Justin Smith Morrill (April 14, 1810 - December 28, 1898) was a Representative (1855-1867) and a Senator (1867-1898) from Vermont, most widely remembered today for the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act that established federal funding for many of the nation's colleges and universities.
Born in Strafford, Vermont, Morrill attended the common schools and Thetford and Randolph Academies; he worked as a merchantâ€™s clerk in Strafford 1825-1828 and in Portland, Maine, 1828-1831; merchant in Strafford 1831-1848; engaged in agriculture and horticulture 1848-1855.
In 1852 Morrill was elected as a Whig to the Thirty-fourth Congress and as a Republican to the five succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1855-March 3, 1867). He was the author of the Tariff Act of 1861 as well as the college land-grant act mentioned above. He served as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means in the Thirty-ninth Congress.
In 1866 Morrill was elected as a Union Republican to the U.S. Senate. He was reelected as a Republican in 1872, 1878, 1884, 1890, and again in 1896, and served from March 4, 1867, until his death, almost thirty-one years. He served as chairman of the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds (Forty-first through Forty-fourth Congresses) where he played a vital role in obtaining the current Library of Congress main building through his work on the Joint Select Committee on Additional Accommodations for the Library. He also served on the Committee on Finance (Forty-fifth, Forty-seventh through Fifty-second, Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Congresses), as regent of the Smithsonian Institution 1883-1898 and as trustee of the University of Vermont 1865-1898. He died in Washington, D.C., December 28, 1898. He is buried in the City Cemetery in Strafford, Vermont.
Justin Smith Morrill is most widely known for sponsoring the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act. This act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. This act established federal funding for higher education in every state of the country. In his own words:
"This bill proposes to establish at least one college in every State upon a sure and perpetual foundation, accessible to all, but especially to the sons of toil, where all of needful science for the practical avocations of life shall be taught, where neither the higher graces of classical studies nor that military drill our country now so greatly appreciates will be entirely ignored, and where agriculture, the foundation of all present and future prosperity, may look for troops of earnest friends, studying its familiar and recondite economies, and at last elevating it to that higher level where it may fearlessly invoke comparison with the most advanced standards of the world." - 1862, as quoted by William Belmont Parker, The Life and Public Services of Justin Smith Morrill Many agricultural colleges have a 'Morrill Hall' named in honor of Justin Smith Morrill's contribution to higher education. In 1999, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 55 cent postage stamp of Morrill to honor his role in establishing the land grant colleges, the forerunners of many state universities.
This article incorporates facts obtained from the public domain Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
Preceded by: Luke P. Poland United States Senator (Class 3) from Vermont 1867-1900 Succeeded by: Jonathan Ross Preceded by: Andrew Tracy U.S. Representative from Vermont's 2nd district 1855 - 1867 Succeeded by: Luke P. Poland