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Toepel, M. G.; Theobald, H. Rupert (ed.) / The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1962

Administrative branch,   pp. [371]-[548] PDF (54.0 MB)

Page 531

  Various phases of university operations have been covered in
a series of Blue Book articles beginning with the 1954 edition. This
edition will center its attention on some of the facets of the uni-
versity which are an outgrowth of the Morrill Land-Grant Act of
1862 whose centennial the university and the 67 other land-grant
institutions across the nation are marking with a year-long cele-
bration in 1961-62.
  Morrill Land-Grant Act. It was on September 30, 1859, in Mil-
waukee at a meeting of the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society,
that Abraham Lincoln put into words the basic idea of the Morrill
Land-Grant Act:
   "The thought recurs that education-cultivated thought-can
best be combined with agricultural labor, or any labor," he said.
"Every blade of grass is a study. To produce two where there was
but one is both profit and a pleasure."
   It was Justin Smith Morrill, a Vermont storekeeper-farmer, who
took this idea of the practical worth of higher education, combined
it with the older idea of federal land grants for financing, and
arrived at a proposal for a nation-wide system of higher education
for "those at the bottom of the ladder who want to climb up."
   It was his position that brains, not money nor birth, should
 determine who went to college. He saw in "educational opportuni-
 ties for all"' the practical method of making democracy work.
   Morrill, who served nearly 50 years in Congress, led the fight
 for the necessary federal legislation. A land-grant college bill,
 spelling out the ideas he, Jonathan B. Turner of Illinois, and a
 number of other imaginative leaders had, was passed in 1859, only
 to be put aside by President Buchanan's misgivings about its cost
 and constitutionality.
   But undaunted, Morrill introduced a second measure; and, in
 the dark hours when our nation was torn by civil strife, Abraham
 Lincoln, on July 2, 1862, signed the Morrill Act into law-more
 than 5 years after the struggle for its passage had begun.
   The purpose of the act, in its own words, was to provide for
 "the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college
 (in each state) where the leading object shall be, without exclud-
 ing other scientific and classical study, and including military
 tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agri-
 culture and the mechanic arts.... in order to promote the liberal
 and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pur-
 suits and professions in life."
   To accomplish this, under the terms of the act each state re-
 ceived a grant of federal land apportioned on the basis of 30,000
 acres for each member of Congress. The income from the sale of
 the land was intended to provide an endowment for the continuing
 support of the colleges. Wisconsin received 240,000 acres of land
 which ultimately were sold for $303,594. A second Morrill Act,
 in 1890, authorized an annual federal fund appropriation to land-

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