Page images


The origin of this gift must be sought in local communities. In this country all ideas of national education have arisen from those States that have felt the need of local institutions for the education of youth. In certain sections of the Union, particularly the North and West, where agriculture was one of the chief industries, it was felt that the old classical schools were not broad enough to cover all the wants of education represented by growing industries. There was consequently a revulsion from these schools toward the industrial and practical side of education.

Evidences of this movement are seen in the attempts in different States to found agricultural, technical, and industrial schools.

These ideas found their way into Congress, and a bill was introduced in 1858, which provided for the endowment of colleges for the teaching of agriculture and the mechanical arts. The bill was introduced by Hon. Justin S. Morrill, of Vermont; it was passed by a small majority, and was vetoed by President Buchanan. In 1862 the bill was again presented with slight changes, passed and signed, and became a law July 2, 1862.


Without giving the entire text of this familiar act, a few of its main provisions will be mentioned. It stipulated to grant to each State thirty thousand acres of land for each Senator and Representative in Congress to which the States were respectively entitled by the census of 1860, for the purpose of endowing "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 the mechanic arts, in such manner as the Legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions of life." It is to be noticed that the main requirement is to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, and that, this being accomplished, such other studies as were thought proper could be introduced. Secondly, the defence of the nation was provided for by the suggestion concerning military tactics and the subsequent act pertaining thereto. Again, the "liberal" as well as the "practical" education of the industrial classes was sought after. And, finally, the youth were to be fitted for "pursuits and professions of life."

From this proposition all sorts of schools sprang up, according to the local conception of the law and local demands. It was thought by some that boys were to be taught agriculture by working on a farm, and purely agricultural schools were founded with the mechanical arts attached. In other States classical schools of the stereotyped order were established, with more or less science; and, again, the endowment in others was de

voted to scientific departments. The instruction of the farm and the teaching of pure agriculture have not succeeded in general, while the schools that have made prominent those studies relating to agriculture and the mechanic arts, upon the whole, have succeeded best.

Among the conditions of this grant it was imperative that no mineral lands should be "selected or purchased," and that if there was not suf ficient public land in a given State, scrip should be issued for the actual number of acres to which the State was entitled, and this land scrip could be sold, the purchaser being allowed to locate it in any of the States where there was sufficient land entered at one dollar and twentyfive cents or less per acre.

In several instances the managers of the land scrip have understood that by this provision the State could not locate the land within the borders of another State, but its assignees could thus locate lands, not more than one million acres in any one State. By considering this question, the New York land scrip was bought by Ezra Cornell, and located by him for the college in valuable lands in the State of Wisconsin, and thus the fund was augmented.

However, the majority of the States sold their land at a sacrifice, frequently for less than half its value. There was a lull in the land market during the Civil War, and this cause, together with the lack of attention in many States, sacrificed the gift of the Federal Government. The sales ranged all the way from fifty cents to seven dollars per acre, as the average price for each State.

It was further enacted that the proceeds should be preserved entire, as a permanent fund, and that the income derived from it was to be used in the support and maintenance of the college. It could not be used in the erection of buildings or otherwise diminished, except that ten per centum of the fund might be used for the purchase of sites or experimental farms, if so ordered by the Legislature of the State. In addition to this, it was provided that if any portion of the invested fund or interest thereon "shall, by any action or contingency, be lost, it shall be replaced by the State to which it belongs."


It is to be observed by the tenor of this act that the Federal Government intended the grant should form a nucleus in each of the several States, around which buildings, libraries, laboratories, workshops, gymnasiums, military halls, and other educational appliances should be grouped, by means of private munificence and State bounty. It was to prove a stimulus to the generosity of the people and the liberality of the States.

To this test the people, through private gifts, and municipal and State governments, have responded, with few exceptions, in a liberal way. Thirty-seven of these colleges formed under the land-scrip act 880-No. 1-4

have now an aggregate value in lands, buildings, apparatus, libraries, etc., of $8,416,682. This, taken with the amount used for current expenses supplied by State appropriations, would swell the amount of expenditures on the part of the States in response to the Congressional grant to a sum nearly equal to that actually realized from the original gift.

In some instances State Legislatures, through neglect or disregard of the law, have failed to comply with the provisions of this act, but in every instance are now hastening to make good the losses sustained by the funds held in trust.1

It is worthy of attention that the responsibility was thrown upon the States entirely, and that in so far as the administration of the fund was concerned, it was State rather than National education. The National Government charged upon the several States the effective working of a system of education which allowed the most liberal construction. From a recent Report of the Commissioner of Education,2 the amount of State appropriations to twenty-six of these colleges, twentytwo of which received aid, is found to be $397,833, while the income from productive funds amounted in the aggregate to $563,204.

The sixth clause of section 5 of the act limits the application of the grant by stating that "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." The privilege of the grant has since been extended to every State in the Union, thus making the only universal law ever established by the Federal Government for the cause of education, no other having applied to all of the States.

Section 5 asserts that any State taking the benefit of the provisions of this act must accept the terms within two years from the date of passage of the act, and must provide within five years for at least one college.

