Saturday, May 17, 2008


During President Abraham Lincoln’s first term in office the 37th Congress passed five monumental pieces of legislation. Princeton Professor and renowned Civil War Historian James McPherson argues that these five pieces of legislation constitute a "second American Revolution." This legislation included:

The Homestead Act
The Land-Grant College Act [Morrill Act]
The Pacific Railroad Act
The creation of an income tax
National banking and legal tender acts

Of these five acts, the Morrill Act and the Homestead Act were important in creating social mobility. Social mobility is the degree to which an individual's social status can change throughout the course of his or her life or the degree to which that individual's offspring and subsequent generations move up and down the class system. Social Mobility is the promise that lies at the heart of the American Dream.

This short piece will concentrate on the Morrill Act.

The Morrill Act was first proposed by Representative Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont, 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. The Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862.

Since colonial times, basic education had been a central tenet of American democratic thought. By the 1860s, higher education was becoming more accessible, and many politicians and educators wanted to make it possible for all young Americans to receive some sort of advanced education.

The act gave to every state that had remained in the Union a grant of 30,000 acres of public land for every member of its congressional delegation. Since under the Constitution every state had at least two senators and one representative, even the smallest state received 90,000 acres. The states were to sell this land and use the proceeds to establish colleges in engineering, agriculture and military science. Over seventy "land grant" colleges, as they came to be known, were established under the original Morrill Act.

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. Some of the 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; therefore, 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" status. With a few exceptions, nearly all of the Land-Grant Colleges are public.

The importance of the land grant colleges cannot be exaggerated. Although originally started as agricultural and technical schools, many of them grew, with additional state aid, into large public universities which over the years have educated millions of American citizens who otherwise might not have been able to afford college.

Perhaps your alma mater can be found in the list below.

Land Grant Colleges
[* denotes Historically Black colleges and universities]

Alabama A and M University*
Auburn University
Tuskegee University*
University of Alaska System
American Samoa Community College
University of Arizona
University of Arkansas—Fayetteville
University of Arkansas—Pine Bluff*
University of California System
Colorado State University
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
University of Connecticut
Fort Valley State University*
Delaware State University*
University of Delaware
University of the District of Columbia
Florida A & M University*
University of Florida
University of Georgia
University of Guam
University of Hawaii
University of Idaho
University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign
Purdue University
Iowa State University
Kansas State University
Kentucky State University*
University of Kentucky
Louisiana State University System
Southern University*
University of Maine
University of Maryland—Eastern Shore*
University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts—Amherst
Massachusetts institute of Technology
Michigan State University
University of Minnesota
Alcorn State University*
Mississippi State University
Lincoln University*
University of Missouri
Montana State University
University of Nebraska
University of Nevada—Reno
University of New Hampshire
Rutgers—The State University of New Jersey
New Mexico State University
Cornell University
North Carolina A & T State University*
North Carolina State University
North Dakota State University
The Ohio State University
Langston University*
Oklahoma State University
Oregon State University
The Pennsylvania State University
University of Puerto Rico—Mayaguez
University of Rhode Island
Clemson University
South Carolina State University*
South Dakota State University
Tennessee State University*
University of Tennessee
Prairie View A & M University*
Texas A & M University
Utah State University
University of Vermont
University of the Virgin Islands
Amer. Indian Higher Ed. Consortium
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia State University*
Washington State University
West Virginia University
West Virginia State University*
University of Wisconsin--Madison
University of Wyoming

For further reading:

Allen Nevins, The State Universities and Colleges, 1962
Fred F. Harderoad, Colleges and Universities for Change, 1987
Ralph D. Christy, A Century of Service: Land-grant Colleges and Universities, 1890-1990, 1992

1 comment:

Rick said...

For more information your readers may wish to check out the Friends of the Morrill Homestead's website: