SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: The sesquicentennial celebration of the Morrill Land-Grant Act in 2012 prompts a reexamination of the phrase "the land-grant mission," a common phrase in the discourse about land-grant institutions, including Cornell. What was this mission? And what is it today? And why did and does it matter?
Scott J Peters, associate professor of education at Cornell University and professor of the cultural foundations of education at Syracuse University, presents a lecture about the Morrill Act, drawing from a study of Justin Smith Morrill's and Jonathan Baldwin Turner's speeches and writings, and the views and experiences of contemporary faculty and staff from Cornell and other land-grant institutions.
SCOTT PETERS: I have really fond memories of meeting you and being here the first time I was here, which I believe was the summer of 1995 or 1996, somewhere around there. So it doesn't seem like it was that long ago.
So I want to speak to you out of a work in progress today. And I've been, for a long time now, investigating the origins and early development of the land-grant. System so this work, what I'm going to talk about today, comes out of that. And because of the moment that we're in, I want to focus in on, as the title indicates, the vision of the true prophets.
So there's very few serious academic studies of the founding and early development the land-grant system. The first one and still actually probably the only really serious one is a book called Democracy's College, which was published in 1942 by a historian named Earle Ross.
And the very last paragraph of that book is really loaded with interesting things. So here's what Ross said in the very last paragraph.
"The real test of all the land-grant institutions was their ability and disposition to fulfill their peculiar mission in the new era. And it was in ministering to the technical, social, and political needs of the nation come of age that they attained measurably to the vision of the true prophets of the industrial movement in becoming real people's colleges, with all their limitations, a distinct native product and the fullest expression of democracy in higher education."
I could probably spend several years just questioning this paragraph. For example, what was and what is this peculiar mission that these institutions have? We refer to this now as the land-grant mission. I think it's interesting that he calls it peculiar.
Today, we often talk about this in the singular, "the land grant mission." But as I've been investigating, that singularity disappears almost instantly. And we end up with land-grant missions.
The second thing is what was the vision of the true prophets? And that's what I going to talk about today. The third thing is what are real people's colleges. And of course, that conjures up the idea that there are fake people's college. So what are real people's colleges?
What's this about all their limitation? What are the limitations that he's referring to? And what exactly does "the fullest expression of democracy in higher education" mean and signify?
These are all really important questions. I'm sorry to say that there is almost no serious research on any of those questions. The literature on this topic is remarkably thin. So I wish we could attract students who would like to investigate this, because it is just rich and ripe, not just because of the sesquicentennial moment, but because of the kind of rediscovery of and new interest in public engagement in higher education. And we have the provost fellow for public engagement here in the audience, which represents an institutional recommitment to this idea.
So what I want to do today simply is to take time for us to do something that most of you, I'm sure, have had no time to do, which is to hear the voices of these true prophets. What did they say? What was their vision? So I want to share that vision with you.
And there were two different prophets. The two people are Jonathan Baldwin Turner and Justin Smith Morrill. And what's important to understand about both of these people-- and this is the way I'm approaching what I'm going to talk about today and a lot of the research I'm doing-- is that when they wrote and spoke about these new institutions that they were both advocating that became the land-grant institutions, they were speaking as practical theorists. They were talking about the way things were in the world. They were describing the world as it is. And they were
Describing the world as it should be. And they were making their bet, making their claims about how to close that gap between the way the world is and the way it should be. And of course, the way to close that gap was to create these new universities and colleges, these land-grant colleges. And then, they also issued a prophecy of what would come out of all of this.
So I want to share with you some of the way that they actually articulated that. Because I'm going to probably get carried away, particularly with Jonathan Baldwin Turner, because he's a deliciously sarcastic writer and had beautiful, wonderful turns of phrases that are more like sort of turning the knife in certain places and people. I may get a little carried away with that.
But the other end of it, which the advertisement talked about, is contemporary interpretations. I've spent a lot of time with students doing interviews with contemporary faculty around the country about their public engagement work, faculty and extension folks in the land-grant system. In all of those interviews, I've asked people, usually towards the end of the interview, what is the land-grant mission?
And I have a lot of really interesting quotations from that. And I hope, if I have time to share at least a couple of those, I'll try. So I'm going to try not to get too carried away with this.
So just as a little bit of background about these two prophets, because how many people even know who Jonathan Baldwin Turner is? Has anybody heard of him before? I know you know. Nobody has even heard of him.
I'm from Illinois. He who was not from Illinois. He grew up in Massachusetts. He was born in 1805 on a farm in Massachusetts. He became a student at Yale University. And he showed up at Yale in a really important year, which is 1828.
That happened to be the year that the Yale Report was published. The 1820s-- and this is something else most people also aren't aware of-- the agitation for reform in American higher education, the hot decade was the 1820s. That's when Rensselaer Polytech Institution, RPI was established during the 1820s.
There was a lot of agitation around the dead languages and the lack of electives in colleges. So it was out of that decade that Yale University decided to review its own policy about the liberal arts curriculum and particularly the classical language at the core of it.
