Morrill is best known for sponsoring the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act. This act was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and established federal funding for higher education in every state of the country.
1810-1898 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)
Impact & Accomplishments
Justin Smith Morrill was a farmer and a U. S. Representative from Vermont during the Civil War period.
He sponsored the Morrill Land Grant College Act, signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862. This legislation granted federal lands to the states, which sold the land and invested the proceeds in bonds to support the building of new colleges to “benefit the agricultural and mechanical arts.”
These land grant colleges greatly expanded educational opportunities and supported agricultural research, at a time when most American universities were private institutions.
This “Father of Agricultural Colleges” was then elected to the Senate in 1867, where he served on the Joint Committee on Reconstruction which drafted the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, defining citizenship and expanding the protection of civil rights.
Justin Morrill is one of thirty-seven inductees in the National Agricultural Hall of Fame, added in 1977.
Did You Know?
The three portraits of William Henry Hatch, Justin Smith Morrill and Henry Cullen Adams are framed as a triptych, while most of the other works in the collection are framed individually. The grouping represents three significant agriculture policy leaders of the nineteenth century; leaders who were, collectively, responsible for the establishment of the nation’s agricultural experiment stations. These men were among the earliest inducted into the Saddle & Sirloin Club Portrait Collection.
In 1854 Morrill was elected to the Thirty-fourth Congress as a Whig. He was a founder of the Republican Party, and won reelection five times as a Republican, serving from March 4, 1855 to March 3, 1867. He served as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means in the Thirty-ninth Congress. He also served on the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, which drafted the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Land Grant College Acts ultimately led to the founding of 106 colleges including many state universities, polytechnic colleges, and agricultural and mechanical colleges.
"This bill proposes to establish at least one college in every State upon a sure and perpetual foundation, accessible to all, but especially to the sons of toil, where all of needful science for the practical avocations of life shall be taught, where neither the higher graces of classical studies nor that military drill our country now so greatly appreciates will be entirely ignored, and where agriculture, the foundation of all present and future prosperity, may look for troops of earnest friends, studying its familiar and recondite economies, and at last elevating it to that higher level where it may fearlessly invoke comparison with the most advanced standards of the world." — Justin Smith Morrill, 1862, as quoted by William Belmont Parker, The Life and Public Services of Justin Smith Morrill
The Justin Smith Morrill Homestead is the historic Carpenter Gothic home of United States Senator Justin Smith Morrill (1810–98) in Strafford, Vermont, and was one of the first declared National Historic Landmarks, in 1960.
The video explores the 150-year impact of the Morrill Act on the nation's higher education system through the lenses of land-grant university presidents. Video courtesy APLUNews.