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SURVEY OF LAND-GRANT COLLEGES AND
PART I.-HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION
The history of the land-grant institutions in the United States is the story of the growth of an idea—an idea centered in the democratization of higher learning.
In the beginning the idea was vague and nebulous. It came into existence about the middle of the last century with the realization that the industrial, commercial, and intellectual development of the Nation depended upon the higher education of the masses.
At that time most of the American universities and colleges were private institutions and they confined themselves principally to the teaching of the traditional classics, letters, and scholastic subjects. The scientific, the technical, and the practical as applied to the industries and trades, in which the vast majority of the people were engaged, had no place in the scheme of their curricula. Higher education was limited largely to those who planned to enter the learned professions.
From the first the idea of democratizing higher learning received little sympathy from the existing private universities and colleges. The proposal was regarded as more or less visionary. The early leaders, therefore, realized that a new type of college would have to be created—a college that would provide instruction in both the liberal and practical arts for the classes of American citizens that had previously not had the means nor the social background for higher education in the old institutions. To reach the masses of people in all parts of the country, it was necessary to establish at least one of the colleges in every State in the Union.
Since the industrial classes in the United States during the period prior to the outbreak of the Civil War were largely agricultural, the initial discussion centered about the organization of agricultural colleges. In several States such institutions were organized through private subscriptions. Similar colleges under State control and support were established in one or two other States. The private agricultural colleges failed. The State-supported institutions continued to operate. It then became evident that if the movement was to succeed, if higher education was to be furnished the industrial classes, and if it was to be available in every part of the country, the new type of college would have to be supported by public taxation rather than private endowment and that it would have to be State-controlled. Any plan of inducing the governments of all the States on their own initiative to organize the colleges was an impossible undertaking.
The final recourse was the Federal Government. As early as 1787 the Congress of the Confederation passed an ordinance for the government of the Northwest Territory by setting aside public lands for the support of education. Later as new States were organized, the Congress of the United States made land grants for common schools. Public agitation was started, therefore, for the establishment of the new type of institution, vaguely referred to as the Industrial University, the Agricultural College, or the People's College, through grants of public lands by the Federal Government to each of the States. Under this plan, it was assured that every State would have one of the colleges; that the institutions would be supported through public sources, and that they would be open to the masses. The proposal succeeded. Congress enacted a law providing for the grant of public lands to be utilized in creating an endowment to support a college in each of the States. This law opened the way for the emancipation of higher learning from its classic and formal traditions and for the recognition of the principle that every American citizen is entitled to receive higher learning of a practical type. It was the beginning of the modern institutions of higher education supported by public taxation.
Even with the establishment of a college in each State through Federal land grants, the movement was but in its inception. The discovery was soon made that the idea of furnishing scientific, technical, and practical instruction to the industrial classes could not be carried into effect immediately by the colleges for the reason that no suitable organized body of scientific, technical, and practical knowledge existed. The industrial and the agricultural classes knew as much or more about the practical side of their employments than the teachers in the newly organized colleges. It was necessary to build up a body of scientific knowledge. For a number of years, the institutions were mere trade schools in agriculture and mechanic arts of secondary grade supplementing instruction in the classics, letters, and scholastic subjects that were given in the old colleges and universities. Between 1880 and 1885 scientific research into agriculture, engineering, and industry was inaugurated. Agricultural experiment stations were established by the States and located at the colleges for the application of science to agriculture and for the dissemination of the knowledge thus obtained. The Federal Government gave financial aid to the experiment stations through annual subsidies. The work of the institutions was gradually brought up to the collegiate level. The secondary trade schools in mechanic and industrial arts were transformed into engineering colleges. As more scientific, technical, and practical knowledge was obtained, new courses of instruction were introduced into institutions and the entire scheme of higher education underwent a metamorphosis. With these developments the States began making larger appropriations for the support of the colleges and further assistance was granted by the Federal Government.
The idea of the democratization of higher education was making progress. Much, however, was yet to be accomplished before direct service was actually provided for the great mass of people. Then came the extension service. Through their own representatives, permanently located in the various communities and rural sections, the colleges commenced to furnish instruction by practical demonstration to the people themselves. Great impetus was given this nation-wide system of extension education by the enactment of a law by Congress which provided for the payment of half of its cost while the other half was paid by the State governments or through local sources.
With the broadening of industrial, vocational, and agricultural knowledge, education of these types was introduced into the secondary and elementary schools. The colleges next undertook the training of teachers for this work, the Federal Government also giving financial aid for this purpose. In the original idea of the democratization of higher education, no conception existed that women had any special interests or rights. They did not belong to the industrial classes. Their place was in the home, an institution that it was then thought required no higher learning. But with the modern change in American society, in which women occupy as prominent a place in the social structure as men, it became necessary to include their interests in the college program. Real recognition had to be given not only to the industrial and economic sciences but also to the social and home sciences.
