The Second Morrill Act
August 30, 1890
The Second Morrill Act expanded significantly on the work begun by Justin Morrill in 1862 (see the First Morrill Act, July 2, 1862, Law 3, chapter 3).1 It led to the creation of many new institutions, the most important of which were black land-grant colleges in the South. Historian Edward Danforth Eddy, Jr., writing in the 1950s, concluded that the act “accomplished for the Negroes of the South what the first act in 1862 had accomplished for the men and women of other races.”2 While this may overstate the case, the act certainly broadened opportunities for higher education in America. Beyond this, the act provided further support for existing land-grant colleges and thereby helped to stabilize their difficult financial condition. Finally, the act expanded and deepened federal oversight of state administration of the land-grant colleges. The Second Morrill Act thus successfully addressed many of the weaknesses and shortcomings of the First Morrill Act. In so doing, it greatly helped secure the full development of public higher education in the United States.
The act was not easily achieved. Morrill first introduced legislation to expand aid to the land-grant colleges in 1872, by which time he had moved from the House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate. His legislative efforts, however, were defeated year after year. In all, Senator Morrill proposed legislation in 12 of the 18 years from 1872 to final success in 1890. As with the First Morrill Act, he confronted forceful opposition, made on both constitutional and practical grounds. It took persistence, patience, and some consid-