Morrill Land-Grant Acts
Morrill Land-Grant Acts are
United States statutes that allowed
for the creation of land-grant colleges in
U.S. states using the
proceeds of federal land sales. The Morrill Act of 1862 (7
U.S.C. § 301 et seq.) was enacted during the American Civil
War and the Morrill Act of 1890 (the Agricultural College Act of 1890
(26 Stat. 417, 7 U.S.C. § 321 et seq.)) expanded
1 Passage of original bill
2 Land-grant colleges
4 Agricultural experiment stations and cooperative extension service
5 See also
7 External links
Passage of original bill
Justin Smith Morrill
For 20 years prior to the first introduction of the bill in 1857,
there was a political movement calling for the creation of agriculture
colleges. The movement was led by Professor
Jonathan Baldwin Turner
Jonathan Baldwin Turner of
Illinois College. For example, the
Michigan Constitution of 1850
called for the creation of an "agricultural school", though it was
not until February 12, 1855, that Michigan Governor Kinsley S. Bingham
signed a bill establishing the United States' first agriculture
college, the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, known
today as Michigan State University, which served as a model for the
On February 8, 1853, the
Illinois Legislature adopted a resolution,
drafted by Turner, calling for the Illinois congressional delegation
to work to enact a land-grant bill to fund a system of industrial
colleges, one in each state. Senator
Lyman Trumbull of Illinois
believed it was advisable that the bill should be introduced by an
eastern congressman, and two months later Representative Justin
Smith Morrill of
Vermont introduced his bill.
Unlike the Turner Plan, which provided an equal grant to each state,
the Morrill bill allocated land based on the number of senators and
representatives each state had in Congress. This was more advantageous
to the more populous eastern states.
The Morrill Act was first proposed in 1857, and was passed by Congress
in 1859, but it was vetoed by President James Buchanan. In 1861,
Morrill resubmitted the act with the amendment that the proposed
institutions would teach military tactics as well as engineering
and agriculture. Aided by the secession of many states that did not
support the plans, this reconfigured Morrill Act was signed into law
Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862. The previous day Lincoln
signed a bill financing the transcontinental railroad with land
grants. Less than two months earlier he signed the Homestead Act
encouraging western settlement. Together these actions, taken at a
time when the Union Army was poorly performing, did much to define
post–Civil War America.
Main article: Land-grant university
Morrill Hall, on the campus of the University of Maryland, College
Park (a land-grant university), is named for Senator Justin Morrill,
in honor of the act he sponsored.
Beaumont Tower at
Michigan State University
Michigan State University marks the site of College
Hall which is the first building in the
United States to teach
The purpose of the land-grant colleges was:
without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including
military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to
agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures
of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the
liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the
several pursuits and professions in life.
Under the act, each eligible state received a total of 30,000 acres
(120 km2) of federal land, either within or contiguous to its
boundaries, for each member of congress the state had as of the census
of 1860. This land, or the proceeds from its sale, was to be used
toward establishing and funding the educational institutions described
above. Under provision six of the Act, "No State while in a condition
of rebellion or insurrection against the government of the United
States shall be entitled to the benefit of this act," in reference to
the recent secession of several Southern states and the
contemporaneously raging American Civil War.
After the war, however, the 1862 Act was extended to the former
Confederate states; it was eventually extended to every state and
territory, including those created after 1862. If the federal land
within a state was insufficient to meet that state's land grant, the
state was issued "scrip" which authorized the state to select federal
lands in other states to fund its institution. For example, New
York carefully selected valuable timber land in
Wisconsin to fund
Cornell University.p. 9 The resulting management of this scrip
by the university yielded one third of the total grant revenues
generated by all the states, even though New York received only
one-tenth of the 1862 land grant.p. 10 Overall, the 1862
Morrill Act allocated 17,400,000 acres (70,000 km2) of land,
which when sold yielded a collective endowment of $7.55
On September 11, 1862, the state of Iowa was the first to accept the
terms of the Morrill Act which provided the funding boost needed for
the fledgling State Agricultural College and Model Farm (eventually
Iowa State University
Iowa State University of Science and Technology). The first
land-grant institution actually created under the Act was Kansas State
University, which was established on February 16, 1863, and opened on
September 2, 1863.
Before the Civil War American engineers were mostly educated at West
Point. While the Congressional debate associated with the Morrill Act
was largely focused on benefits to agriculture, the mechanic arts were
specifically included. After the Civil War, as the German University
model began to replace the English College, with the encouragement of
the Morrill Act the engineering discipline was gradually defined.
