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Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York
by John H. Selkreg, 1894; D. Mason & Co., Publisher
History of Cornell
The duty of the government to support and foster higher education existed with the first dream of national independence. In October, 1775, when WASHINGTON was in camp in Cambridge, Samuel BLODGET who was later distinguished as the author of the first formal work on political economy published in the United States, remarked in the presence of Genera's WASHINGTON and GREENE, with reference to the injury which the soldiers were doing to the colleges in which they we encamped: "Well, to make amends for these injuries, I hope after our war we shall erect a noble national university, at which the youths of all the world may be proud to receive instruction." WASHINGTON answered: "Young man, you are a prophet inspired to speak what I am confident will one day be realized." One of the earliest provisions of the colonial governments was for popular education, in addition which were charters for private and county schools and colleges, which were to be supported by general taxation. In the Constitutional Convention of 1787, on May 29, Charles PICKERING proposed that Congress should have power to establish and provide for a national university at the seat of government of the United States. Mr. MADISON proposed later that this should be one of the distinctly enumerated powers the Constitution. On September 14 Mr. MADISON and Mr. PICKERING moved to insert "power to establish a university in which no preference or distinction should be allowed on account of religion." The action proposed was lost, not from opposition to the principle involved, but because such an addition to the Constitution would be a superfluity, since Congress would possess exclusive power at the seat of government, which would reach the object in question. The patriot and scientist, Dr. Benjamin RUSH, issued an address to the people of the United States, strongly urging a Federal university as the means of securing to the people an education suited to the needs of the country, with post-graduate scholarships, and fellowships in connection with the consular service, and an educated civil service generally. "The people," he said, "must be educated for the new form of government by an education adapted to the new and peculiar situation of the country." President WASHINGTON, in his address to Congress on January 8, 1790, said: "There is nothing that can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of happiness. In one in which the measures of government receive their impressions so immediately from the sense of the community as in ours, it is proportionably essential. . . Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a national university, or by any other expedients, will be worthy of a place in the deliberations of the legislature." The response of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to this address was favorable, the latter saving: "We concur with you in the sentiment that agriculture, commerce and manufactures are entitled to legislative protection, and that the promotion of science and literature will contribute to the security of a free government. In the progress of our deliberations we shall not lose sight of objects so worthy of our regard." WASHINGTON contemplated also the possibility of the appropriation of certain western lands in aid of education. JEFFERSON held that the revenue from the tariff on foreign importations might be appropriated to the great purpose of public education. This early recognition of the duty of the national government to promote higher education is of importance in considering the history of the passage of the Land Grant Act of 1862, in behalf of technical and liberal education, and the various views by which that measure was advocated or opposed.
At the close of the Revolutionary war several of the original States claimed that their borders extended to the Mississippi River. To the west lay a vast extent of country whose possession had been determined by the fortunes of the war. Virginia, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and even Georgia, claimed this country either as included in their original charters or as acquired by treaty with the Indians or by exploration. The national government, so far as it existed at this time, possessed no territory. All the land was included within the borders of States. It was proposed by leading statesmen that these nebulous and conflicting claims should be surrendered to the general government on condition that the lands thus ceded should be used to pay the debt of the war, and for the general good. Between the years 1781 and 1792, all the States which laid claim to this land ceded their rights to the nation. On June 16, 1783, two hundred and eighty-eight officers petitioned Congress for a grant of land for their services. Of these officers two hundred and thirty-one were from New England and the Eastern States. This petition of the officers of the Revolution failed. Three years later representatives from the officers met in Boston, and on March 4, 1786, the Ohio Company was formed, the object of which was to purchase from the national government a million and a half acres of land in what was later Eastern Ohio.
A plan for a State to be established between the Ohio River and Lake Erie was organized in New England, to be settled by army veterans and their families. Petitions of soldiers in favor of the plan were forwarded to Congress through General Washington. It was proposed that after the payment of soldiers for their services in the war, the public lands remaining should be devoted to public purposes, among which were specified " establishing schools and academies." A proposition from the State of Virginia came before Congress (1783) to devote one-tenth of the income of the territory to national interests, as the erecting of fortresses, the equipment of a navy, and the "founding of seminaries of learning." This act did not pass.
On May 20, 1785, the Congress of the Confederation passed an act for "Locating and Disposing of the Lands in the Western Territory." This act contained the provision: "There shall be reserved the central section of every township for the maintenance of public schools, and the section immediately adjoining for the support of religion, the profits arising therefrom in both instances to be applied forever according to the will of the majority of male residents of full age within the same." To Colonel Timothy PICKERING, of Massachusetts, "if to any one man, is to be attributed the suggestion which led to the first educational land grant." To the Hon. Rufus KING the immediate merit of embodying this principle in the statute is due; "This reservation marks the beginning of the policy which, uniformly observed since then, has set aside one thirty-sixth of the land in each new State for the maintenance of public schools." The use of this national land had, however, been separately advocated by leading statesmen of the time.
Generals PUTNAM, TUPPER and PARSONS were active in this scheme for settling the new territory, but its efficient agent before Congress was the Rev. Manasseh CUTLER, of Hamilton, Mass., a chaplain in the late war, a man of legal training, and later a member of Congress from Massachusetts, a scholar whose scientific enthusiasm and attainments in astronomy and botany made him the friend and correspondent of the most, eminent scholars of the world. Under the influence of Dr. Manasseh CUTLER the "Ordinance of 1787 for the government of the North-West Territory" was passed. It contained the memorable words, "that religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." The committee which reported this act recommended that one section in each township should be reserved for common schools, one for the support of religion, and four townships for the support of a university. This was subsequently modified so that two townships should be appropriated "for a literary institution, to be applied to the intended object by the legislature." Dr. CUTLER's friends and associates would not embark in this enterprise unless these principles were unalterably fixed. They demanded to know on what foundations their social organization should rest, and hence the organic law had to be first settled. By this action the principle of national aid to education was established.