So Jonathan Baldwin Turner showed up at Yale the year that report was published. And while the report-- I've written a lot about this report in the work I'm working on. I want to skip over that. There's a lot of interesting things in that report. It ultimately ended up being a defense of this classical curriculum.
And while Turner was a student at Yale, he wrote a whole bunch of incredibly sarcastic essays about his own institution, which is interesting, because before he even finished, the president of Yale recommended him to be a faculty member at a new university in Illinois, the Illinois College.
So Turner left Yale and was granted a degree a semester early, actually. He left Yale to become a professor at Illinois College in 1833. He was there until 1848, and he was forced to resign, because he was accused of heresy, because he developed a very strong kind of reform, activist life.
He became a minister and did a lot of preaching that was critical of the prevailing Protestant theology. But he also became a very active abolitionist. And where he was living in Illinois was a place that was filled with folks from the South and from the North, so it was a really vital place. It was a really key part of the Underground Railroad.
So he went through that experience. And after he left, resigned from Yale, he thought he was going to be a farmer. But that didn't work out. And so he ended up then devoting all his time to educational reform, which was focused on this idea of creating these new colleges.
And it was in 1851 that he presented a plan for the development of industrial universities. And this plan was actually published in the United States Patent Report for the year 1851. And Senator Stephen Douglass, who was a resident of the town, Jacksonville-- actually, I'm forgetting the name of the town-- where Illinois College is, they were close friends.
And so they got it published there. It was talked about at the National Agricultural Society's meeting the next year. This was well before Justin Morrill ever even was thinking about any of this. In 1853, Turner helped establish an Industrial League in Illinois in 1853.
They published a 54-page pamphlet called Industrial Universities for the People. And the quotations I'm going to give you are from that pamphlet, which includes the 1851 plan and a bunch of things they called memorials, which were things that were sent to Congress. They called them memorials, which were urging Congress to develop new colleges through the use of federal lands.
So that's something about Turner. Justin Smith Morrill is quite a different character. Born close to the same time, 1810, in Vermont, he was born the son of a very prosperous blacksmith. And Morrill didn't go to college. He became a shopkeeper and a business owner, was very, very successful, and actually was able to retire in 1848, which is when he was 38 years old, and devoted himself to politics,
Joined the Vermont delegation to the national Whig Party convention. And then, on his very first attempt at public office in 1854, was elected to Congress on a Whig ticket. Served five terms in the House. And then served in the Senate until his death in 1898.
So Morrill had no background in higher education. He was incredibly widely read. When you read what he wrote, it's full of references to rich readings of literature. Very, very smart guy. But no background. And interestingly, of course, when you hear what these two people were saying, you will see lots of very close similarities.
And Morrill insisted that he did not know where he got the idea for these land-grant universities, even though when you hear me read this, you'll hear what Turner wrote years before is almost to the word exactly the same language that Morrill was using. So maybe he didn't know it, but I kind of find that hard to believe.
So let me share with you now, because I just so love his voice that Jonathan Baldwin Turner used. Let me start with him. And I just share a bit about each of their views about the way things were, the way things should be, how the gap could be closed, and this prophecy that they had about what would come out of these new institutions.
So Turner began his view with his vision of the world as being divided into two classes, a very small, elite, professional class and a much bigger industrial class. So Turner wrote that only one out of every 200 men in the United States were in the professional class. And he argued that for many generations to come, the most the nation would ever need in that class was one out of 100.
The professional class, he said, had at least 225 colleges, universities, and seminaries. "We rejoice, Turner wrote, positioning himself as a member of the industrial class, even though he obviously was in the professional class, "that the professional class has their own institutions of higher learning, their own teachers and their own vast and voluminous literature." And in his typically sarcastic voice, he wrote that "this literature could well-nigh sink a whole navy of ships."
In contrast, he complained that the much larger industrial class didn't have even one such institution. It had no teachers and no literature of its own. It lacked the means and the apparatus it needed to create a literature through the scientific exploration and experimentation of issues related to the distinct and varied interests and pursuits of its members. This was true, Turner said, even though the members of the industrial class wanted universities of their own.
So they were making a lot of claims about what people wanted. That's another, as you read this as a historian or as a scholar-- they're making all these claims that are really highly questionable, because there actually was not-- there was no big grassroots movement to create these land-grant colleges or universities. But Turner insisted.
So Turner noted that even monarchical Europe had established polytechnic and agricultural schools, including 68 in Russia alone. But in our democratic country, he asserted, no serious effort to establish such institutions had been made. He acknowledged that some of the old colleges for the professional class had attempted to add some agricultural and industrial courses to their classical curriculum, including Yale, where he was.
But these attempts were like prairie backfires, he wrote. They were made to keep the rising and blazing thought of the industrial masses from burning too furiously. And in Turner's view, they had clearly failed. And here's his lovely sarcastic voice.
This is Turner. "They have hauled a canoe alongside their huge professional steamships and invited all the farmers and mechanics of the state to jump on board and sail with them. But the difficulty is they will not embark. But we thank them even for this courtesy. It shows that their hearts are yearning towards us, notwithstanding the ludicrous awkwardness of their first endeavors to save us."
