David Hoffman and the Science of Jurisprudence

Statement to the Trustees, 1839

1839 - The efforts of the State of Maryland, starting in the 1820s, to either take over or abolish the University of Maryland in many ways reflected the same issues that the Supreme Court decided in Dartmouth College v. Woodward - could a state revoke the charter of a private corporation that it had granted independent authority to? In fact, the situation was so similar that Daniel Webster was persuaded to lend his name to the Faculty's efforts to defeat the State appointed Trustees. Even the Attorney General of the United States, the highly regarded William Wirt, assured the Faculty of the University that the "Confiscation Act" passed by the State Legislature was unconstitutional. David Hoffman, who was no longer actively teaching at the University was persuaded to serve on a committee of Faculty charged with responding to the Trustees challenge. This is one of the last occurrences of Hoffman's name in the minute books of the University which are located in the Special Collections of the University of Maryland's Health Sciences Library.

Recommended resources

  • George H. Callcott, A History of the University of Maryland (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1966).

Baltimore 12th October, 1839

The Secretary of the Regents of the University of Maryland having duly requested the several Faculties of Law, of Arts & Sciences & of Physick thro' their respective Deans to choose their several committees viz three members of the Faculty of Law; Two of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences & Two from the Faculty of Physick, to form a joint committee, to take all legal measures & to do & to perform all acts which may be requisite to establish & to maintain the validity of the Charter of 1807. founding a medical College & of the Charter of 1812 founding an University in the city of Baltimore, and the privileges and rights of property of these corporations in opposition to the claims of a board of Trustees unto the same, under an act of the Legislature of Maryland session 1825 Chap. 100 in accordance with a resolution of the board of Regents in general meeting held on the 18th of September 1837; and the said Secretary having notified said Committees to meet at the office of David Hoffman, Esq. the following proceedings were had. Resolved that counsel be employed to fulfill the intentions of the board of Regents. as follows. viz

Committee of the Faculty of Law
David Hoffman
Wm. W. Hall
George W. Dobbing

Committee of Faculty of Physick
N.W. Potter
Rich Wilmot Hall

As Counsel
Jonathan Meridith, Esq.
Robert N. Martin, Esq.
Hugh Davy Evans, Esq.
Charles F. Mayer, Esq.
Hon. Daniel Webster

[T....]Rich. Wilmot Hall
Secry. of Joint Committee of Regents
University of Maryland

1839 Letter

Reproduced through the courtesy of the University of Maryland Health Sciences and Human Services Library, Special Collections.

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