The sale oŁ the great tract of five million acres to the Ohio Company was closely associated with the passage of the "Ordinance of 1787" and determined in part its form. This act, so momentous in its sequences, rested upon a compact between each of the original States and the people in the proposed territory, and was to remain unalterable unless by mutual consent. It contained the great principles of civil and religious liberty, and of the rights of conscience. By it an orderly and representative government was secured to all the people of the great Northwest. Slavery was forever prohibited and public education was provided. The most eminent jurists have expressed their admiration for this enactment. Daniel WEBSTER said: "We are accustomed to praise the lawgivers of antiquity, . . . but I doubt whether one single law of any lawgiver, ancient or modern, has produced effects of more distinct, marked and lasting character than the Ordinance of 1787. . . It set forth and declared it to be a high and binding duty of government to support schools and advance the means of education. We see its consequences at this moment and we shall never cease to see them perhaps while the Ohio flows."1 Judge STORY, in his work on the Constitution, said: This ordinance "has ever since constituted in most respects the model of all our territorial governments, and is equally remarkable for the brevity and exactness of its text and for its masterly display of the fundamental principles of civil and religious liberty. American legislation has never achieved anything more admirable, as an internal government, than this comprehensive scheme. Its provisions concerning the distribution of property, the principles of civil and religious liberty, which it laid at the foundation of the communities established under its sway, and the efficient and civil organization by which it created the first machinery of civil society are worthy of all the praise that has ever attended it."2
Chief-Justice CHASE said: "Never, probably, in the history of the world, did a measure of legislation so accurately fulfill, and yet so mightily exceed, the anticipations of the legislators."3
"It approaches as nearly to absolute perfection as anything to be found in the legislation of mankind; for after the experience of fifty years it would perhaps be impossible to alter without marring it."4
The draft of this great charter was made by Nathan DANE, of Massachusetts, but to Dr. Manasseh CUTLER is due the distinct incorporation of the principle of the support of education and the establishment of a university, and probably the provision against slavery. It is even possible that his was the master mind which suggested the form of the whole, based as it largely is upon the constitution and judicial system of Massachusetts of 1780, and containing in addition the principle of the inviolability of contracts, which six weeks later was incorporated in the draft of the Constitution of the United States. Certainly we know that the passage of this famous ordinance, as well as the sale of five and a half million acres of land by Congress, was due to his able advocacy and conquering personality.
One of the first acts of Congress after the adoption of the Constitution was to affirm solemnly the binding force of this ordinance, and to adapt its provisions to those of the new Constitution. Following the precedent here set, the States which constituted a part of the Northwest Territory, which were admitted later, made provision for the support of popular education and the endowment of colleges by appropriations of land or a certain percentage of the income from the sales of public lands. Three to five per cent. of the proceeds of the sales of public lands within their borders had also been granted to the States by the national government before the national grant of 1862, which had in many cases been devoted to education. Since the year 1800, every State admitted to the Union, save Maine and West Virginia, which were taken from older States, and Texas, which was acquired from Mexico, have received two or more townships of land for the purpose of founding a university. The proceeds of the sale of saline and swamp lands, and grants of public lands to the States for internal improvements have in some cases been devoted to education. Three million five hundred thousand acres have thus been set apart for higher education. Special grants have been made to a few States, as one to Tennessee in 1806, and minor appropriations for specific purposes, to asylums, academies and missionary societies. The vast agricultural interests of the West now began to demand the recognition of agricultural and industrial education by the national government. The State of Michigan asked Congress in 1850 for a grant of 350,000 acres of land for the support of agricultural schools. The question of a national grant in aid of scientific and practical agriculture had been forced upon Congress by numerous petitions, which had been presented both by scientific bodies and even by State Legislatures. In the year 1854 the Legislature of Illinois presented a memorial to Congress requesting such a grant of the public lands, and at the session of Congress of 1857 a similar memorial was presented from the State Board of Agriculture of the State of New York asking a grant of land in aid of the agricultural colleges of the several States. From this time forward memorials poured in upon Congress in constant succession asking for appropriations for such schools.
The Hon. Justin S. MORRILL, of Vermont, took his seat in 1855 as a member of Congress from Vermont. His attention was soon called to the numerous appropriations of public lands for railroads and local interests, by which our vast national domain was being gradually sacrificed without contributing to any permanent work of general benefit. He was soon impressed with the fact that this splendid possession might, by an intelligent and comprehensive plan, be so appropriated as to make it a source of perpetual blessing, placing resources in the hands of the government such as no previous nation had enjoyed. Mr. MORRILL was from New England, where education was regarded as an essential of good government and upright citizenship; he was also from a State whose chief interest was in its agricultural resources, but whose wealth was gradually diminishing with the development of more fertile regions. He thus describes the reasons which led to the introduction of the bill, and his part in its passage:
First, that large grants of land were made for educational as well as for other purposes, and that the older States were obtaining little special benefit from the large common property of the public domain.
Second, that the average product of wheat crops per acre in the Northern and Eastern States was rapidly diminishing, and that these States would soon be dependent for bread upon our Northwestern States. While in England their soil, maintaining its ancient fertility, under more scientific culture, and its wheat crop per acre appeared undiminished. Some institutions of a high grade for instruction in agriculture and the mechanic arts, I know, had been established in Europe, and that something of the kind here was greatly to be desired.