So instead of being offered canoes alongside the professional class steamships, Turner wrote that the industrial class needed steamships of their own. For him, the main reason was this was so because each class needed a distinctly different kind of liberal education. The industrial class needed a liberal education that suited its own distinct wants and destiny. In Turner's view, the existing college and universities could not and would not ever provide such an education.
So in making the case for the establishment of the new kind of university for the industrial class, Turner pointed to three pressing problems. This is the world as it is, as he saw it. First, he claimed that as much as half of the products of each state were being lost due to ignorance and waste. Extrapolating from Massachusetts, he calculated that the annual loss of the country is at least $60 million in cereal grains alone.
Second, he argued that the professions-- this is an interesting point, and the class issue really comes out here. Second, he argued that the professions were being crowded with men from the industrial class who don't belong there. Lacking their own industrial university, Turner wrote, their love of knowledge drove them from their own natural sphere in life.
Third, the nation had no efficient means of applying and diffusing the practical knowledge that already existed. And Turner wrote that since knowledge alone is power, the university was suffering as a consequence of this.
So because industrial education had been wholly neglected, Turner argued, members of the industrial class were compelled to work empirically and blindly. They were left, quote, "ignorant of the matters of the greatest moment, pertaining to their own vital interests, while the professions had been studied till trifles and fooleries have been magnified into matters of immense importance. And tornadoes of windy words and barrels of innocent ink shed over them in vain." I just love this guy's writing. "Tornadoes of windy words and barrels of innocent ink."
So lacking the opportunity for an appropriate industrial education, Turner wrote, the best farmers and mechanics learned by the slow process of individual experience. But the greater number of the less fortunate and less gifted members of the industrial class lacked even this.
According to Turner, they, quote, "stumble on through life almost as ignorant of every true principle of their art as when they began. A man of real skill is amazed at the slovenly ignorance and waste he everywhere discovers on all parts of their premises and still more to hear them boast of their ignorance of all book farming and maintain that their children can do as well as they've done. And it certainly would be a great pity if they could not."
So Turner had an interesting view of education, too, that was multi-dimensional. He said that there were four great instrumentalities of education-- the family, the school, the church, and the state. It was indispensable, he wrote, quote, "that order, virtue, wisdom, and freedom should direct, pervade, enlighten and control all of the several departments of human culture with a simultaneous energy and power." Where was he getting these ideas about human culture? Interesting.
There was a danger that had to be confronted in each. Quote, "the vanity, selfishness, pride, and vice of the household, the pedantry and folly of the school, the bigotry and superstition of the church, or the tyranny and the corruption of the state are each one of them adequate to pervert or destroy in a single generation all the real good of the other three, if indeed the phenomenon of existence of such vices in either quarter does not show a previous latent corruption in all departments alike." This is a very grim view and very critical view.
So in former times, Turner wrote, the learning of mere book knowledge was considered to be the great means and end of education. In his view, this kind of education was scholasticism, and it was defective. According to Turner, it developed a, quote, "undue deference to the authority of the book, with little capacity to look after the fact, and men's opinions and usages, instead of God's laws and ordinances, govern the world."
In communities where mere book learning was dominant, he claimed that the minds of men are most depressed and enslaved to tyrant custom. He declared that the book-centered education, quote, "engenders an undue deference to mere learned authority, a spirit of effeminate timidity"-- he used the word "effeminate" a lot-- "and pedantic servility, rather than one of true wisdom, true freedom, and true manhood, such has been shown in prophets, apostles, and martyrs of every age.
It does not produce mind, but mere learning; not intellect, but scholarship; not thinkers, but plausible and sophisticated debaters; School Men," in all capitals, "who can prove either side of a proposition, but not real men who can discharge the hard side of every single duty."
You're getting a sense for the flavor of this particular vision of this particular true prophet. So in Turner's view, the nation had made great progress in advancing the ends, instrumentalities, and modes of education. This was apparent in the common schools, which he said were at once the pride and hope of our country. But the progress had not happened in higher education yet.
So throughout this 1853 pamphlet that he wrote, he expressed deeply critical views of classical teachers and colleges, often with an incredibly sarcastic tone. He wrote that the classical college were filled with incessant drilling in the dead languages. He ridiculed the common teacher in such schools, writing that he had, quote, "no original, spontaneous power of thought and knows nothing but Latin and Greek, however perfectly."
It was, he declared, quote, "enough to stultify a whole generation of boys and make them all pedantic fools like himself." so he was not pulling punches here. And by the way, the gender exclusiveness of the language, one thing that I have noted in what I study here, neither Morrill or Turner mentioned women a single time, not even once in any of the things they wrote about the Land-Grant Act.
Not even once did they mention women. And this is true even though there was a lot of reform movement going on that started in the 1840s. There was a lot to draw here, but not even a mention.
So Turner-- instead of developing bookish and pedantic fools, Turner proclaimed that the end of education, quote, "should be the development of a True Manhood," all capital letters, "were the natural, proportionate, and healthful culture and growth of all the powers and facilities of the human being, physical, mental, moral, and social. And any system which attempts the exclusive or even inordinate culture of any one class of these faculties will fail of its end. It will make mushrooms and monks, rather than manhood and men." Eminently quotable, this guy.