These provisions were altered by an amendment approved July 23, 1866, extending the time of acceptance to three years from the date of the amendment, and the time of the establishment of a college to five years from the date of filing an acceptance of the grant.

While the primary object of this grant was not to discourage the existing schools with their traditional classical four years' course, it was intended to widen the sphere of knowledge and training, to take new elements into the curriculum of education. "The fundamental idea," says Senator Morrill,3 ,3" was to offer an opportunity in every State for a liberal and larger education to larger numbers, not merely those destined to sedentary professions, but to those much needing higher instruction for the world's business, for the industrial pursuits and professions of life."

1 Cf. Historical sketches of the several States, in subsequent chapters.

2 Report for 1886-87, 708.

3 Address in behalf of the University of Vermont Agricultural College, 11.


Nothing has ever taken the place of the old classical school, with its conventional four years' course in the philosophies and languages; but that it was not adequate to the demands of a great people of diversi fied industries has been thoroughly demonstrated by the people of the country in their earnest support of those institutions giving instruction in branches relating more directly to the arts of life.

There is a division of the direction and tendency of education paramount to the division of labor in industries. The inauguration of an educational system with a tendency toward the practical arts and industries not only supplements our commercial and mechanical activities with intelligence, but it calls into use a large amount of wealth, the wealth of youthful mind-force, which otherwise would have been lost to the community through the distaste for Greek and Latin and abstract theories.

It has been held by some individuals, and at times by some legislatures, that the administration of education by the State is a great extravagance, and a plea of economy and for low taxes is always used to defeat appropriations. To this class of arguments the Hon. Andrew D. White answers as follows: "Talk of economy! Go to your State Legislatures-what strange ethics in dealing with the public institutions! If asked for money to found an asylum for idiots and lunatics or the blind or the deaf and dumb, you will find legislatures ready to build palaces for them. Millions of dollars are lavished upon your idiots and deaf and dumb and blind and lunatics. Right glad I am it is so; but when you come to ask aid even in measured amounts for the development of the young men of the State, upon whom is to rest its civilization, and from whom is to flow out its prosperity for ages to come, the future makers of your institutions and laws, how are they to be left to the most meagre provision during all their preparation?"


In connection with the agricultural land grant should be mentioned the supplementary act of Congress, approved March 2, 1887, authorizing the establishment of experiment stations in connection with agricultural colleges.

In itself this is not higher education, though it may lead directly to higher scientific training. It is merely a laboratory for one or more branches of knowledge, and is as essential as a cabinet for the study of mineralogy. Extracts from the act will best illustrate its purpose:

"SEC. 2. That it shall be the object and duty of said experiment stations to conduct original researches or verify experiments on the physiology of plants and animals; the diseases to which they are severally subject, with the remedies for the same; the chemical composition of useful plants at their different stages of growth; the comparative advantages

of rotative cropping as pursued under a varying series of crops; the capacity of new plants or trees for acclimation; the analysis of soils and water; the chemical composition of manures, natural or artificial, with experiments designed to test their comparative effects on crops of different kinds; the adaptation and value of grasses and forage plants; the composition and digestibility of the different kinds of food for domestic animals; the scientific and economic questions involved in the production of butter and cheese; and such other researches or experiments bearing directly on the agricultural industry of the United States as may be in each case deemed advisable, having due regard for the varying conditions or needs of the respective States and Territories. "SEC. 4. That for the purpose of paying the necessary expenses of condueting investigations and experiments and printing and distributing the result as herein before prescribed, the sum of $15,000 is hereby appropriated to each State, to be especially provided for by Congress in the appropriations from year to year, etc."

In 1887 twenty-two colleges of agriculture and the mechanic arts report themselves as sustaining relations to State agricultural stations.1 These colleges have taken or doubtless will take advantage of this act.


The Government has made from time to time certain small grants for specific purposes for the aid of education.

The following list is taken in part from the Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1876. It is evident that several of these items should not be counted as applying to the support of higher education, but they are given here as a matter of interest and as exceptions to a general custom or policy of the Government in aiding miscellaneous institutions:

ALABAMA.-Lafayette Academy

FLORIDA.-Chattahoochee Arsenal, buildings, land, etc., to the State..
GEORGIA. Dahlonega Arsenal, grounds, buildings, to Agricultural College
KENTUCKY.-Center College (originally to deaf and dumb asylum) ..
LOUISIANA.-Pine Grove Academy (quitclaim by United States)
MISSISSIPPI.-Jefferson College, lot at Natchez..
TENNESSEE.-Fisk University, land and buildings

Acres. 480.00


WEST VIRGINIA.-Storer College, four lots and buildings at Harper's

MISSOURI. Certain lots,2 commons, etc., confirmed to towns for the purposes
of education

22, 400.00 4,040.00 30.00


1,406. 50

DAKOTA.-Holy Cross Mission....


CONNECTICUT.-Asylum3 for the education of the deaf and dumb.

23, 040.00

MICHIGAN.-Sault Ste. Marie......


Mackinac, lot and building

MINNESOTA.-Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant
Episcopal Church....

1 Report of the Commissioner of Education, 1886-87, p. 707.

2 Acts of Congress, 1812, 1824, and 1831.

Not considered in the range of this paper.


« PreviousContinue »