Third, that the liberal education offered in 1858, at our colleges, appeared almost exclusively for the instruction of the professional classes, that is to say, for ministers, lawyers and doctors only; while obviously the greatest number of our people, or all those engaged in productive and industrial employments, were unprovided for, though hungering for some appropriate higher education.
Existing colleges then had more faith in discipline than in usefulness, and surrendered little time to the teaching of the practical sciences. It struck me, however, that these would do the greatest good to the greatest number and open a larger field to a liberal education. With these views, my first bill was introduced and passed both Houses in 1858. Instruction in, the sciences, agriculture and the mechanic arts was made to lead, but without excluding the classics. It was to be the instruction of a college. I do not remember of any assistance in framing my bill prior to its introduction.
One slight amendment only was made, and that by the Senate, where the bill was earnestly supported by Senators WADE, CRITTENDEN and PEARCE. After its introduction Colonel WILDER, of Massachusetts, president of the National Agricultural Society, and Mr. BROWN, president of the People's College, New York, and others, worked to encourage members to vote for the Bill. My own speech was about the only one in favor, while there was some outspoken opposition and a report by COBB, of Alabama, against it. The bill was vetoed by BUCHANAN, though favoring a measure that would provide for a professorship of Agriculture for a college in each State. Mr. SICKLES, a personal friend of BUCHANAN, then, as now, a member of the House, having heard of a coming veto, left the House in haste to see and persuade the President to approve the bill. Upon his return he told me that he was too late, and that Senator SLIDELL of Louisiana had got the ear of the President. Of course I patiently waited for a change of administration, and in 1862 again pushed the bill, but for a larger endowment of lands. Senators HARLAN, POMEROY and WADE cared for the bill in the Senate. Most of the State Legislatures bad passed resolutions in its favor. There never was a doubt about the approval of LINCOLN. I do not think he had any relations with BUCHANAN, who soon left for Pennsylvania. The value of the land granted to colleges was largely diminished by the great amount of bounty land and railroad land grants competing for a market at the same time. Only one college had a Cornell to husband its resources.
For the proper equipment of the Land Grant Colleges the original endowment was soon found to be too small, and for many years various bills were introduced by me to obtain a supplementary grant.
Success finally crowned these efforts in 1890. Professor ATHERTON, of Rutgers College, now President of Pennsylvania Agricultural College, and Major ALVORD, of Maryland Agricultural College, rendered valuable aid in all of these supplementary bills.
Recognizing the education of the people as the noblest function of government, Mr. MORRILL drew up independently a bill "Donating Public Lands to the several States and Territories which might provide Colleges for the benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts," which he introduced in the House of Representatives December 14, 1857, and asked that it be referred to the Committee on Agriculture, of which he was a member.
An opposition was immediately developed to the reference proposed, and it was moved that the bill be referred to the Committee on Public Lands, which on the following day was done.
Mr. MORRILL, in beginning his speech in behalf of the bill, stated that no measure for years had received so much attention in various parts of the country as this, so far as can be proved by petitions which have been received here from the various States, north and south, from county societies and from individuals. He compared the efforts of the government to promote commerce, railroads, literary labor through the copyright, and to benefit mechanics by the patent system, and education through munificent grants, with the little done for agriculture. We are behind European countries in this regard, while far ahead of them in every other. He claimed that the prosperity of a nation depended, first, upon the division of the land into small parcels; and secondly, upon the education of the proprietors of the soil. Our agriculturists are, as a whole, seeking to extend their boundaries instead of promoting a higher cultivation of the soil. He showed by statistics of agricultural products that crops were decreasing in the East and South, and that agriculture as pursued was exhausting the soil. Foreign states support a population vastly larger per square mile than our own. Here we rob the land, and then the owner sells his land and flies to fresh fields to repeat the spoilation. The wave would some day be stayed by the Rocky Mountains, but shall we not prove unworthy of our patrimony if we run over the whole before we learn to manage a part? The nation that tills the soil so as to leave it worse than it found it, is doomed to decay and degradation. Agriculture undoubtedly demands our first care. Our public lands are no longer pledged to pay the national debt. Who will be wronged by this bill? What better thing shall be done with our national domain? Since 1850 grants of lands amounting to 25,403,993 acres have been made to ten States and one Territory to aid more than fifty railroads. As prudent proprietors we should do that which would not only tend to raise the value of the land, but make agricultural labor more profitable and more desirable. Up to June 30, 1857, we had donated ungrudgingly to different States and Territories 67,736,572 acres of land for schools and universities. If this purpose be a noble one, as applied to a territory sparsely settled, it is certainly no less noble in States thickly populated. He defended the constitutionality of the bill and claimed that Congress had a plain and absolute right to dispose of the public lands at its discretion. Some statesmen have denounced our land system as a prolific source of corruption, but what corruption can flow from agricultural colleges? "The persuasive arguments of precedents, the example of our worthiest rivals in Europe, the rejuvenation of worn out lands which bring forth taxes only, the petitions of farmers everywhere yearning for a more excellent way, philanthropy supported by our own highest interests, all these considerations impel us for once to do something for agriculture worthy of its national importance."
Mr. MORRILL then introduced an amended bill. A parliamentary struggle ensued, in which it was sought to lay the bill on the table, and in which Mr. COBB opposed its passage upon the ground of unconstitutionality. Mr. COBB sought also to show that the effect of the bill would be to give some States an advantage over others, under the existing ratio of representation. He also objected to the exclusion of the Territories from the benefits of the bill, and held that the grants to railroads increased the value of the public lands; but in this case the government would receive no equivalent.