"For similar reasons, any system of education adapted to the exclusive or unequal and inordinate culture of any one class or profession in the state is defective. It generates clans and castes, and breaks in upon the natural order, equality, and harmony, which God has ordained.
It will create a concentration of intellectual power in the intellectual head of the body politic, cold, crafty, selfish, and treacherous, which will sooner or later corrupt its heart, will exhaust and over labor and over task its weak, uncultured, and undeveloped subordinate powers and organs, and produce a bedlam, rather than a kingdom on Earth, a despotism either of the tyrant, the church, or the mob or all of these combined, not a government.
And this effect will inevitably follow as sure as God lives and reigns, even though a nation write its soil and sea over with parchment, declarations, and manifestos, and rend the air and sky with clamorous shouts of equality, liberty, and fraternity." I'd like to have heard him say that.
I don't want to keep going. You get the flavor of this guy, right? He goes on and continues to ridicule the education as it was. Maybe one more quote about education, just because it's fun.
So with a great deal of sarcasm, he was noting that the industrial class had actually been spared the education that was being provided in the classical colleges. So he says this. "No foundation for the development and culture of a high order of science and literature and the noblest capacities of mind, heart, and soul in connection with the daily employments of the industrial classes," exclamation point.
"How came such a heathenish and apostate idea ever to get abroad in the world? Was God mistaken when he first placed Adam in the Garden, instead of the academy? Or when he sentenced him to toil for his future salvation, instead of giving him over to abstract contemplation? When he made his son a carpenter instead of a rabbi? Or when he made a man a man, instead of a monk?
No, God's ways are ever ways of wisdom and truth. But Satan has, in all his ages, continued to put darkness for light, sophistry and cant for knowledge and truth, cutting and verbiage for wisdom and virtue, tyranny and outrage for government and law, and to fill the world with brute muscles and bones in one class, luxurious, insolent, and useless nerves and brains in another class, without either bodies or souls, and to call the process by which the result in the latter case is reached education.
And from this possibility of such an education as is, God has in his mercy hitherto sheltered his defenseless poor." He talks about philosophic owls-- really, [INAUDIBLE] seriously.
Now, turning to Morrill, we don't have anything like this colorful language, unfortunately. But we do have a lot of very similar themes in terms of description of the world as it is. So Morrill's vision of the land-grant system-- there are only actually two public records of it before the act was passed.
He gave a speech in 1858 on the floor of Congress and another one in 1862. The act was passed during the Buchanan presidency, and Buchanan vetoed it on states' rights grounds and issues related to land policy. But it was passed under the Lincoln presidency, and Lincoln signed it.
So Morrill gave two speeches on the floor. These are really the only records of this vision of that true prophet before. He wrote some other things and gave talks afterwards. But what I'm going to quote from really comes from those two places only.
So when Morrill was speaking, he positioned his need for the new kind of college in the context of two serious problems. First, agricultural productivity was declining, while the nation's population was increasing. And second, farmers' education was, in his words, quote, "limited to the metes and bounds of their forefathers."
So according to Morrill, European nations were not only far ahead of the United States in their agricultural practices. They were also far ahead in their support of education for the proprietors of the soil. So respect to the first problem, the agricultural productivity problem, Morrill noted that while the English had developed a farming system that included a rotation of exhausting, restoring, and cleaning crops, in the United States, quote, "we seem to have got only so far as to adopt the exhausting crops."
Among them were some of the nation's most important exports-- tobacco, cotton, and cereal grains. So for Morrill, exporting to England the virgin products of our soil was making it a garden at America's expense. So this is the problem. So Morrill proclaimed that, quote, "the true system of farming would seem to be able to make the land more fertile than it is in its natural state and every succeeding crop better than the last."
But in America, he complained, quote, "the earliest crops are seldom subsequently equalled, and the last are apt to be the worst." This was not a new or recent problem, he noted. And he quoted the views of George Washington and other early observers of American farming as evidence. According to Morrill, the cause of the problem was a common and deeply defective system of husbandry.
His description of the system amounted to a condemnation not only of American farmers' skills and knowledge, but also of their flawed character and irresponsible behavior. This is important, because the Land Grant Act, the only [AUDIO OUT] in the act that has anything to do with educational curriculum or mission or whatever is this phrase that I'm sure you've all heard about liberal and practical education for the industrial classes in the several pursuits of life.
And the liberal side of that was a side that had to do, in the spirit of this time-- neither one of these men talked about democracy. In fact, the only mention of the word "democracy" was that "democratic country" mention I quoted a few minutes ago. Otherwise, neither one of them used the word.
So this was still a time when very much people were thinking of the United States is a republic. So they were talking about republican virtues and the republican institutions in the country. So very important that Morrill is not just talking about how to do stuff better. He and Turner both are talking about moral and ethical character.
So here's Morrill. In American farming, he said, quote, "the land is held until it is robbed of its virtues, skimmed of its cream, and then the owner, selling his wasted field to some skinflint neighbor, flies to fresh fields with the foul purpose to repeat the same spoliation. And this annual exodus, which prevails over all the older states and even begins upon the first settlements of the new states, before their remoter borders have lost sight of the savage"-- interesting.
