|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Championed by Vermont Representative Justin Smith Morrill, Congress passed the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act in 1862. President Abraham Lincoln signed the law on July 2, 1862. The law established land-grant colleges in the states that accepted the terms.
Justin Smith Morrill (April 14, 1810 – December 28, 1898)
A native of Strafford, Vermont, Morrill attended common school as a child. He worked as a merchant as a young man, first in Maine and then back in Stafford. He served in several local elective offices. He was successful in several business ventures and retired as a gentleman farmer in the late 1840's. He became involved in politics, gaining election to Congress as a Whig in 1854. He became one of the founders of the Republican Party and won reelection to Congress as a Republican five times. In 1867, he was elected to the Senate as a Republican.
Morrill Land-Grant Acts
Congress first passed the act in 1859, but President James Buchanan vetoed it. After the start of the Civil War, supporters revived the act and resubmitted it. Congress passed the act and President Abraham Lincoln signed it on July 2, 1862. The act encouraged land-grant colleges that would teach military tactics, engineering and agriculture.
Under the provisions of the act, each qualifying state would receive 30,000 acres of Federal land for the establishment of a college. This land would be either in the state or on land contiguous to it. The states could use this land, or proceeds from its sale, to establish a college in the fields described above. Each state would receive grants equal in number to the total number of congressional members allotted to that state as per the Census of 1860. The act specifically forbade states in active rebellion from participating in the terms of the act. Congress did extend the provisions to the former Confederate states after the war concluded.
Indiana Accepts the Provisions of the Act
The Indiana General Assembly accepted the provisions of the act on March 6, 1865. The state designated Purdue University as a land-grant college in 1869.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning