Legge, William

Other namesLord Dartmouth; 2nd Earl of Dartmouth
Birth: June 20, 1731 in Marylebone, Middlesex, England
Death: July 15, 1801 in Blackheath, Kent, England
Affiliation:

Trust in England

Education:

Westminster School; Trinity College, Oxford

Faith:

Evangelical Anglican

Nationality:

English

Occupation:

Earl of Dartmouth; Member of the House of Lords; President of the Board of Trade; Member of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for the Colonies; Lord Privy Seal.

Residence:

England (from 1731-06-20 to 1801-07-15)

Events:

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain

Marital status:

Married Frances Catherine, daughter of Sir Charles Gunter Nicholl and Elizabeth Blundell, on June 11, 1756.

Biography:

William Legge, the second Earl of Dartmouth, was the reluctant namesake of Dartmouth College. Like many of his countrymen, Legge became involved in Eleazar Wheelock’s plans through George Whitefield, the famous evangelical who introduced Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker to Legge shortly after the pair’s February 1766 arrival in London. Legge proved critical in promoting Occom’s tour among the nobility, and took on a logistical role by helping to collect and oversee donations. Although Legge and Whitefield both felt it would be best if Wheelock were in total control of the funds raised in England, Occom eventually collected so much money that a formal trust was necessary to preserve propriety. This trust was formed in late 1766, with Legge as its president, to guarantee that Wheelock used the money appropriately. It soon proved that the Trust and Wheelock had different ideas as to what was, in fact, appropriate, but they were largely able to cooperate until 1769, when Wheelock obtained a charter for his school without informing the trust. (The trust, feeling that a charter would obviate its control over the British funds, had vehemently opposed it.) Adding insult to injury, Wheelock named the resulting institution Dartmouth—again without consulting Legge, and perhaps more to reassure the multitudes who had donated money than to honor the Earl. Legge never wrote to Wheelock again. Outside of his involvement with Wheelock, Legge had a brief political career. Although he was generally more concerned with religious and philanthropic matters, his station and connections (he was the step-brother of Frederick North, who was prime minister from 1770 to 1782) led him to take his first political post in 1765 as a member of the Board of Trade. During his tenure (1765-1767), and again while he was Secretary of State for the Colonies (1772-1775), Legge’s search for cooperative solutions proved unsuccessful during the build-up to the Revolution. His later positions were primarily ceremonial.

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Sources:

Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. Marshall, Peter. “Legge, William, second earl of Dartmouth (1731-1801), politican.” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press 2004, Online edition January 2008. Accessed http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/printable/16360 4/28/14. Richardson, Leon. An Indian Preacher in England. Hanover: Dartmouth College Press 1933.