The Land Grant of 1862

The Morrill (Land Grant) Act of 1862

The University of Illinois owes its existence in part to the advocacy of an Illinois educator and the persistence of a Vermont congressman. In 1853, the Illinois General Assembly adopted a resolution, drafted by Prof. Jonathan Baldwin Turner of Illinois College, calling for the Illinois congressional delegation to work to enact a land-grant bill to fund a system of industrial colleges, one in each state.

In 1857, Representative Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont introduced a bill bearing his name. Passed by Congress in 1859, it was vetoed by President James Buchanan. In 1861, Morrill resubmitted the act with the amendment that the proposed institutions would teach military tactics as well as engineering and agriculture.

Aided by the secession of many states that had not supported the plans, this reconfigured Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862.


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