On April 15, 1858, Mr. W. R. W. COBB, of Georgia, reported back the bill, recommending that it do not pass. A minority report, signed by two members of the committee, Messrs. D. S. WALBRIDGE, of Michigan, and Henry BENNETT, of New York, was also presented. The reasons upon which the majority of the committee relied for the rejection of the bill rested mainly upon the limitation of the powers of the Federal government by the Constitution. "The States had reserved to themselves all authority to act in relation to their domestic affairs, and these principles established the only solid foundation for the perpetuation of the Federal Union. Such is the symmetry of our government, that its very existence depends upon its severe adherence to the limitation of its duties. If the general government possessed the power to make grants for local purposes, without a consideration within the States, its action would have no limitation but such as policy or necessity might impose. Every local object for which local provision is now made would press for support upon the general government, and would create demands upon it beyond its power to meet, and of necessity it would be driven into the policy which would increase its means. As its expenditures are increased the revenue must be enlarged, and the general government, by the adoption of the policy would levy taxes upon the people of the Union for the sake of the local interests of the States. . . . Patronage would be fatal to the independence of the States; with patronage comes the power to control, as consequence follows upon cause. If the principle be admitted, what shall limit its application? The committee have failed to perceive how they could be justified in recommending a grant from the general government in support of agricultural schools and in refusing one for any other purpose equally meritorious. The means of the general government are taken from the people. If you take it from the public lands, you give it money in the stead; if you destroy its revenue from that source, you must increase it in some other. The appropriation asked for is in lands; but your committee can discover in this regard no difference between an appropriation in lands or one in money; the effect is precisely the same in both cases. If the revenue from the public lands is destroyed, the deficiency must be met by taxes upon the people. The public domain belongs to all the people of the United States; their interest in it is common, and the government is but the trustee for the common benefit, limited in its actions over it to those powers conferred by the Constitution. It is a part of the public funds, and can be devoted to no purpose forbidden to the money of the Federal government . . . As a landholder, the government may legitimately bear a share of the burdens imposed to create an improvement which shall enhance the value of its domain, and may contribute to that end, yet its aid must be limited within the extent which does not require taxation to effect it. It may, as a matter of power or right, contribute portions of the public lands to improve the value of the remainder, but even in this sound policy its duties toward the general welfare will limit it to a healthy and reasonable extent. The donation of section sixteen for the support of schools was an inducement to purchasers and enhanced the value of the adjacent lands, the sale of which indemnified the government for the donation which it made. So, too, the donation of the salines. . . .The grants to the new States upon their admission into the Union were upon conditions which more than indemnified the government. If the prayers of the petitioners were granted, prodigious quantities of land would be thrown upon the market by competing venders, which would deprive it of marketable value. The very gratification of their wishes would destroy the object which they have in view. To make the grants would be to render them of but little avail. Congress, without a promise of pecuniary compensation, has no power to grant portions of the public domain, and, if it had, no policy could be more unwise than to grant it for the support of local institutions within the States."
The minority report, to which Mr. MORRILL contributed, cited the fact that schools for instruction in scientific and practical agriculture had been established by most of the European governments; that in many countries of Europe the subject of agricultural education is incorporated with the public administration, being often committed to the minister of public domains. Agricultural colleges had been established in various States, in part by private benevolence and in part by legislative act; also that agricultural professorships had been created in many colleges and universities. Of 5,371,876 free male inhabitants of the United States in 1850, nearly one-half, or 2,389,013, were returned as farmers and planters, while in the professions of law, medicine and divinity, there were but 94,515 men employed. To educate these men for the learned professions there were 234 colleges, endowed with many millions of dollars, and two million dollars are actually expended every year in the education of 27,000 students. The main wealth of the country is in its agricultural products, which far exceed in value its foreign commerce. If a grant of land to aid in the construction of a railroad may be made for the benefit of all the States, by which the value and sale of the public lands is promoted, there is equal warrant for giving millions of acres to soldiers who have fought our battles.
The measure under consideration is in no sense a donation to the States; it will relieve them from no taxation, but will impose new duties and further burdens. It merely makes the States trustees for certain purposes which they may constitutionally and efficiently discharge. The United States will not part with its title to any lands save upon certain conditions, which are to be of perpetual and binding force. As the United States originally acquired their title to much of the public domain upon the stipulation that it was to be disposed of only for the common benefit of all the States, so it is believed that no grant has ever been made which will prove to be a more strict compliance with the terms than this now proposed, reaching, as it will reach, not only all the States, but a major part of the people of all the States, reaching them, too, in their persons and material interests and reaching them also for the common benefit of all the people. That our country needs all the aid likely to flow from a measure of such far reaching consequences, the united testimony of all our agriculturists in all sections of our country loudly proclaims, and that it will prove wise and practical, the experience in our own and other lands happily already demonstrates. As each State would possess the sole control and management of its proportionate fund, national power could not be held to interfere in local government. The constitutionality of such a law was maintained, and it was held that there was no limit to the uses and purposes to which the public domain may be applied, but the discretion of Congress; if the proposed grant is for the benefit of all the States, Congress has full power to make it, and the law-making power alone can judge of that fact.
The bill passed the House on the 22d of April, 1858, by a vote of one hundred and five to one hundred. Upon analyzing this vote, we find that the members from the Southern States, with few exceptions, voted against the measure, while its main support came from the North. Certain members from the Western States also opposed it on the ground that their own States would suffer in growth and in population, and that the purposes of the Homestead Act would be defeated.