The foregoing presentation is an attempt to picture in general terms the growth of the idea of the democratization of higher learning in the United States, which found realization in the land-grant institutions. It is now proposed to describe their detailed history. . These colleges were established as a result of the first Morrill Act, passed by Congress in 1862, but the germ of the idea developed prior to this time. As early as 1845 Jonathan B. Turner was active in the State of Illinois advocating higher education for the industrial classes and the organization of industrial universities. His plan, which is outlined as follows, was based on the presumption that society is made up of two classes professional and industrial.
All civilized society is, necessarily, divided into two distinct cooperative, not anta nistic classes: A small class, whose proper business it is to teach the true principles of religion, law, medicine, science, art, and literature; and a much larger class, who are engaged in some form of labor in agriculture, commerce, and the arts. To enable these industrial classes to realize, its benefits in practical life, we need a university for the industrial classes in each of the States, with their consequent subordinate institutes, lyceums, and high schools in each of the counties and towns.
There should be connected with such an institution, in this State, a sufficient quantity of land of variable soi and aspect, for all its needful annual experiments and processes in the great interests of agriculture and horticulture. Buildings of appropriate size and construction for all ordinary and special uses; a complete philosophical, chemical, anatomical, and industrial apparatus; a general cabinet, embracing everything that relates to, illustrates, or facilitates any one of the industrial arts; especially all sorts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects, trees, shrubs, and plants found in this State and adjacent States.
Instruction should be constantly given in all those studies and sciences, of whatever sort, which tend to throw light upon any art or employment, which any student may desire to master, or upon any duty he may be called upon to perform; or which may tend to secure his moral, civil, social, and industrial perfection, as a man.”
In 1852 Turner proposed that Congress make a land grant to each State for the establishment of industrial universities in the following terms:
And I am satisfied that if the farmers and their friends will now but exert themselves they can speedily secure for this State and for each State in the Union, an appropriation of public lands adequate to create and endow in the most liberal manner, a general system of industrial education, more glorious in its design and more beneficial in its results than the world has ever seen before.
As a result of Turner's advocacy of industrial universities, popular sentiment was aroused in the State of Illinois. Farmers' organizations became interested in the project. In 1852 the Illinois farmer's convention adopted resolutions petitioning Congress to endow such institutions with the proceeds from the sale of public lands and in 1853 the State Legislature of Illinois passed a joint resolution asking for support by the Federal Government.
In the meanwhile the movement for higher education of the masses had developed in other States, but it seemed to be concentrated on the idea of the establishment of agricultural colleges. This was due to the fact that agriculture was the principal industry of the country at this time and mechanic arts were closely related and virtually a part of the agricultural industry. The State of Michigan actually
A History of Agricultural Education in the United States.
i True, Alfred Charles. Pp. 86 and 87.
organized an agricultural college supported by public funds. Eugene Davenport, a graduate of the Michigan State College and dean emeritus of the college of agriculture, University of Illinois, describes the situation in the following memorandum especially prepared for this survey:
While not the first institution of college grade to attempt the teaching of agriculture, the Michigan Agricultural College is the oldest college of its kind in America. It was the first practical fruits of the agitation for education of college grade adapted to the farming profession that swept over the country in the late forties and the early fifties. In those days all colleges were established and maintained on private foundations supplemented by tuition fees. The start was made in four States at about the same time Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan-all on private foundation except the latter and all failed except Pennsylvania which hung, in the balance until the State took it over, at first in part, and finally completely. In the meantime, Michigan was organized and at work.
The reason was this: During the public discussion for education of college grade adapted to the farming profession Michigan was holding a convention for the revision of the State constitution. It so happened that one of the delegates was a warm friend of the new movement and he succeeded in getting a clause into the constitution obligating the State to establish and maintain an agricultural “school” either as an independent institution or as a department of the university. This was in 1850.
The same year the legislature memorialized Congress calling for a gift of 300,000 acres of public land for the support of the agricultural school in Michigan and the same year the State agricultural society petitioned the legislature to establish such a college as the constitution contemplated. The same petition was renewed in 1852 and the legislature of 1855 established such a "school," as an independent “college” to be located on a tract of land to be selected within 10 miles of Lansing. The college was opened May 13, 1857, with a faculty of six and a student enrollment of 73.
At the same time that Michigan was taking steps to establish a State-controlled agricultural college, Marshall P. Wilder was leading a movement for the establishment of an agricultural school in Massachusetts. Similarly in Pennsylvania the State agricultural society agitated the organization of a school for the education of farmers, which later became known as the “Farmers' High School.” The society succeeded in securing assistance from the State legislature and through subscriptions established the school as a private institution in 1859. In the State of Maryland the movement for agricultural and practical education for the farmer also developed. Under the leadership of the State agricultural society an agricultural college was chartered by the State legislature and opened in 1859, funds having been raised through stock subscriptions and the State having made a grant of $6,000 annually. The establishment of both an agricultural and a mechanics college for the education of the masses was agitated in New York as early as 1849. The mechanics college
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