As agriculture students at Oklahoma State University, it is very important to understand the history behind the establishment of our institution. Attending a land-grant university is certainly unique, but what does it mean? This paper will discuss the legislative acts that organized our university, as well as other agriculture and mechanic schools across the United States.
During the 1800s our country was experiencing a significant push for progress and innovation. Businesses were booming as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and the nation was facing the struggles that come with racial controversy. The need for education was considerable; however, higher education was limited to only prestige individuals. Moreover, the only colleges were either private or faith-based, making it even more difficult for working class citizens to be admitted. Justin Smith Morrill, a Republican legislator from Vermont, recognized this demand and initiated a plan to increase accessibility to advanced curriculum. Morrill pushed the idea to organize public institutions that offered agriculture and mechanic education and training. His emphasis on more practical skills instead of the arts was faced with much opposition. Angered legislators feared that creating A&M colleges would deplete the budget and jeopardize the integrity of established universities. They also expressed their view that the government should not make decisions regarding higher education. Among those who resisted Morrill’s proposal was President James Buchanan, who vetoed Morrill’s original plans in 1857. Fortunately, Justin Morrill would gain another supporter during the following presidential election.
After learning of Morrill’s radical ideas for education, Abraham Lincoln exercised his support by integrating the plans into his campaign efforts. The two partnered and advocated the importance of increasing applied skills, rather than knowledge of the performing arts and with the concern of a civil war on the rise, Lincoln, as well as other Americans, became more aware of the need for advanced mechanic and technological skills.
In 1862, President Lincoln passed the Morrill Act of 1862. This movement would designate 30,000 acres of federally owned land to each representative within the congressional district. Upon distribution, the land would then be sold in order to raise funds that would finance the development of agriculture and mechanical arts in college institutions. Another objective of the Morrill Act was to improve the community’s knowledge of agriculture through university outreach programs. Justin Morrill’s plans not only emphasized the importance of agriculture education in the classroom, but also the need for teaching the public.
While this legislation played a crucial role in the advances in higher...