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Roll call for a vote on the Morrill Act, U.S. Senate, June 10, 1862

The 37th Congress (1861–1863) passed the Morrill Land-Grant Act after members from 11 Southern states withdrew. Southerners had resisted the increased role of the federal government in providing a funding basis for state education. Sparsely settled Western states opposed the legislation because it allotted grants on the basis of population as reflected in congressional representation.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Roll call for a vote on the Morrill Act, U.S. Senate, June 10, 1862

Creating Land-Grant Colleges

Representative Justin S. Morrill of Vermont, a farmer and son of a blacksmith, championed federal aid for states to create agricultural and technical colleges. Proceeds from sales of federal land granted to states would fund schools to train young farmers in modern agricultural techniques, bolstering the economic future of the nation. Southern and western states opposed the act, denouncing it as a federal incursion into states’ authority that gave advantages to more populous eastern states. Vetoed in 1859, the Morrill Land-Grant Act was reintroduced and passed in 1862.