On April 22, 1858, the bill was presented in the Senate, and on the following day referred to the Committee on Public Lands. On May 6, 1858, Mr. STUART, of Michigan, reported that the committee, after very carefully considering this question, had, in view of the existing circumstances, reported the bill back to the Senate without any recommendations for or against its passage. On May 19 the Senate proceeded to the consideration of the measure, which, however, was strenuously opposed, Mr. PUGH, of Ohio, saying:" We might as well make a test vote on that bill. It has never been favorably recommended by any committee of either House. Probably it is the largest proposition for the donating of public lands that has ever been made here. We cannot consider it at this time, and I think instead of wasting the precious hours that remain in discussing at great length a question, which, if it comes up, will be defeated, we may as well take a test vote on the question of taking up the bill, and I call for the yeas and nays." The bill was taken from the table by a vote of twenty-eight to twenty-four, Senator YULEE having sought to vary the motion so as to lay the bill on the table and thus dispose of it more effectively. Various motions were presented to proceed to the special order, to postpone the special order, and to take up other measures in place of the Land Grant Act for colleges. Mr. STUART said: " I only desire to say that the friends of this measure do not intend to discuss it. It is a measure which explains itself. The reading of the bill prepares every senator to vote upon it . . . I wish to protest against the authority of my noble friend from Alabama [Mr. CLAY] as well as his historical statement [that this was a bill which the Democratic party of this country had been committed against for thirty years past]. I deny his authority to make party questions, and I deny his historical statement that this is a party question or has ever been made so. This is simply a proposition to grant less than six million acres, whereas it is but a short time,-in 1555,-since the passed the law under which there have been granted sixty million acres; that was done by a Democratic majority and approved by a Democratic president." Mr. MASON, of Virginia, said: "The Senator would be mistaken if he expected the bill to pass without debate. It may be the policy of the senator and those who think with him to let the bill pass as smoothly as may be, but as far as I understand it, it is presenting a new policy to the country altogether, being a direct appropriation from the treasury for encouragement of schools of agriculture. . . .I am not aware that it has been known so far to the legislatures of the country to make these general appropriations through all the States. I shall deem it my duty, for one, to expose its character, as I look at it, fully to the people whom I represent, and I presume that the disposition of other senators is to do the same thing." The Senate refused to consider the bill further. On the first day of the second session of the Thirty-fifth Congress, December 6, 1858, Mr. STUART, who had charge of the bill in the Senate, gave notice that as soon as the Senate was full, he should ask for the consideration of the bill. On December 15 Mr. STUART called up the bill. An attempt was made to postpone its consideration on account of the sickness or absence of members who were opposed to it. Upon the question of considering the bill the Senate was equally divided, the vice-president, Mr. BRECKENRIDGE, voted no, and the consideration was postponed. On December 16 the bill was again called up and made a special order for the following week. Upon the day designated, the consideration of the measure was again postponed. On February 1 Senator WADE, of Ohio, moved to postpone all prior orders and to take up this bill, speaking with great energy in its favor. Among other things, he said: "This bill passed the House toward the close of last session. It came here so late that those who, were opposed to it found it would be easy to talk it to death, and it will share the same fate now unless its friends support the motion to take it up in preference to other bills. Many senators here are instructed by their States to use their influence to procure the passage of the bill; I am one among that number." He also argued that it was time that something of this nature should be done by Congress for the benefit of agriculture.
The bill, as originally presented, provided that twenty thousand acres of land should be granted to each State, for each senator and representative in Congress to which the States were then respectively entitled, making a total grant of 5,925,000 acres. It was sought to amend the bill by making the grant to the several States and Territories in the compound ratio of the geographical area and the representation of said States and Territories in the Senate and House of Representatives, after the apportionment under the census of 1860, provided that said appropriation be made after first allotting to each State and Territory fifty thousand acres. Mr. HARLAN, of Iowa, said: " The census of 1850 shows that at that time there were over three millions of the people of the United States engaged in agricultural pursuits. Where is their representation on this floor? Non est. They are not here, only as they are represented by professional men." Various amendments were offered, some designed to make the quantity of land granted by the bill proportionate to the area of tillable lands in the State. An effort was also made to introduce a provision in the act as finally passed, that in no case shall any State to which land scrip may thus be issued be allowed to locate the same within the limits of any other State; but their assignees may thus locate said land scrip upon any of the appropriated lands of the United States, subject to public entry.
Mr. Jefferson DAVIS reviewed the history of the acquisition of the public lands by the general government, and opposed the measure on the ground that the power to "dispose" of the lands did not imply that they could be given away. Previous grants of the public lands had been made to increase the value of the property and to promote the revenue of the United States. "So far as grants of land have been made to construct railroads, merely on the general theory that railroads were a good thing, the Federal government has violated its trust and exceeded the powers conferred upon it. . . . Where a grant has been made of a certain portion of land to increase the value of the residue and bring it into cultivation,. . . it rests on a principle such as a prudent proprietor would apply to the conduct of his own affairs. Thus far it is defensible; no further. The land grants to the new States for education rest on the same general principle. The new States, sovereigns like the old, admitted to be equal, before taking both the eminent and useful domain, entered into a contract with the other States, that they would relieve from taxation the land within their borders while owned by the general government. This is the consideration for which land grants have been made to the new States; and a high price they have paid for all that has been granted for educational purposes."
Mr. DAVIS's views are not confirmed by the terms of the Ordinance of 1787. They are of interest now as those of a strict constructionist of the Constitution of that time, and in virtue of certain views of governmental and State rights which he later advocated.
After further debate the vote was taken, with the result that twenty-five yeas and twenty-two nays were cast, being a majority of three for the measure. On the 16th of February a message was received from the House that it had concurred in the Senate amendments to the bill.
