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Justin Morrill: A Featured Biography


Justin Morrill by Jonathan Eastman Johnson

Justin Morrill of Vermont (1810-1898) left his name on one of the most significant pieces of legislation of the 19th century. Enacted during the Civil War, the Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1862 set aside federal lands to create colleges to "benefit the agricultural and mechanical arts." The federal government turned land over to the states, which sold the land and invested the proceeds in bonds that supported the building of these public "land grant colleges"–at a time when most American universities were private institutions. Morrill chaired the Senate Finance Committee, and as a specialist in government finance watched protectively over the development of land grant colleges and other programs during his long Senate career. An art enthusiast, Morrill also supported the work of Constantino Brumidi in the U.S. Capitol.

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