Note there's a few places where there's mention of somebody else living on this land, as you know, the Native American nations. So where was I here? So "even begins upon the first settlements of the new states before their remoter borders have lost sight of the savage, painfully indicates that we have reached the maximum of population our land will support on the present state of our agricultural economy.
We bring forth new states by the litter. And when we want more, like our Norman ancestors, we commit grand larceny and annex them. This process seems wonderful. But with it appears the bitter fact that these new states in half a century, a brief time in the history of states, become depleted and stationary. This early maturity is followed by a sudden barrenness."
So Morrill is painting this very bleak image of how basically farmers in the US are wrecking the soil. And unsurprisingly, for a member of Congress, he's appealing to the self-interest of the nation state as a reason to found these institutions-- in fact, says a few things about that in a second that I'll quote.
So Morrill cited statistics to argue that the problem of an exhausted soil and a declining agricultural productivity was growing steadily worse in all regions of the nation. Quote, "there is little doubt but that 3/4 of the arable land of our whole country is more or less subjected to this process of exhaustion. Men waste hundreds of acres of land on the theory that it is inexhaustible."
He compared what he called our, quote, "go ahead system of farming" with quote "flocks of wild pigeons, which no sooner strip and waste one field then they take wind and fly further on." The result of this behavior was that, quote, "the accumulated store of ages passes away in a single generation." He proclaimed this to be a most deplorable fact and a fact of national concern.
"Shall we," he said, "not prove unworthy of our patrimony if we run over the whole before we learn how to manage a part?" Already the land ethic. By the way, there's a historian from Yale named Steven Stoll who's written an absolutely fabulous book called Larding the Lean Earth, which is a history of the conservation ethics development in the 19th century in the US and farming, and its tension with the developers, the developer ethic.
And Morrill on the floor of Congress is very much speaking out of this kind of conservation sort of mentality. And if any of you are familiar with Wendell Berry and his book, the Unsettling of America, boy can you hear that here in how he's talking about the unsettling that's happening through this process.
So what this amounts, as I read this-- this actually ends up going into what I think of as a prophecy of doom. So in relation to the problem of a defective and irresponsible husbandry, Morrill issued what amounts to a prophecy of doom.
Quote, "should no effort be made to arrest the deterioration and spoliation of the soil in America, while all Europe is wisely striving to teach her agriculturalists the best means of hoarding up capital in the lands on that side of the Atlantic, it is easy to see that we are doomed to be dwarfed in national importance.
And not many years can pass away before our ships will be laden with grain not on the outward, but homeward voyage. Then, with cheap bread no longer peculiar to America, our free institutions may be thought too dear by those of whom even empires are not worthy, the men with hearts, hands, and brains vainly looking to our shores for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
So we get this grim prophecy of doom. And he actually uses the phrase "cheap food" in 1862 as a central argument in favor of the development of the land-grant system.
So he goes on and talks more about what the educational situation is at the moment. And then, in sort of culminating, his sense of the way things are, he argued that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson would all be in favor of his bill. And he also claimed that the people of the country were with him too.
Quote, "the voice of our country, if it could find utterance"-- interestingly said-- "is believed to be overwhelmingly in favor of the establishment of these institutions on our own soil. They are as much needed and will be as gratefully accepted in one direction of our country as another. More than 4/5 of our population are engaged in agricultural and mechanical employments.
Their vast number out of 30 millions of people now to be increased to 50 millions in less than 20 years will forever furnish an inexhaustible supply of pupils, who will not forsake their calling. Is it not of grave importance to give this vast force an intelligent direction?"
So a bit of the flavor of how these two so-called prophets described the world as it is. So what was their view of the way things should be? Well, we can see glimmers of that in already what I've quoted. And just very briefly, for Turner, the world as it should be was composed of really four main things.
First, there should be less ignorance in the industrial class, much less waste, loss, and cost in their various industrial pursuits. Second, members of the industrial class should be elevated, quote, "to a position in society to which all men acknowledge they are justfully entitled and to which they also desire to see them inspire."
Such a position was not outside or above, but firmly within their own natural class. They in their pursuits and posterity would be elevated, quote, "to that relative position in human society for which God designed them."
Not once in this pamphlet, actually, in Morrill's work either, did either one of them talk about economic mobility or social mobility out of a class. And I think this is really-- both of these men, being political minded people, they're tuning their remarks to not upset the people who were worried that all of these masses are going to clamor and want to be lawyers or doctors or something.
So third, in Turner's view, the members of the industrial class should achieve a true manhood. And he wrote this in all capital letters, "True Manhood, were the natural, proportionate, and healthful culture and growth of all the powers and facilities of the human being, physical, mental, moral, and social." Again, I take that as a significant thing in both Morrill and Turner. They were not arguing for a narrow, instrumental, technical education.
This is critically important. As you look at the history of the land-grant system, this is one of the places of contention. In the language in the mostly bad literature that there is on this, the language is of narrow gauge and broad gauge. And there's been continuously this clamoring to collapse education into only technical education. But what we hear in these true prophets is not a narrow technical education. It's not a call for that.