In the decision of this question, certain senators conscientiously maintained views based upon traditional interpretations of the Constitution; others, who opposed the measure, joined with the former through party affiliations, and certain senators from the South acted in support of the measure contrary to the convictions of their constituents. Senator MORRILL gives the following additional incident in the history of the measure: "It was reported that President BUCHANAN would veto the measure on account of its unconstitutionality. When the bill had been in the hands of President BUCHANAN for some days, General SICKLES of the House told me that there was some danger of the veto of the bill, and requested me to give him a copy of the speech, wherein I had shown that BUCHANAN, when a senator, had voted for an appropriation for a school for deaf mutes in Kentucky. He thought that this vote would preclude him from urging any constitutional objections against the agricultural college bill. He jumped on a horse and rode up to the president's, but soon came back, telling me that he was too late, that Senator SLIDELL, of Louisiana, had got the ear of the president and the bill would be vetoed." Among those who supported this law most actively in the House during its first passage were Representatives MORRILL, WALBRIDGE, COCHRANE and others, and in the Senate, Senators WADE, STUART and COLLAMER.
On February 24, 1859, President BUCHANAN sent a special message to the House of Representatives, vetoing this act. After stating the provisions of the bill and the range of its application, he proceeded to set forth the objections to the measure, which he deemed to be both inexpedient and unconstitutional. His first objection was the great difficulty of raising sufficient revenue to sustain the expenses of the government. Should this bill become a law, the treasury would be deprived of the whole or nearly the whole of the income from the sale of public lands, which was estimated at five million dollars for the next fiscal year. The minimum price of government lands was one dollar and twenty-five cents, but the value of such lands had been reduced to eighty-five cents by the issue of bounty land-warrants to old soldiers. Of the lands granted by these warrants, there were outstanding and unlocated nearly twelve million acres. This had reduced the current sales of the government lands and diminished the revenue from this source. If, in addition, thirty-three States should enter the market with their land scrip, the price would be reduced far below even eighty-five cents per acre, and as much to the prejudice of the old soldiers, who had not already parted with their warrants, as to that of the government. With this issue of additional land scrip, there would be a glut in the market, so that the government could sell few lands at the established value, and the price of bounty land-warrants and scrip would be reduced to one-half the sum fixed by law for government sales. [This anticipation was afterwards realized in the sale of the land scrip issued to the various colleges ] Under these circumstances, the government would lose this source of revenue, as the States would sell their land scrip at any price that it would bring. The effect upon the treasury would be the same as if a tax were imposed to create a loan to endow these State colleges. The injurious effect that would be produced on the relations between the Federal and State governments, by a grant of Congress to the separate States, was argued by a reasoning almost similar to that presented by the majority of the committee of the House of Representatives in reporting originally against the measure. The third argument, that the bill, if it should become a law, would operate greatly to the injury of the new States, was based upon the fear that wealthy individuals would acquire large tracts of the public lands and hold them for speculative purposes. The low price, to which the land scrip would probably be reduced, would tempt speculators to buy it in large amounts and locate it on the best lands belonging to the government. The consequence would be that the men who desired to cultivate the soil would be compelled to purchase these very lands at rates much higher than the price at which they could be obtained from the government. Fourthly, he doubts whether this bill will contribute to the advancement of agriculture and the mechanic arts; objects whose dignity and value can not be too highly appreciated. The Federal government will have no constitutional power to follow up the donation to the States, and compel the application of the fund to the intended objects. As donors, we shall possess no control over our own gift after it shall have passed from our hands. If the State Legislatures fail to execute faithfully the trust in the manner prescribed by the law, the Federal government will have no power to compel the execution of the trust. Fifthly, the bill will injuriously interfere with the existing colleges in the different States, in many of which agriculture is taught as a science, and the effect of the creation of an indefinite number of rival colleges sustained by the endowment of the Federal government will not be difficult to determine. He believed that it would be impossible to sustain the colleges proposed without the provision that scientific and classical studies shall not be excluded from them; for no father would incur the expense of sending his son to one of these institutions for the sole purpose of making him a scientific farmer or mechanic. [The bill itself negatives this idea, and declares that its object is to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions of life.] By far the larger portion of the veto message is devoted to the question of the constitutional power of Congress to make the donation of public lands to the different States of the Union, to provide colleges for the purpose of educating the people of those States. The general proposition is undeniable that Congress does not possess the power to appropriate money in the treasury raised by taxes on the people of the United States for the purpose of educating the people of the respective States. It will not be pretended that any such power is to be found among the specific powers granted to Congress, nor that "it is necessary and proper for carrying into execution" any one of these powers. Should Congress exercise such a power, this would be to break down the barriers which have been so carefully constructed in the Constitution, to separate Federal from State authority. We should then not only "lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises" for Federal purposes, but for every State purpose which Congress might deem expedient or useful. The language of the second clause of the third section of the fourth article of the Constitution, which declares that Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territories or other property belonging to the United States, does not by a fair interpretation of the words "dispose of" in this clause bestow the power to make gift of public lands to the States for purposes of education. Congress is a trustee under the Constitution for the people of the United States, and, therefore, has no authority to dispose of the funds entrusted to its care, as gifts. A decision of the Supreme Court, in which an opinion was rendered by Chief-Justice TANEY, was quoted, who says in reference to this clause of the Constitution: "It begins its enumeration of powers by that of `disposing,' in other words, making sale of the lands or raising money from them, which, as we have already said, was the main object of the cession (from the States) and which is the first thing provided for in the article." In the case of States and Territories, such as Louisiana and Florida, which were paid for out of the public treasury from the money raised by taxation, Congress had no power to appropriate the money with which these lands were purchased to other purposes, and it was equally clear that its power over the lands was equally limited." The mere conversion of money into land could not confer upon Congress any power over the disposition of land, which they had not possessed over money." If it could, then a trustee, by changing the character of the fund entrusted to his care for special objects, from money into land, might give the land away, or devote it to any purpose he thought proper, however foreign to the trust. Grants of lands by the national government to new States for the use of schools as well as for a State university, were defended on the ground that the United States is a great land proprietor; and from the very nature of this relation, it is both the right and the duty of Congress as their trustee to manage these lands as any other prudent proprietor would manage them, for his own best advantage. Such a grant became an inducement to settlers to purchase the land, with the assurance that their children would have the means of education. The gift of lands for educational purposes enhanced their value and is, therefore, justifiable.
