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Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Representative Justin S. Morrill’s speech delivered in the House of Representatives, April 20, 1858 Representative Justin S. Morrill’s speech delivered in the House of Representatives, April 20, 1858

Creating Land-grant Colleges

In 1857 Representative Justin S. Morrill of Vermont first introduced legislation supporting state agricultural and technical colleges through federal land grants. Morrill’s proposed legislation allocated to states undeveloped federal land proportionate to their congressional representation. Both southern and western states opposed the act, decrying it as a federal incursion into states’ rights concerning education that gave advantages to more populous eastern states.  President James Buchanan vetoed Morrill’s bill in1859, but Congress passed it again after Southern states seceded. The Morrill Land Grant Act became law in 1862.