the case arose, and included in its first board of Trustees the Governor, the President of Governor's Council, two Council members, the Speaker of the N.H. House, and an Assistant of the Colony of Connecticut. The college would accept some state support through the early twentieth century, in gratitude for which it named a dormitory "New Hampshire Hall." And the 1819 decision, while important in economic history, did not spare other "private" schools from state interference.
1 Charles Franklin Emerson, preparer, "Historical Sketch," in General Catalogue of Dartmouth College and the Associated Schools 1769-1910 including a Historical Sketch of the College (Hanover, N.H.: Dartmouth College, 1910-11), 35-6; Richard N. Current, "'It is... a small college... yet, there are those who live it:' Dartmouth College v. Woodward," American Heritage 14, no. 5 (August 1963): 11-15, 81-84; Charter of Dartmouth College (rev. October 17, 2007), 3 n.2.
2 Emerson, 21, 37; Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 518 (1819)
3 Emerson, 31.
Some Effective Amendments and Related Information
State Officers: In June 1807, the Legislature passed the Second College Grant Act, proposing to amend the Charter to make the three members of the Governor's Council, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Chief Justice of the Superior Court Trustees ex officio in respect to the Grant and any future grant.1 The Board apparently adopted this amendment, although it is not clear how much the Board was or has been expected to follow the requirement.
School Income: Originally the Charter stated: "[We grant that the Trustees shall hold property] nevertheless that the yearly value of the Premises do not exceed the Sum of six thousand pounds Sterling" [155-156]. In 1883, the legislature passed an act stating: "The Trustees of Dartmouth College may have, accept, receive, and hold, for the use of said College, any and all rents, profits, annuities, gifts, legacies, donations, and bequests of any kind whatsoever, which may come into their hands in that behalf." The act became effective on July 13, 1883 and the Trustees accepted it as a Charter amendment on December 20, 1883.2
Alumni Trustees: The legislature passed a law in 1891 that, if the Board had accepted it, would have amended the Charter to add five new trustee seats to the board of twelve. The new seats would have been reserved for people elected directly by alumni and limited to terms of five years. The board did not adopt this proposed amendment, and the act expired by its own terms.3
Property Ownership: In 1893, the legislature proposed that the Board be authorized to take and hold up to $25,000 worth of stock in the Hanover Water Works Company.4 Dartmouth did in fact acquire much of the company and would continue to hold that interest more than a century later.
Meeting Times: A legislative act of 1893 stated: "The Trustees of Dartmouth College may hold a legal meeting at any time, upon such notice as may be prescribed by a rule adopted by them, . . . " The Trustees accepted the act as an amendment to the Charter on May 3, 1893.5
Local Trustees: The legislature passed an act stating that the Trustees, when filling vacancies, "may elect persons not resident in New Hampshire to a number not exceeding five." The Trustees accepted this proposal as an amendment on May 3, 1893.6 (Compare William Schpero's description of this amendment, which states that it gave the Board of Trustees the right to meet without informing the state and required all members to be state residents.7)
Local Trustees: In 1921, the legislature amended the 1893 act to replace "five" with "seven" as the number of persons not resident in New Hampshire who may be elected to the Board. The Trustees amended the Charter to reflect the changed act on April 22, 1921.8
Number of Trustees: The legislature enacted a proposed amendment in 1961 that would change the total number of Trustees from 12 to 16. The Board accepted the amendment on April 21, 1961.9 None of the new seats would be ex officio; all four would be elected by majority vote of the board.
Local Trustees: The legislature passed an act in 1961 amending the 1893 act, as amended, by substituting "eleven" for "seven" in order to expand once again the number of non-resident Trustees who may be elected. The Board amended the Charter to reflect this amendment to the 1893 act on April 21, 1961.10
Local Trustees: The legislature passed an act in 1967 that amended the 1893 act yet again, replacing the prior section 1 with this language: "Section 1. The Trustees of Dartmouth College may hold a legal meeting at any time, upon such notice as may be prescribed by a rule adopted by them, and, in filling vacancies in the board, may elect persons who are either resident or not resident in New Hampshire." The Trustees adopted this proposal as an amendment to the Charter on April 14, 1967.11
"Home Rule": The legislature passed a law in 2003 stating: "Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, Dartmouth college shall be permitted to amend its charter in accordance with the provisions of RSA 292:7, provided that the governor shall continue to serve as an ex officio member of the board of trustees."12 The cited section reads in relevant part:
Any corporation now or hereafter organized or registered in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, and any existing corporation which may have been so organized or registered, may . . . amend its articles of agreement, by a majority vote of such corporation's . . . trustees, at a meeting duly called for that purpose, and by recording a certified copy of such vote in the office of the secretary of state and in the office of the clerk of the town or city in this state which is its principal place of business.
Number of Trustees: The Trustees amended the Charter by a vote of November 15, 2003 to change the total number of Trustees from 16 to a number not greater than 22, including the two Trustees ex officio.13 The Board added only two of those seats by the fall of 2007, however, resulting in eight Alumni, eight Charter, and two ex-officio seats.
Number of Trustees: The Trustees amended the Charter by a vote of September 8, 2007, changing the number of Trustees from 18 to as many as 26, including the two ex officio.14
Dissolution: "By vote taken June 11, 2010, the charter was amended to add the following provision required by the Internal Revenue Service's regulations concerning tax-exempt organizations:" (pdf)
"Upon the dissolution of the Corporation, its assets shall be distributed for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future federal tax code, or shall be distributed to the federal government, or to a state or local government for a public purpose. Any such assets not disposed of shall be disposed of by the Superior Court of the county in which the principal office of the Corporation is then located, exclusively for such purposes or to such organization or organizations, as said Court shall determine, which are organized and operated exclusively for such purposes."
