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Justin Smith Morrill

father of the land-grant colleges

Coy F. Cross, II

Publication Year: 1999

Smith Morrill: Almost every land-grant college or university in the United States has a building named for him; but are his contributions truly recognized and understood? Here is the first biography on this renowned statesman in six decades. Representative and then senator from Vermont, Morrill began his tenure in Congress in 1855 and served continuously for forty-three years. His thirty- one years in the upper chamber alone earned him the title "Father of the Senate." Coy F. Cross reveals a complex and influential political figure who, as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and then the Senate Finance Committee, influenced American economic policy for nearly fifty years.  
     Morrill's most-recognized achievements are the pieces of legislation that bear his name: the Morrill land-grant college acts of 1862 and 1890. His legacy, inspired by the Jeffersonian ideal of an educated electorate, revolutionized American higher education. Prior to this legislation, colleges and universities were open primarily to affluent white men and studies were limited largely to medicine, theology, and philosophy. Morrill's land-grant acts eventually opened American higher education to the working class, women, minorities, and immigrants. Since 1862, more than 20 million people have graduated from the 104 land-grant colleges and universities spawned by his grand vision. In this long-overdue study, Cross shows the "Father of Land-Grant Colleges" to be one of America's formative nineteenth- century political figures. 

Published by: Michigan State University Press

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pp. ix-xi

Justin Smith Morrill, more than any public figure in the nineteenth cen tury, changed higher education in America. Born in Strafford, Vermont, in 1810, Morrill rose above his modest beginnings to become a wealthy and highly successful entrepreneur. His business ventures were so successful, in fact, that he retired at the age of thirty-eight to become a farmer and ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Justin Smith Morrill served in Congress from 1855 until his death in 1898, longer than anyone had ever served before. As a member and chair of the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committees, he, more than any other individual, shaped tax and tariff legislation throughout his long tenure. His most lasting contributions, however, ...

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Chapter 1: The Making of Justin Morrill

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pp. 1-18

Justin Smith Morrill was both typical and atypical of Vermont's citizens in the nineteenth century. He was a Vermont blacksmith's son, ut his tastes were those of the English gentry. He could not afford college, but through reading and studying he became a well-educated man and earned several honorary degrees. He opposed women's suffrage, the eight-hour workday, and direct election of the president and senators, ...

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Chapter 2: Mr. Morrill Goes to Washington

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pp. 19-39

Justin Morrill hardly had time to grieve for his losses. In 1854 the country became embroiled, again, over slavery's extension into the western territories. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill caused smoldering resentments to flare up. Firebrands, on both sides, fanned the flames. This time there would be no Henry Clay compromise to extinguish the fire. Instead, zealots carried the Kansas spark to the halls of Congress. From there it would soon spread across the entire country. The nation divided ...

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Chapter 3: The Morrill Tariff

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pp. 41-54

During Morrill's second term in Congress the federal government confronted a problem unique to the nineteenth century: the Treasury had too much money. From the Republic's birth through the nineteenth century, tariffs and land sales were the federal government's primary source of income. The current tariff, enacted in 1846, charged 30 percent duty on most items. The country had prospered since 1846 and the federal revenue had exceeded expectations. To help eliminate the...

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Chapter 4: The Irrepressible Conflict

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pp. 55-75

With Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860, southern states began calling conventions to consider secession. Although President Buchanan believed states could not legally secede, he also felt he could not legally stop them. Congress, meanwhile, sought another compromise to keep the nation from tearing apart. Justin Morrill reluctantly joined the House committee seeking a possible solution. When Congress failed ...

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Chapter 5: Morrill’s Monument: The Land-Grant College Act

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pp. 77-94

Cornell University President Andrew D. White ranked Justin Morrill's contribution to education, especially the Land-Grant College Act, with Alexander Hamilton's support of the Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's acquisition of the Louisiana Territory.3 On the lOOth anniversary of the law's enactment, Harvard Professor W. K. Jordan said,...

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Chapter 6: The Politician Inside the Public Servant

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pp. 95-110

With the end of the Civil War, Morrill faced the task of dismantling the revenue programs that financed the victory. Before the Thirtyeighth Congress ended in March 1865, Representative Samuel Cox of Ohio initiated a rule change that divided the Ways and Means Committee into Ways and Means, Appropriations, and Banking and Currency. When the Thirty-ninth Congress convened in December 1865, Justin Morrill ...

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Chapter 7: Senator Morrill

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pp. 111-128

Although Morrill authored his most memorable legislation in the House, he made important contributions in the Senate. Helping to restore the nation's currency to a sound basis was perhaps his most significant effort. As Morrill's tenure in Congress grew, so did his reputation. Eventually he became one of the most esteemed and powerful members of Congress. Initially, however, his Senate duties were light and ...

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Chapter 8: Beautifying Washington

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pp. 129-141

Justin Morrill loved Washington. After his election to the Senate, he decided to build a second home there. This made his life more comortable and allowed him to fulfill his social obligations as a leading senator. Then, as Buildings and Grounds Committee chair, he had the opportunity to make the city even more beautiful and worthy of being ...

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pp. 143-147

Justin Morrill's death came suddenly, but it must not have been too surprising to his friends and family. He was eighty-eight years old and physical strength had begun to wane. The previous year he suffered a severe cold and bronchitis, but recovered. His health had never been hardy and throughout his years in Congress he experienced bouts of "grip" (influenza) and other illnesses. He carefully guarded his health ...


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pp. 149-156


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pp. 157-159

E-ISBN-13: 9780870139055
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870135088

Page Count: 245
Publication Year: 1999