The Morrill Act
The Morrill Act was a law passed by Congress in 1862, and signed by Abraham Lincoln, which led to the creation of land-grant colleges, institutions of higher learning that focused on agricultural and mechanical arts. Some sixty-nine universities were founded under federal grants set up by the Morrill Act. Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill sponsored the original bill, which set aside 30,000 acres of federal land for each state’s congressional delegation. The land was then sold to the states, and the money used to establish a college.
The Morrill Act was originally passed by Congress in 1857, but vetoed by President Buchanan. Second passage in 1862 was signed into law by Lincoln. Iowa became the first state to accept federal money under the Morrill Act, leading to what would become Iowa State University.
A second Morrill Act passed Congress in 1890, and was aimed at expanding the program into former Confederate states. This act required that these states could not deny admission on the basis of race, or must create separate land-grant colleges for African-Americans. Tuskegee University, for example, is an example of this form of separate land-grant college.
Other notable examples of land-grant colleges established under the Morrill Act include Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of California system. There are land-grant colleges and universities in all 50 states.