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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
603.646.2808
hood.museum@dartmouth.edu

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Francis Alexander, American, 1800-1880

Jeremiah Smith (1759-1842)
About 1820-35
Oil on canvas
Gift of Dr. George C. Shattuck, Class of 1803; P.836.4

 

This and the following three portraits were commissioned for Dartmouth in commemoration of the legal counsel who defended the College in the case of The Trustees of Dartmouth College v. William H. Woodward. A landmark in the history of Dartmouth College and in the arena of contract law, this case was argued in the New Hampshire courts in 1817 and ultimately before the United States Supreme Court in 1818. It pitted the College against those who attempted to alter Dartmouth’s original charter and convert the institution into a state university. In gratitude for the favorable resolution of the case, Dartmouth initially engaged Gilbert Stuart in 1819 to paint portraits of the counsel members. He failed to complete the commission before his death in 1828, however, and the project languished until Boston alumnus George Cheyne Shattuck (1783-1854), Class of 1803, arranged for the portraits and donated them to Dartmouth. Along with Jeremiah Mason, Jeremiah Smith (1759-1842) defended the College trustees in the New Hampshire courts in 1817. A native of Peterborough, New Hampshire, Smith pursued an illustrious public career. He was elected to the Second Congress in 1790 and later served as a district attorney in Exeter, a judge of probate, a judge of the United States circuit court, a chief justice of New Hampshire, and, for one term, as governor. As noted by Thomas Mitchie in his study of the counsel portraits, only after much persuasion did Smith finally agree to sit for an artist. In this likeness by Francis Alexander he confronts us directly with his gaze, his folded arms and somewhat haughty expression suggesting perhaps his skepticism towards the commissioning of his portrait.

Last Updated: 5/13/09