Hoosier Dusty Files - January 20, 1820 - Indiana Legislative Act Approved Establishing State Seminary (Indiana University)

A Year of Indiana History - 2016
A Year of Indiana History - 2016

January 20, 1820 - Indiana Legislative Act Approved Establishing State Seminary (Indiana University)
When the United States Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, it included in the act a passage that encouraged the states formed from the Territory to promote public education. In the Territorial Assembly's petition for Statehood in 1816, the petition included a request for one township of land to be set aside for a state seminary. Congress complied with this request. The Constitutional Convention included this in the first state constitution written in 1816.
Northwest Ordinance
Congress passed The Ordinance of 1787 on July 13, 1787, creating a vast territory in what was then the western United States. The Ordinance provided that at least three but not more than five states would be formed in this vast territory. In order to qualify for statehood, a state had to have at least 60,000 inhabitants. When the region reached that goal, Congress would admit it as a state on equal footing with the original thirteen states. The Congress encouraged education in the territory by including a clause that stated, "Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
Petition for Statehood
The Petition requested that the Federal Government reserve one entire township in the state for educational purposes, stipulating, “the promotion of useful Knowledge, is the best Guarantee to our civil institutions.” When Congress passed the Enabling Act in April 1816 granting Indiana the right to form a State, the Congress complied with this request. This was necessary because unsettled land in the Territory was part of the public domain and belonged to the Federal Government. The Federal government sold this land to businesses and individuals. Surveyors divided this land into townships of thirty-six square miles. By granting a full township, the Federal Government allowed the State of Indiana to use one township for educational purposes without having to purchase the parcel from the Federal Government.
Education in the Constitution of 1816
The men that framed Indiana's first Constitution enshrined this grant in Article IX, Section 2 of the 1816 Indiana Constitution. This article states, “it shall be the duty of the General assembly [sic], as soon as circumstances will permit, to provide, by law, for a general system of education, ascending in a regular gradation from township schools to a state university, wherein tuition shall be gratis, and equally open to all.”
An Act to Establish a State Seminary and for Other Purposes
On January 20, 1820, the Indiana General Assembly passed this act approving the State Seminary, which later became Indiana University. The Act appointed a board of trustees and required them to meet on the first Monday in June in Bloomington, Indiana to select the site for the university in the township reserved for that purpose. Indiana University celebrates this date as "Founders Day."

A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning