Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward

Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819) stands out not only because it was the U.S. Supreme Court's first case dealing with a dispute involving education but also because it provided constitutional protections for private contracts, albeit in an educational context. At issue in Dartmouth was the validity of private contracts after the New Hampshire legislature sought to overturn agreements that the college's trustees had entered. As a result of Dartmouth, private colleges were allowed to have self-governance and maintenance without interference from state legislatures and other public entities. This entry reviews the background, the facts, and the Court's rationale in this seminal case.


By way of background to Dartmouth, it is worth noting that previously, in Fletcher v. Peck (1810), the Supreme Court reviewed the ...

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