Finally, Turner wrote, the whole life of every male member of society should be but one continuous, natural, and easy progress from one stage of mental and moral development and power to another. And then, Morrill claim that this wasn't just his view. Everybody else shared the view too, except these philosophical owls that he talked about.
So what did Morrill's vision of what should be look like? First, land should be improved, not exhausted by farming. We already heard that. And he says this, interestingly. Quote, "the soil we have acquired by the displacement of the red man," Morrill said, "must be improved and not exhausted." "The soil we have acquired by the displacement of the red man."
It has to be said, this whole land-grant-- and I just spent some time with Eric Cheyfitz. We are on the land of the Cayuga Nation. This whole story of the land-grant system has got this fundamental tragic dimension to it in thinking about where this land came from. And as we hear in this story, there's sort of this sidebar sort of reference to it in an interesting way. But it can't be forgotten.
So Morrill again. Quote, "the only thing we constantly dwell upon with complacency is that we surpass the stock from which we sprang and that we present our land better than we found it," which is a fundamental ethic in sustainable agriculture.
Secondly, agriculture should be made a science. He says what has been an art merely to supply physical wants must become a science. America should not only have schools to teach the art of man slaying and to make masters of deep throated engines of war, but also, quote, "schools to teach men the way to feed, clothe, and enlighten the great brotherhood of man."
People should be allowed to study agriculture as a profession and be attracted to it as a learned, liberal, and intellectual pursuit, should be more rewarding and noble, all these kinds of things. Government should aim not only to elevate and build up a nation that is great in its resources of wealth and power, but also, in Morrill's words, quote, "greatest of all in the aggregate of its intelligence and virtue."
The use of the word "virtue" is very linked to this whole republican political philosophy that was very much the philosophy of people at the time. Again, an argument against this flattened, narrow, technical view of these schools, and something that attends to moral and ethical and civic dimensions.
So efforts should be made to, quote, "satisfy and elevate the manhood of the mass of the people." Statesmen and legislators, quote, "should aid to elevate the class upon whom they lean for support and upon whom they depend for their audience."
Finally, the nation must succeed not only in giving all men an equal opportunity by their own labor to obtain a substantial support, but also, quote, "a higher and possibly more difficult task, which is to combine the largest freedom with the largest rewards of labor, free government and personal independence," something that he argued was key to securing, quote, "the immortality of our republic." So this interesting civic yearning and dimensions he's investing in this idea.
So that world as it is, the world as it should be, how is this gap going to be closed? How are we going to get this world as it should be. Well, to create these new colleges and universities is the answer. Jonathan Baldwin Turner, he claimed that "our relief is clearly as obvious as our wants." He articulated a theory about how to close the gap between what was and what should be.
So according to Turner, it was, quote, "self-evident that systems of public education should be oriented towards students' future employment." He argued that each class should be placed in a position to develop their own literature and to acquire mental as well as moral discipline in connection with their own occupations, interests, and pursuits.
In other words, he wrote, the aim of education, quote, "should be to make each man an intelligent thinking man in his own profession in life, rather than out of it, to teach him first to understand his own business, rather than other people's."
Lots of words here as we go further about don't worry, you professional class folks. This is about keeping these people where they should be. There's a lot of that. I'm not going to have time to quote that. But it really shows up in both of their language.
So in one of the memorials that Turner wrote to the legislature in 1853, he urged the legislator to petition Congress, quote, "to appropriate to each state in the union an amount of public lands not less in value than $500,000 for the liberal endowment of a system of industrial universities, one in each state of the union, to cooperate with each other and with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington for the more liberal and practical education of our industrial classes and their teachers in their various pursuits"-- this is almost exactly the same language Morrill used, and this is 1853-- "for the production of knowledge and literature needful in those pursuits, and developing to the fullest and most perfect extent the resources of our soil and our arts, the virtue and intelligence of our people and the true glory of our common country."
And then, Turner goes on to describe these universities. And I'll just read you a little bit of this. It's kind of interesting. So in these new universities, they're going to be open to all classes of students. Students would either pay their own tuition and board or labor on the campuses if they couldn't pay.
He specified the subjects that would be taught, which included the anatomy and physiology of animals and plants; the nature and health of soils; political, financial, domestic, and manual economy; manufacturing and all industrial processes; the true principles of national, constitutional, and civic law; the true theory of the art of governing and controlling or directing the labor of men in the state, the family, the shop, the farm; principles of human health and disease; and, quote, "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 to perform"-- any person in any study-- "or which may tend to secure his moral, civil, social, and industrial perfection as a man."
Again, no talk of women here. No species of practical or theoretical knowledge was to be excluded, he wrote, quote, "unless, indeed, those specimens of organized ignorance found in the creeds of party politicians and sectarian ecclesiastics should be mistaken for some sort of species of knowledge." And in the same breath, he wrote that classical departments would be optional. It's one place that Morrill differed from him.
So then, he went on to talk about how these things were going to be taught. And there's very much this notion of getting away from book learning and being out and working directly with nature. And then, there's this little interesting tidbit. Professors were to be regularly in the field.
