Reflecting upon the guiding principles of R.O.T.C. and universities like Texas A&M, MIT, Purdue, and the University of California, it helps to understand the circumstances surrounding the key policy during the American Civil War. The Morrill Land-grant College Act has been auspiciously nicknamed the ‘Silent Revolution’ — quite appropriately since it was an act of great political strategy by President Abraham Lincoln when he signed it into law 150 years ago on July 2, 1862.
President Lincoln proceeded with incredible risk. The country was viciously divided and the outcome of the Civil War was still uncertain in 1862. The Congress of the Confederate States was meeting in Richmond, VA and so President Lincoln in Washington, DC grasped the opportunity during their absence to release hundreds of thousands of acres to support higher education in which agriculture, the mechanical arts, and military training would form the essential component of improving the lives of U.S. citizens. More precisely, 30,000 acres of public land was apportioned to each state for each senator and representative in a state belonging to U.S. Congress. The proceeds from the sale of the land was put into a state perpetual fund to address some of the expenses in addressing the growing needs of improving agriculture, mechanics, and military training.
Among the first Congressional Republicans in the House in 1855, Congressman Justin S. Morrill and author of the Morrill Land-grant College Act began a professional relationship with the one-term Congressman Abraham Lincoln while he was the Republican Presidential candidate in 1860. With industrialization on the horizon, Congressman Morrill was a successful entrepreneur and determined politician playing a key role in assisting Abraham Lincoln during his 1860 Presidential election campaign. Lincoln and Morrill formed a cooperative partnership that laid the foundation for future national policies.
Toward that end on the 25th of June 2012, in observance of the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Morrill Act and the cooperation between Morrill and Lincoln, Monica Morrill, IWP Adjunct Professor (who is teaching the Geography and Strategy course at IWP this summer) and relative of the Hon. Justin Morrill, was invited to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in honor of President Lincoln’s role in the Morrill Act. The ceremony was replete with the Constitution Brass Quintet, a Procession of officials and dignitaries, a Presentation of Colors, the National Anthem, four distinguished speakers, and the official wreath laying. The Library of Congress and the Carnegie Corporation of New York generously sponsored both a conference and the ceremony.
On June 26, Monica Morrill and her husband were also invited to attend an APLU Convocation (Association of Public and Land-grant Universities) held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The Convocation’s theme was “150 Years of the Morrill Act: Advancing the Legacy” and was kindly supported by the APLU and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. All involved were delighted that Bill Gates accepted the invitation to be the keynote speaker for the event, along with a number of accomplished speakers covering a plethora of subjects related to research and learning. Today, there are 106 land-grant institutions, and while the challenges are equally as daunting as they were 150 years ago, thankfully the enthusiasm to address needed educational reforms endures.
Prof. Morrill is currently working on her PhD in Economic Geography at the University of Cambridge.
Photo by Widmeyer Communications, www.widmeyer.com
(from left to right) APLU President Peter McPherson, IWP Adjunct Professor Monica Morrill, The Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington, Carnegie Corp. President Vartan Gregorian, and National Academy of Sciences President Ralph Cicerone, and former Secretary of Education and Governor of South Carolina Richard Riley
Photo by the Library of Congress