Morrill Act: Primary Documents in American History
Enacted in 1862, the Morrill Act funded the establishment of public colleges by offering land grants to the states to develop or sell. This guide compiles digital materials, external websites, and a print bibliography.
Ken Drexler, Reference Specialist, Researcher and Reference Services Division
Created: August 11, 2021
Last Updated: August 17, 2021
Sponsored by Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill, the Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862. Officially titled "An Act Donating Public Lands to the Several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts," the Morrill Act provided each state with 30,000 acres of Federal land for each member in their Congressional delegation. The land was then sold by the states and the proceeds used to fund public colleges that focused on agriculture and the mechanical arts. Sixty-nine colleges were funded by these land grants, including Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.