Thursday, March 4, 2010

Morrill Land Grant Act Breakfast

(My notes)

Have parents tell their kids what they want them to learn in college.

Share with larger group.

One idea will probably predominate: Prepare for careers.

This is a ripple effect of the Morrill Land Grant Act

Previous colleges: Religiously based (Harvard, Yale, W & M) but had moved towards legal/medical/philosophical roots.

In 186, moved towards middle class conception of usefulness: Agriculture and mechanical skills.

Sponsored by Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill,

Officially titled "An Act Donating Public Lands to the Several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts,"

30,000 acres of Federal land for each member in their Congressional delegation. Sold to finance colleges.

Older states with little federal land could choose and sell federal land in other states.

The land was then sold by the states and the proceeds used to fund public colleges that focused on agriculture and the mechanical arts. Sixty-nine colleges were funded by these land grants, including Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Virginia Tech, VSU (1890 Plessy v. Ferguson)

Agitation for 15 years previous: Midwest.

German-Americans had founded small private colleges. Joined by New England middle class.

What's better than paying for your kids to go to college? Having taxpayers do it.

South blocked the bill every year; planterocracy had private tutors and did not want to pay for other people's education.

But when the Civil War broke out, many bills blocked by South passed (also transcontinental railroad, Morrill Tariff, and Homestead Act (why would South block an act to encourage settlement of the Great Plains?)

The new act was for agriculture and mechanics (think polytechnic!): Economics based education. Middle class now has access to education.

Middle class still the major ally of education (protests against budget cuts).

Major innovation: Government support of higher ed. It works: productivity and innovation jumps.

Gilded Age wealth partially attributable to increased number of college graduates.

Expanded to blacks after Plessy.

Expanded to the poor with the G.I. Bil in 1945: 1950s economic boom.

Text of Act:


The Morrill Act (1862)

An Act donating Public Lands to the several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there be granted to the several States, for the purposes hereinafter mentioned, an amount of public land, to be apportioned to each State a quantity equal to thirty thousand acres for each senator and representative in Congress to which the States are respectively entitled by the apportionment under the census of eighteen hundred and sixty: Provided, That no mineral lands shall be selected or purchased under the provisions of this act.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the land aforesaid, after being surveyed, shall be apportioned to the several States in sections or subdivisions of sections, not less than one quarter of a section; and whenever there are public lands in a State subject to sale at private entry at one dollar and twenty five cents per acre, the quantity to which said State shall be entitled shall be selected from such lands within the limits of such State, and the Secretary of the Interior is hereby directed to issue to each of the States in which there is not the quantity of public lands subject to sale at private entry at one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, to which said State may be entitled under the provisions of this act, land scrip to the amount in acres for the deficiency of its distributive share: said scrip to be sold by said States and the proceeds thereof applied to the uses and purposes prescribed in this act, and for no other use or purpose whatsoever...

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That all moneys derived from the sale of the lands aforesaid by the States to which the lands are apportioned, and from the sale of land scrip hereinbefore provided for, shall be invested in stocks of the United States, or of the States, or some other safe stocks, yielding not less than five per centum upon the par value of the said stocks; and that the moneys so invested shall constitute a perpetual fund, the capital of which shall remain forever undiminished, (except so far as may be provided in section fifth of this act,) and the interest of which shall be inviolably appropriated, by each State which may take and claim the benefits of this act, to the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the State may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life...

Sixth. 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.

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