Justin Smith Morrill: American politician (1810 - 1898) | Biography
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Justin Smith Morrill
American politician

Justin Smith Morrill

Justin Smith Morrill
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American politician
Was Politician
From United States of America
Field Politics
Gender male
Birth 14 April 1810, Strafford, USA
Death 28 December 1898, Washington, D.C., USA (aged 88 years)
Star sign Aries
Politics Whig Party, Republican Party
Spouse: Ruth Barrell Swan Morrill
Thetford Academy
Justin Smith Morrill
The details (from wikipedia)


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 Acts that established federal funding for establishing many of the United States' public colleges and universities. He was one of the founders of the Republican Party.

Early life

Born in Strafford, Vermont, Morrill attended the common schools, Thetford Academy and Randolph Academy. He was trained for a business career by working as a merchant's clerk in Strafford and Portland, Maine. He then was a merchant in Strafford, and the partnership in which he participated with Judge Jedediah H. Harris grew to own and operate four stores throughout the state. Morrill also served in local offices including Town Auditor and Justice of the Peace.

One of Judge Harris's daughters married Portus Baxter, who also served in Congress. Baxter and Morrill became close friends as a result of the connection to Judge Harris, with Morrill referring to Baxter as "one of nature's noblemen" and Baxter consciously patterning his business and political career on Morrill's.

Morrill invested in several successful ventures, including banks, railroads, and real estate. By the late 1840s he was financially secure enough to retire, and he became a gentleman farmer.

In addition to farming, Morrill became active in the Whig Party, including serving as Chairman of the Orange County Whig Committee, a member of the Vermont State Whig Committee, and a Delegate to the 1852 Whig National Convention.

Congressional career

In 1854 Morrill was elected to the Thirty-fourth Congress as a Whig. He was a founder of the Republican Party, and won reelection five times as a Republican, serving from March 4, 1855 to March 3, 1867. He served as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means in the Thirty-ninth Congress. He also served on the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, which drafted the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In 1866 Morrill was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Union Republican. He was reelected as a Republican in 1872, 1878, 1884, 1890, and 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 as chairman of the Committee on Finance (Forty-fifth, Forty-seventh through Fifty-second, Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Congresses). In addition, Morrill was a regent of the Smithsonian Institution from 1883 to 1898 and a trustee of the University of Vermont from 1865 to 1898.


The Morrill Tariff of 1861 was a protective tariff law adopted on March 2, 1861. Passed after anti-tariff southerners had left Congress during the process of secession, Morrill designed it with the advice of Pennsylvania economist Henry C. Carey. It was one of the last acts signed into law by James Buchanan, and replaced the Tariff of 1857. Additional tariffs Morrill sponsored were passed to raise revenue during the American Civil War.

Morrill is best known for sponsoring the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act. This act was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and 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.

— Justin Smith Morrill, 1862, as quoted by William Belmont Parker, The Life and Public Services of Justin Smith Morrill

He also authored the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862, which targeted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, based on the then-existing practice of plural marriage (polygamy). It imposed a five-hundred dollar fine and up to five years imprisonment for the crime of polygamy. On January 6, 1879, in Reynolds v. United States the Supreme Court, upheld the Anti-Bigamy Act's ban on plural marriage.

A second Land Grant College Act in 1890 targeted the former Confederate states and led to the creation of several historically black colleges and universities.

The Land Grant College Acts ultimately led to the founding of 106 colleges including many state universities, polytechnic colleges, and agricultural and mechanical colleges.


Mausoleum of Senator Justin Smith Morrill in Strafford, Vermont

In 1851, Morrill married Ruth Barrell Swan (1822–1898) of Easton, Massachusetts. They had two children. Justin Harris Morrill (1853–1855) died in childhood. James Swan Morrill (1857–1910) graduated from the University of Vermont in 1880 and Columbian College Law School in 1882. He was a lawyer and farmer and served in a variety of offices including as a member of the Vermont House of Representatives. He wrote Self-Consciousness of Noted Persons, published in 1886.

Morrill died in Washington, D.C. on December 28, 1898. He was buried at Strafford Cemetery.

At the time of Morrill's death his 43 years and 299 days of continuous Congressional service was the longest in U.S. history. He has since been surpassed, but still ranks 18th as of March 2014.


The Morrill Homestead in Strafford, Vermont

The Justin Smith Morrill Homestead in Strafford is a National Historic Landmark.

Many colleges established under the Morill Act created a 'Morrill Hall' in his honor.

Morrill was initiated into the Delta Upsilon fraternity as an honorary member in 1864. He received honorary degrees from the University of Vermont, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, and many other institutions.

Justin Morrill College at Michigan State University was named for him.

In 1962, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 4 cent postage stamp to celebrate the centennial of the Morrill Land-Grant College Act. In 1999, the Postal Service issued a 55 cent Great Americans series postage stamp of Morrill to honor his role in establishing the land grant colleges.

In 1967 Ohio State University opened two residence halls on its campus. Named for Morrill and Abraham Lincoln, they are also known as The Towers. They are the tallest buildings on the OSU campus, and among the tallest in Columbus Ohio.

Archives and records

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Andrew Tracy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's 2nd congressional district

March 4, 1855 – March 3, 1867
Succeeded by
Luke P. Poland
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Luke P. Poland
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Vermont
March 4, 1867 – December 28, 1898
Succeeded by
Jonathan Ross
Preceded by
John Sherman
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
Succeeded by
Thomas F. Bayard
Preceded by
Thomas F. Bayard
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
Succeeded by
Daniel Voorhees
Preceded by
Daniel Voorhees
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
Succeeded by
Nelson Aldrich
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 10 Apr 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who was Justin Smith Morrill?
A: Justin Smith Morrill was an American politician who served as a United States Representative and Senator from Vermont. He was born on April 14, 1810, and died on December 28, 1898.
Q: What contributions did Justin Smith Morrill make to American history?
A: Morrill is best known for sponsoring the Morrill Act, also known as the Land-Grant College Act of 1862. This legislation provided federal assistance to states for the establishment of land-grant colleges, which focused on practical education in agriculture, engineering, and other fields.
Q: What is the Morrill Act of 1862?
A: The Morrill Act of 1862 was a federal law that granted land to each state to establish colleges and universities that focused on agriculture and mechanical arts. The act was sponsored by Justin Smith Morrill and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.
Q: What is a land-grant college?
A: A land-grant college is a type of educational institution that was established under the provisions of the Morrill Act of 1862. These colleges were granted federal land and financial assistance to promote education in agricultural and technical fields.
Q: What other notable accomplishments did Justin Smith Morrill have?
A: In addition to the Morrill Act, Morrill also sponsored the Tariff Act of 1861, which helped to fund the Union during the American Civil War. He was also involved in the creation of the Smithsonian Institution and served as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
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