Quote, "let the professors of physiology and entomology be ever abroad at the proper seasons with the needful apparatus for seeing all things visible and invisible and scrutinizing the latent causes of all those blights, blasts, rots, rusts, and mildews, which so often destroy the choicest products of industry and thereby impair the health, wealth, and comfort of millions of our fellow men.
Let the professor of chemistry carefully analyze the various soils and the products of the state, retain specimens, give instruction, and report on their various qualities, adaptations, and deficiencies. Let similar experiments be made in all the other interests of agriculture and mechanic or chemical art, mining, merchandising, and transportation by water and by land, and daily practical, experimental instruction given to each student in attendance in his own chosen sphere of research or in life.
And then, he had a really wonderful, rich description of the grounds of these colleges that were to be. The grounds were to be filled with gardens, orchards, lawns, and promenades. Each university was to collect and exhibit a sample of every variety of domestic animal, of every tree, plant, and vegetable that can minister to the health, wealth, or taste and comfort of the people of the state, their nature, habits, merits, production, improvement, culture, disease, and accidents thoroughly scrutinized, tested, and made known to the students and to the people of the state.
These collections and exhibits were to be showcased every year at commencement. Commencement was to function as an annual fair when the doors of the university would be open to all classes, not only to see and hear the university's treasures of art and knowledge, but also to bring and present their own. So people would bring their own products to the university.
Turner wrote that this occasion, quote, "should be made the great annual gala day of the institution and of all the industrial classes and all other classes in the state for the exhibition of their products and their skill, and for the vigorous and powerful diffusion of practical knowledge in their ranks and a more intense enthusiasm in its extension and pursuit.
He says more. I'll go to Morrill. I'm not going to read this now. We're running out of time, and you're probably running tired of me channeling these two visionaries. But very much the same language we get from Turner, I mean, almost exactly word for word the language. And still he claims he doesn't know where he got this idea. Public knowledge, it was in the patent. It was published in the patent report in 1851.
Interestingly-- actually, I didn't read this, but this is-- let me tell you one more thing about Turner. This is interesting. So Turner made a point in his writings to speak to the critical issue of who would oversee, control, and govern these colleges.
So without hesitation or fear, Turner wrote, quote, "the whole interest should from the first be placed directly in the hands of the people and the whole people, without any mediators or advisors, legislative or ecclesiastical, save only their appointed agents and their own jurors in courts of justice, to which, of course, all alike must submit."
It was given to the people, and it is the property of the people, not of legislators, parties, or sects. They ought to have the whole control of it. That's a pretty radical vision of governance.
So Morrill, as I said, was speaking in much the same language that Turner spoke. He also talked about the importance of building up a literature. And this is one of the things that-- people who know anything about the early decades of the land-grant system-- very, very, very few farmers came as students.
What really happened is people like Liberty Hyde Bailey came off the farms, got degrees, and became professors, and developed the literature out of which the colleges could teach and could do research. The first decades were really about developing a whole new set of disciplines and a whole new sector of the academic profession, focused in engineering and in agricultural and home economics areas.
Let me see if there's anything from Morrill here. Interesting, more about this-- so Morrill, he urged his colleagues-- let us, Morrill urged his colleagues, establish colleges, quote, "as may rightfully claim the authority of teachers to announce facts and fixed laws and to scatter broadcast that knowledge."
He detailed a range of tasks the faculty would take up, including annual soil tests, fertilizer tests, assessing the relative value of different grasses and seeds, developing new breeds of animals, studying and combating pests and diseases, and the like.
He also argued that in making farming more rewarding and respectable, the scientific work of the faculty of the new college would have the benefit of reclaiming the truants from the industrial class, who had inappropriately strayed into the professions and who had fled the land of their birth. This reflected his theory that, quote, "the tendency to desert the rural districts and to shun manual labor can only be checked by making the country more attractive and remunerative."
So the last thing I want to share here is their prophecy of the results. So there's the vision of the way things were, the way things should be, sort of how to close the gap. But then, they went on to prophesize what was going to come out of all this.
So I'll start with Turner. "Let the reader contemplate it as it will appear when generations have perfected it in all its magnificence and glory," he wrote, in its means of good to man, to all men of all classes, in its power to evolve and defuse practical knowledge and skill, true taste, love of industry, and sound morality, not only through its apparatus, experiments, instructions, and annual lectures and reports, but through its thousands of graduates in every pursuit in life, teaching and lecturing in all our towns and villages. And then, let him seriously ask himself is not such an object worthy of at least an effort and worthy of a state which God himself in the very act of creation designed to be the first agricultural and commercial state on the face of the globe?"
So continuing his gender exclusive language, Turner detailed the results for those who would have attended these universities. A graduate of such university would, quote, "be better able to govern and take care of himself, and need less expenditure from the state and the church in controlling and taking care of him." Nice little gesture there.
The education students would receive would have the effect of, quote, "disciplining, elevating, refining the minds and morals of our people, increasing their wealth and their power at home and their respect abroad, developing not only the resources of their minds, but their soil and treasures of mineral, and perfecting all the materials, products, and arts. This cannot but be seen by every intelligent mind."