Relevant Board Rules
Bylaws: The Charter empowered the Trustees "fully & lawfully to make and establish such Ordinances Orders & Laws as may tend to the good & wholesome government of the said College [296-298]. The Board resolved in September 2007 to adopt formal bylaws.
Meeting Times: Originally the Charter stated that "[We grant] that there shall be once a year & every year a meeting of said Trustees held at said Dartmouth College" [172-180]. On May 5, 1893, the Board adopted a rule stating that "special meetings . . . may be called by order of the President upon seven days notice deposited in the post office."15
Alumni Trustees: On June 23, 1891, the Trustees adopted this resolution:
The Board has modified or replaced the resolution several times in succession, such as when it permitted Medical School and Tuck School alumni to nominate trustees, when it changed "five" to "seven" and then "eight" trusteeships, when it omitted the requirement of five years' standing, and when it ignored or omitted the Chandler School reference.
The Association of Alumni quoted this resolution in the minutes of their meeting adopting a new constitution on June 24, 1891.17
The Oath: The Oath listed above is no longer administered or entered in the records. However, at some point the Board required new members to swear to the "Trustees' Charge":
This charge requires that all deliberations of the trustees remain confidential, all final decisions be given unanimous support and all decisions of the trustees be communicated through the president or chairman.18
Presidential Succession: Eleazar Wheelock used his will to bequeath the presidency to his son John in 1779 under the authority granted by the Charter: "[We] do will give & grant to him in said Office full power authority & right to nominate appoint constitute & ordain by his last will such suitable & meet person or Persons as he shall chuse to succeed him in the Presidency" [231-233]. No president has so chosen his successor since.
Alumni Nominations: With the Charter amendments expanding the number of Trustees in 1961 (to 16) and 2003 (to 22, with 18 reached), the Board apparently also resolved to expand the number of nominations it would take from the alumni. The specific numbers were, respectively, seven and ten (with only eight reached).19
Re-nomination of Alumni Trustees: The Board's 1891 resolution did not address Alumni Trustee term limits, which were nevertheless understood to be four [five?] years, or the re-nomination of Alumni Trustees. Around 1990, the Board apparently formalized its policy of re-electing Alumni Trustees to second terms.20
Trustee Terms: The terms of service of the Charter Trustees apparently declined from life to five years between 1891 and 2003. A Board Committee recommended in August 2007 that Charter Trustees would have the same terms as Alumni Trustees, or four years.21 With the general limit of two terms and the possibility of an additional two-year term in some cases, the maximum service of any elected Trustee is expected to be ten years.
1 Richardson, 1: 89; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 3 n.2.
2 Charles Franklin Emerson, preparer, "Historical Sketch," in General Catalogue of Dartmouth College and the Associated Schools 1769-1910 including a Historical Sketch of the college (Hanover, N.H.: Dartmouth College, 1910-11), 22; 1883 N.H. Laws, Chap. 177. Trustees' Records 4, p. 346; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 4, n. 3.
3 Leon Burr Richardson, A History of Dartmouth College (Hanover: Dartmouth College Publications, 1932), ___; 1891 N.H. Laws, Chap. 5; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 3 n.2.
41893 N.H. Laws, Chap. 290, sec. 5; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 4, n. 4.
5 1893 N.H. Laws, Chap. 43, s. 1; Trustees' Records 5, p.49; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 6, n. 5.
6 Richardson, 1: 89; 1893 N.H. Laws, Chap. 43, sec. 1; Trustees' Records 5, p. 49; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 8, n. 7.
7 William Schpero, "Mooney Moves on Bill to Let State 'Check' Dartmouth Charter," The Dartmouth (3 November 2007), available at http://thedartmouth.com/2007/11/03/news/mooney/ (viewed 21 November 2007).
8 Richardson, 1: 89; 1921 N.H. Laws, Chap. 245; Trustees' Records 7, p. 15; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 8, n. 7.
9 1961 N.H. Laws, Chap. 320; Trustee Records 12, p. 260; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 3 n. 2.
10 1961 N.H. Laws, Chap. 320; Trustees' Records 12, p. 260; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 8, n. 7.
11 Schpero. 1967 N.H. Laws, Chap. ___; Trustees' Records 14, p. 174; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 8, n. 7.
12 2003 N.H. Laws 0161 (Senate Bill 133).
13 Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs, "Dartmouth Trustees Vote to Expand Size of Board," press release (November, 17 2003) ; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 4 n. 2.
14 Ed Haldeman to the Dartmouth Community, letter (September 8, 2007), available at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/features/governance/haldeman-090807.html (viewed November 21, 2007); Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 4 n. 2.
15 Emerson, 8 n1; Trustees' Records 5, p. 62; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 6, n. 5.
16 Emerson, 50; Richardson, 1: 101; Trustees' Records 4, p. 528; Charter (rev. October 17, 2007), 8, n. 6.
17 "Dartmouth's Alumni Meet," New York Times (June 25, 1891).
18 Brzica v. Trustees of Dartmouth Coll., 147 N.H. 443, 791 A.2d 990 (2002).
19 Annotation to October 2007 copy of Charter, contained in exhibit attached to memorandum in support of motion to dismiss suit of Association of Alumni, available at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/features/governance/aoasuit/exhibits.pdf (viewed January 24, 2008).
21 Governance Committee of the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College, Preserving Dartmouth's Tradition of Excellence: Governance Recommendations to Maintain the College's Preeminent Role in Higher Education (August 2007), Appendix C, available at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/features/governance/report-083007.pdf (viewed December 31, 2009).