Morrill Hall stands at 146 University Place and is a contributing structure to the University Green Historic District.(1) It was designed by C. W. Buckham of New York and completed in 1907.(2) Its namesake is Senator Justin Smith Morrill. Morrill is not an alumnus, but he served on the Board of Trustees of the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College for over two decades.(3)
Morrill was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1854 and to the U.S. Senate in 1866 (where he served on behalf of the State of Vermont until his death in 1898).(4) While in Washington, he was instrumental in obtaining federal funding for public land grant colleges and universities around the country. He achieved much through his political acumen and sheer persistence. His first attempt was vetoed by President James Buchanan, but in July of 1862 his second attempt was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln as the 1862 Morrill Land Grant Act.(5)
The act was built upon Morrill's belief of science to be the center of the educational process and that higher education should be available to those of all social and economic backgrounds - it was meant for the many rather than the few. Through this act, each state was awarded 30,000 acres per member of Congress to use towards establishing land-grant universities.(6)
He also proposed ambitious plans for a national educational fund which would use proceeds from the sale of public property to further the educational goals of the nation's students, explaining that "the objects aimed at are more precious than gold or silver, and a higher and more universal education will yoke neither the people or the Treasury with poverty", a fairly enlightened view at the time.(7) He continued to work hard to secure additional funding for land-grant universities after the 1862 bill was passed, proposing at one point that educational funding was an efficient way to rid the nation's budget of excess funds.(8)
There were earlier precedents for governmental support of public education. In the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the Continental Congress declared that "knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."(9) One form of encouragement was the gift of land, which was often sold, with the proceeds used to provide extra funding for the education systems.(10) Morrill's plans were different in that he aimed for institutions to retain the land gifted to them and use it to focus on the establishment of programs in agricultural education.
By 1892, 47 land grant universities had been established across the country.(11) It was through this act that the Vermont State Agricultural College was incorporated with the University of Vermont and established as the state's land-grant institution in 1864.(12)
It was because of these great achievements that Morrill Hall received its name. Indeed, a number of important persons spoke at the dedication ceremony in 1907: Governor Proctor, Mayor Bigelow, President Matthew H. Buckham and S. J. Bachelder (Master of the National Grange) each gave speeches.(13) The Vermont Dairy School was able to reopen in 1908 in the new Morrill Hall.(14) A division of the agricultural department at UVM, all classes had been suspended in 1904 due to lack of the proper facilities.
The building still serves as the home of the University of Vermont's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the UVM Agricultural Extension Service.
(1) National Register of Historic Places, University Green Historic District, Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont, National Register.
(2) "Morrill Hall," UVM Buildings, University of Vermont, http://www.uvm.edu/campus/morrill/morrill.html.
(3) UVM Ariel 1892 (Rutland: Tuttle Co., 1892), 7.
(4) Robert V. Daniels, The University of Vermont: The first 200 years (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1991), 178.
(5) Daniels, 178.
(6) "Act of July 2, 1862 (Morrill Act), Public Law 37-108, which established land grant colleges, 07/02/1862"; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789-1996; Record Group 11; General Records of the United States Government; National Archives, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/.
(7) Hon. Justin S. Morrill, "Educational fund" (speech to the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., April 26, 1876).
(8) Hon. Justin S. Morrill, "Colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts" (speech to the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., June 14, 1890).
(9) "Northwest Ordinance, July 13, 1787," (National Archives Microfilm Publication M332, roll 9); Miscellaneous Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789; Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789, Record Group 360; National Archives, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/.
(10) "Act of July 2, 1862 (Morrill Act), Public Law 37-108, which established land grant colleges, 07/02/1862"; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789-1996; Record Group 11; General Records of the United States Government; National Archives, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/.
(11) UVM Ariel 1892 (Rutland: Tuttle Co., 1892), 5.
(12) UVM Master Plan, Ch. 3, p.9.
(13) "Morrill Hall Dedicated," Burlington Free Press, December 12, 1907, accessed November 9, 2012, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1907-12-12/ed-1/seq-1.
(14) "Reopening of Vermont Dairy School," The Middlebury Register, December 06, 1907, accessed November 8, 2012, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn93063557/1907-12-06/ed-1/seq-2.