He declared that, quote, "if every farmer's and mechanic's son in his state could now visit such an institution but for a single day in the year, it would do him more good in arousing and directing the dormant energies of mind than all the cost incurred, and for more good than many a six months of professed study of things he will never need and never want to know."
Speaking of cost, he claimed that the whole thing would be paid for by the savings and less waste and all that that would happen as a result of the education. He urged the people to see the new system of universities as a means of advancing the nation's political and cultural ideals.
Quote, "who should set the world so glorious an example of educating their sons worthily of their heritage, their duty, and their destiny if not the people of such a state? In our country, we have no aristocracy with the inalienable wealth of ages and constant leisure and means to perform all manner of useful experiments for their own amusement. But we must create our own nobility for this purpose as we elect our rulers from our own ranks to aid and serve, not to domineer over and control us."
There's this kind of ethic of democracy and the relationship between these universities and people. Really nice to see that at this moment for me. "And this done, we will not only beat England and beat the world in yachts and locks and reapers, but in all else that contributes to the well-being and the true glory of man."
So Justin Morrill, much the same kind of prophecy. So Morrill predicted if the bill that he was sponsoring passed, he predicted that, quote, "institutions of the character required by the people and by our native land would spring into life and not languish from poverty, doubt, or neglect." They would prove the perennial nurseries of patriotism, thrift, and liberal information, places where men do not decay. They would turn out men for solid use and not drones. Where have we heard that before?
It may be assumed that tuition would be free and that the exercise-- tuition is going to be free. Tuition would be free. And the exercise of holding the plow and swinging the scythe every whit as noble, artistic, and graceful as the posture of the gymnastic or military drill would go far towards defraying all expenses of the students.
Muscles hardened by such training would not become soft in the summer or torpid in the winter, and the graduates to know how to sustain American institutions with American vigor. I don't know why I'm being so sarcastic in voicing all this stuff, but I feel like it's just kind of what happens when I read this.
So benefits are not going to only flow for individuals, but also to industry and the nation. Quote, "these colleges founded in every state will elevate the character of farmers and mechanics; increase the prosperity of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce; and may, to some extent, guard against the sheer ignorance of all military art," which shrouded the country and especially the North at the time, when the toxin of war sounded at Fort Sumter. You remember they're doing this during the Civil War.
By increasing farmers' profits, Morrill noted, the value of land would be increased through the scientific research of the faculty. Loss due to disease, insects, and other problems would be alleviated. And, quote, "a solid, useful, and practical education would be put within reach of thousands willing to and expecting to work their way through the world by the sweat of the brow."
At the end of his speech in 1858, Morrill gave this really long list of what was going to happen if they passed this bill. "Pass this bill," he said, and we shall have done"-- I have to get ready for this. I'm going to zip through this.
"And we shall have done something for every owner of land; something for all who desire to own land; something for cheap scientific education; something for every man who loves intelligence and not ignorance; something to induce the father, sons, and daughters"-- one mention of women, actually; I just caught that-- "to settle and cluster around the old homesteads; something to remove the vast vestige of pauperism from our land; something for peace, good order, and the better support of Christian churches and common schools; something to enable sterile railroads to pay dividends. something to enable the people to bear enormous expenditures of the national government; something to check the passion of individuals and of the nation for indefinite territorial [AUDIO OUT] and ultimate decrepitude; something to prevent the dispersion of our population and concentrate it around the best lands of the country, places hallowed by church spires and mellowed by the influences of time, where the consumer will be placed at the door of the producer and thereby something to obtain higher prices for all sorts of agricultural productions, and something to increase the loveliness of the American landscape. Science and culture is the sure precursor to order and beauty."
He reassured everybody who was afraid that these colleges would lead to class war that there would be no clashing of interests. He stressed that the new colleges were, quote, "not designed to make every man his own doctor or every man his own lawyer, but to make every man understand his own business.
A lawyer is not the worse for having an intelligent client, nor a clergyman the worse for having a prosperous parishioner. Our present literary colleges need have no more jealousy of agricultural colleges than a porcelain manufactory would have of an iron foundry. They move in separate spheres, without competition, and using no raw material that will diminish the supply of one or the other.
Just in itself, benevolent in its scope, demanded by the wisest economy," Morrill declared of his bill, "it will add new securities to the perpetuity of our republican institutions. Wronging nobody, it will prove a blessing to the whole people now and for ages to come."
I think I'll stop there and just let those words sit. And I would love to know if people have responses or reactions or questions out of this vision of the true prophets. I didn't get to the contemporary, but I'm conscious of time.
SPEAKER 1: This has been a production of Cornell University. On the web at cornell.edu.
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The sesquicentennial of the Morrill Land-Grant Act prompts a re-examination of a common phrase in the discourse about land-grant institutions, including Cornell: "the land-grant mission." What was and is this mission? And why did and does it matter? Join Scott J. Peters for a lecture about the Morrill Act, drawing from a study of Justin Smith Morrill's and Jonathan Baldwin Turner's speeches and writings, and the views and experiences of contemporary faculty and staff from Cornell and other land-grant institutions.
Dr. Peters is Co-Director of
Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life and professor of Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University. He is also a faculty affiliate for the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.