Because the Morrill Act excluded spending on buildings, engineering
specific infrastructure such as textbooks and laboratories were
developed. In 1866 there were around 300 American men with engineering
degrees and six reputable colleges granting them. By 1911 the United
States was graduating 3000 engineers a year, and had a total of 38,000
degreed engineers. The Morrill Act coincided with the establishment of
engineering in the American university.
With a few exceptions (including
Cornell University and the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology), nearly all of the land-grant
colleges are public. (Cornell University, while private, administers
several state-supported contract colleges that fulfill its public
land-grant mission to the state of New York.)
To maintain their status as land-grant colleges, a number of programs
are required to be maintained by the college. These include programs
in agriculture and engineering, as well as a Reserve Officers'
Training Corps program.
A second Morrill Act in 1890 was also aimed at the former Confederate
states. This act required each state to show that race was not an
admissions criterion, or else to designate a separate land-grant
institution for persons of color. Among the seventy colleges and
universities which eventually evolved from the Morrill Acts are
several of today's historically Black colleges and universities.
Though the 1890 Act granted cash instead of land, it granted colleges
under that act the same legal standing as the 1862 Act colleges; hence
the term "land-grant college" properly applies to both groups.
Later on, other colleges such as the University of the District of
Columbia and the "1994 land-grant colleges" for Native Americans were
also awarded cash by Congress in lieu of land to achieve "land-grant"
In imitation of the land-grant colleges' focus on agricultural and
mechanical research, Congress later established programs of sea grant
colleges (aquatic research, in 1966), urban grant colleges (urban
research, in 1985), space grant colleges (space research, in 1988),
and sun grant colleges (sustainable energy research, in 2003).
Agricultural experiment stations and cooperative extension
Starting in 1887, Congress also funded agricultural experiment
stations and various categories of agricultural and veterinary
research "under direction of" the land-grant universities.
Congress later recognized the need to disseminate the knowledge gained
at the land-grant colleges to farmers and homemakers. The
Smith–Lever Act of 1914
Smith–Lever Act of 1914 started federal funding of cooperative
extension, with the land-grant universities' agents being sent to
virtually every county of every state. In some states, the annual
federal appropriations to the land-grant college under these laws
exceed the current income from the original land grants. In the fiscal
year 2006 USDA budget, $1.033 billion went to research and cooperative
extension activities nationwide. For this purpose, former
George W. Bush
George W. Bush proposed a $1.035 billion appropriation for
fiscal year 2008.
Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act, at the
Library of Congress, June 23, 2012
James H. Billington
James H. Billington and
Vartan Gregorian at the Celebration of the
150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act, 2012
Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities
Hatch Act of 1887
List of land-grant universities
Smith-Lever Act of 1914
United States Department of Agriculture
Michigan Constitution of 1850". Wikisource. Article 13, Section 11.
Retrieved March 5, 2008.
^ "Milestones of MSU's Sesquicentennial Archived 2007-08-06 at the
Wayback Machine.". MSU University Archives and Historical Collection.
Retrieved March 5, 2008.
^ Letter from
Lyman Trumbull to J.B. Turner, 1857-10-19.
^ Carl L. Becker,
Cornell University Founders and The Founding
Cornell University Press 1943), pp. 28–30.
^ The Morrill Act used the phrase "military tactic".
^ 7 U.S.C. § 304
^ 7 U.S.C. § 302
^ a b c "A Land-Grant University" (PDF). Cornell.edu. Archived from
the original (PDF) on February 28, 2008. Retrieved 2013-02-12.
^ "History of Iowa State: Time Line, 1858–1874". Iowa State
University. 2006. Archived from the original on 13 May 2009. Retrieved
9 July 2009.
^ "The National Schools of Science", The Nation: 409, November 21,
^ "Morrill Act's Contribution to Engineering's Foundation" (PDF), Tau
Beta Pi The Bent, Spring 2009
^ 7 U.S.C. § 323
^ 7 U.S.C. § 361a
^ USDA Budget Summary 2006 - Research, Education, and Economics
Archived December 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
^ "CSREES FY2008 President's Budget Proposal" (PDF). Retrieved
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Morrill Act.
"Text and PDF of original 1862 manuscript of Morrill Act".
OurDocuments.gov. U.S. National Archives and Records
An Audacious Act: How a High School Dropout Helped Educate America.
Amherst, MA: New England Public Radio. September 21, 2013. Archived
from the original on November 1, 2013. Retrieved December 10,
2013. A radio documentary on the Morril