This veto of the land act establishing national colleges put an end to any further hopes of its passage during Mr. BUCHANAN's administration. If Congress occupied the relation of a legal trustee to these lands, it was bound by the legal limitations of such a trustee, instead of having the power to interpret intelligently under the Constitution what was the normal exercise of its powers. The law-making power was, by this argument, made subject to a power created by it.
Mr. MORRILL, in replying to the President's veto, claimed that there was no possibility of a lack of harmony between the State and Federal authorities on account of any provision in the bill, which left the arrangement and control of institutions founded under the act wholly to the State. On the question of passing the bill over the veto, there were 105 yeas and 96 nays, not the requisite two-thirds to enable the act to become a law.
Mr. MORRILL was not, however, discouraged, and two years later, upon the accession of a new administration, he gave notice, on December 8, 1861, that he would introduce a bill donating public lands for the support of colleges in the various States. The bill was formally introduced on December 16, read twice, and referred to the Committee on Public Lands. Here it was kept until December 20, 1862, when the chairman of the committee reported back the bill with a recommendation that it should not pass. This adverse action in the House having been anticipated, the same measure was introduced in the Senate by the Hon. Benjamin WADE, of Ohio, on May 2, 1862, where it was referred to the Committee on Public Lands and. ordered to be printed. On the 16th of May Senator HARLAN reported back the bill as amended by the committee with a favorable recommendation. On the 19th of May the bill was formally considered in Committee of the Whole. It was stated to be essentially the same as that passed by both Houses of Congress two years before, save that the appropriation granted 30,000 acres of land to each State for each representative or senator in Congress in place of 20,000 acres of land, as provided in the original bill. The hostility of certain Western senators, who feared that their States would be affected disadvantageously by the passage of the bill, was the principal occasion for opposition at this time. It should be borne in mind that senators from the South were not in attendance. Some senators, fearing that the passage of the bill would exhaust all the valuable lands in their own States, desired to limit the grant to government lands in the territories. The popular favor with which this measure was regarded throughout the North had constantly increased within the two years since Mr. BUCHANAN'S veto. Mr. WADE stated that "a great many States, and I believe most of our free States, have passed resolutions in their Legislatures instructing their senators to go for the bill." Senator HARLAN from Iowa stated that he represented a State that would be adversely affected by the bill, but that he should vote for it for two reasons: first, because the Legislature of his State had instructed him to do so; and secondly, because "I do not believe the State will be seriously damaged should the bill become a law, and justice to the old States seems to require it." The Committee on Public Lands concluded, in view of all the facts which exhibited a policy of large liberality towards the new States, that it would not be unreasonable for the old States to insist on such a disposition of a small part of the public land as would result in benefit to them, especially as they had by an almost unanimous vote agreed to the passage of the Homestead Bill. . . This bill proposes to grant to the States less than ten million acres. We now have of surveyed and unsold lands over one hundred and thirty-four million acres.
At the same time there is a total of unsold and unappropriated lands of 1,046,280,093 acres. It is, therefore, a trivial gift of this vast national estate to bestow upon education. Mr. WRIGHT of Indiana remarked: "If this fund is to be raised in this way I would much rather devote it to the females of the land. Do not be startled, gentlemen, it is so. Look at your half million of men in the army with neglected daughters and sisters to be raised and educated." Another argument by Senator HARLAN, the chairman of the Committee on Public Lands, is worthy of notice ."This body is a body of lawyers. Heretofore appropriations of lands have been made for such universities. The proceeds of the sales of these lands have usually gone to educate the children of professional men. Here, for the first time I believe in the history of the Senate, a proposition is made to make an appropriation of lands for the education of the children of the agriculturists of the nation, and it meets very strenuous opposition from a body of lawyers. If this Senate were composed of agriculturists chiefly, they would have provided first for an agricultural college and probably afterwards for a college in which the sons of lawyers, physicians and other professional men could be educated. I do not believe that if the proposition were submitted to a vote of the people of the country you could array one fifteenth of the voters against it." Various amendments were submitted, which did not change the essential features of the bill, limiting in one case the amount of land that might be appropriated in any single State to one million dollars. A provision that the act should not take effect until July 1, 1864, was lost. It was provided that whenever there are public lands in a State, the quantity to which said State shall be entitled, shall be selected from such lands. An amendment granting a sum of money from the proceeds hereafter derived from the sale of the public lands, equal to $30,000 for each senator and representative in Congress, to which the States are respectively entitled, was lost.
The passage of this amendment would have left the value of the public lands undisturbed, but would have limited the large returns from the careful administration of the fund and the sale of the scrip, and made impossible the large sum which Cornell University and the University of California have realized. The bill finally passed on June 11, with a vote of thirty-two in its favor to seven against, and was then sent to the House for concurrence. On July 17, after various dilatory motions to again refer the bill to the Committee on Public Lands had been voted down, the bill passed by a vote of ninety to twenty-five, was signed by the speaker on July 1, and received the signature of the president on the same day. During most of the time in which this bill was under debate, Dr. Amos BROWN was in Washington and active in influencing members of Congress in its favor. Some of the amendments to its provisions in the Senate were introduced at his personal suggestion.
