Morrill Act Essay

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The Morrill Act of 1862 was originally proposed by Congressman Justin Morrill of Vermont in 1857. Opposed by the southern states, this act passed both houses of Congress in 1862, when the southern states had seceded from the Union. Abraham Lincoln signed the Act into law on July 2, 1862.

The Morrill Act gave each state 30,000 acres for each member of their congressional delegation based on the Census of 1860, guaranteeing each state at least 90,000 acres to sell. The intent was that states would sell the land and invest the money in order to use the profits to support the land-grant schools; sixty-nine colleges were funded as a result of this original Act. Military training was required of all male students at institutions funded by the Act.

Originally, the Act specifically excluded the southern states. The Morrill Act of 1890 provided for greater funding for the schools established by the 1862 Act and included the southern states. The Morrill Act of 1890 also led to the establishment of land-grant colleges for African Americans. This was important, because in the southern states, African Americans were excluded from the land-grant colleges.

Today, there are more than 100 land-grant schools in the United States and U.S. territories worldwide.


  1. Cross, C. F. (1999). Justin Smith Morrill: Father of the land-grant colleges. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.
  2. Nemec, M. R. (2006). Ivory towers and nationalist minds: Universities, leadership, and the development of the American state. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  3. Peters, W. (Dir.). (1985). A class divided. Arlington, VA: Public Broadcasting Service.
  4. Piaget, J. (1969). The moral judgment of the child (M. Gabain, Trans.). Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

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