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Primary Documents in American History

Morrill Act

Justin S. Morrill, 1810-1898
Morrill, Justin S. (Justin Smith),
Civil War photograph album,
ca. 1861-65.
(James Wadsworth Family Papers).
Manuscript Division.
Reproduction Number:

Sponsored by Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill, the Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862. 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," the Morrill Act provided each state with 30,000 acres of Federal land for each member in their Congressional delegation. 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.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875

This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.

Search this collection in the 37th Congress using the phrase "donating public lands" in order to find additional material on the Morrill Act.

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

The Minnesota Legislature passed a Joint Resolution on Congressional Donation of Lands for Agricultural and Mechanical College on January 27, 1863.

Today in History

October 7, 1868

Cornell University welcomed its first students on October 7, 1868. Located near Lake Cayuga in Ithaca, New York, Cornell is one of 69 institutions founded with federal funds under the provision of the Morrill Act of 1862.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

Act of July 2, 1862 (Morrill Act), Public Law 37-108, 12 STAT 503, Which Established Land Grant Colleges, National Archives and Records Administration

Our Documents, Morrill Act, National Archives and Records Administration

Selected Bibliography

Anderson, G. Lester, ed. Land-Grant Universities and Their Continuing Challenge. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1976. [Catalog Record]

Cross, Coy F. Justin Smith Morrill: Father of the Land-Grant Colleges. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1999. [Catalog Record]

Eddy, Edward Danforth. Colleges for Our Land and Time; The Land-Grant Idea in American Education. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973. [Catalog Record]

Edmond, Joseph Bailey. The Magnificent Charter: The Origin and Role of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges and Universities. Hicksville, N.Y.: Exposition Press, 1978. [Catalog Record]

James, Edmund J. The Origin of the Land Grant Act of 1862 (the so-called Morrill Act) and Some Account of its Author, Jonathan B. Turner. Urbana-Champaign: University Press, 1910. [Catalog Record] [Full Text]

Morrill, Justin S. Educational Fund. Washington, D.C: 1876. [Catalog Record] [Full Text]

-----. Speech of Hon. Justin S. Morrill, of Vermont, on the Bill Granting Lands for Agricutural Colleges. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Globe, 1858. [Catalog Record] [Full Text]

Nevins, Allan. The Origins of the Land-Grant Colleges and State Universities: A Brief Account of the Morrill Act of 1862 and Its Results. Washington: Civil War Centennial Commission, 1962. [Catalog Record]

Williams, Roger L. The Origins of Federal Support for Higher Education: George W. Atherton and the Land-Grant College Movement. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991. [Catalog Record]

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  October 26, 2017
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