The Rev. Amos BROWN, LL. D., was born in Kensington, New Hampshire, on March 4, 1804. His early boyhood was spent on a farm, and his earliest educational privileges were limited to the advantages afforded -by the district schools of New England. He prepared for college in the Academy at Hampton, New Hampshire, where his original purpose to study medicine was changed, and he entered Dartmouth College in 1829, with the purpose of becoming a student of theology. During his academic and collegiate course he supported himself by teaching. After graduating from college, he entered Andover Theological Seminary. His course in the Theological Seminary was interrupted by an absence of one year, in which he acted as the principal of the academy in Fryeburg, Maine. After leaving Andover, he became principal of the Gorham Academy and Teachers' Seminary, where he remained for twelve years. Mr. BROWN was an educator of great ability and power. He gathered the ablest teachers about him, and was one of the earliest advocates of coeducation. His ability as an organizer was of a high order, and both as a disciplinarian and a teacher he exerted a powerful influence upon those whom he trained. His personal instruction was mainly in mental science, and with it he discussed theories of instruction and the principles of intellectual growth. The reputation of his school was so great that it attracted pupils from other States, and the Hon. Horace MANN, who visited the Gorham Academy in order to study the theories and methods which were employed there, often spoke of Dr. BROWN as one of the ablest teachers of New England, saying that he would make the best college president of all whom he knew. Later he resigned his position in order to enter the ministry, for which he had prepared, and became pastor of a Congregational church in Machias, Maine; but so strong was his passion for his favorite pursuit of teaching, that after three years' service in Machias he assumed charge of the academy in Ovid, New York. Here his former success was repeated. The Seneca Collegiate Institute became one of the most prominent schools of this State, and some of the most eminent scholars of the country felt the influence of Dr. BROWN's inspiring personality, among them President W. W. FOLWELL, of the University of Minnesota; Professor J. L. MORRIS, of Cornell University; Professor T. L. LOUNSBURY, of Yale, one of our ablest scholars in English literature, and known especially for his brilliant studies in Chaucer; also Professor B. JOY, of Columbia College. Mr. BROWN instituted public lectures in order to awaken an interest in scientific farming in the agricultural community around, and in this manner his attention was first called to the need of State agricultural college.
The Rev. Amos BROWN was influential in securing the charter for the State Agricultural. College and in locating the same in Ovid. He also originated the plan of asking from the State the loan of $40,000, without interest, from the United States deposit fund. His remarkable ability in influencing men is shown by his success in inducing the legislators to grant this gift to the Agricultural College. Dr. BROWN was one of its trustees, but he was not, as was anticipated, made its president. About this time the trustees of the People's College in Havana sought to perfect its organization, and on August 12, 1857, Mr. BROWN was elected president of that institution. It is noticeable that, while he shared the plans and purposes of the new college, he desired to give a broader scope to its curriculum; and in his inaugural he stated that its object would be to promote literature, science, arts and agriculture. Agriculture, and various branches of manufactures and the mechanic arts, were to be systematically studied within the college as a part of its regular course. He was more and more impressed with the importance of practical and scientific education, and with the conviction that such education must be supported by the national government, an appropriation of public lands naturally suggested itself to his mind as a practical and constitutional method of bestowing such aid.
Soon after the introduction of the MORRILL Bill, Dr. BROWN was requested by the trustees of the People's College to go to Washington and labor to promote its passage. The debt which the country owes to Dr. BROWN for promoting the noblest grant for popular education which the world has known, may be estimated by the deliberate judgment of the value of his services expressed by those who were most intimately indentified with the passage of this measure in Congress. Senator William Pitt FESSENDEN, of Maine, wrote: "Mr. BROWN, as I believe, was not only father of the bill, but to his persistent, efficient and untiring efforts its success was mainly due. I have no hesitation in saying that but for him it would have failed, in my judgment, altogether." Senator MORGAN, of New York, stated: "The first man who suggested to me the passage of the bill was yourself; and from my own knowledge the first bill passed, which was vetoed by Mr. BUCHANAN, would not have had the remotest chance in either house of Congress without your interest, labor and most efficient efforts." Senator HARRIS, of New York, also said: "The agricultural interests of the country are indebted to him more than to any one, indeed every one else, for the passage of the law devoting public lands to agricultural colleges." Senator CLARK, of New Hampshire, wrote:"It might have passed without you, and I cannot say that it would not; but sure I am no one was so active or efficient as you in removing obstacles to it or securing it friends."
Senator WADE, of Ohio, who took charge of the passage of this law in the United States Senate, in speaking of the influence of the People's College in the passage of that law, wrote: "Having taken a deep interest in that measure, I ought to be qualified to speak with confidence on the subject, and I do not hesitate to say that, had it not been for the exertions of that institution, I do not believe the measure could have received the sanction of Congress. Great credit is due to the exertions of the Honorable Mr. MORRILL of the House for his unwearied labors in its behalf; yet I always believed, and still believe, that had it not been for the able, energetic and unwearied exertions of the Rev. Amos BROWN, president of the People's College, it would never have become a law. It encountered great opposition in some quarters on account of its supposed antagonism to the Homestead Bill, and much also from the mere indifference of members who did not take interest enough in the measure to give it a thorough investigation more still from several members from the land States, who feared its passage would conflict with the rapid settlement of their States. All these difficulties, however, were overcome by the intelligent and persevering labors of Mr. BROWN, whom I consider really the father of the measure and whose advice I believe entitled to more weight in carrying the law into execution than that of almost any other man."
1 First and second speech in reply to FOOTE's Resolutions.
2 Works III, 363, 433; Hist. of the Const., 1, 307.
3 Introduction to the Statutes of Ohio.
4 Judge Timothy WALKER, address at Marietta.
History of Cornell - Chapter III
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