The Morrill Act

Charles Pierce notes that there was quite a big anniversary this year:

On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law what was known as the  Morrill Act. The new law authorized the creation of what became known as  “land-grant colleges,” the purpose of which, as described in the Act was:  “…without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including  military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to  agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the  States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical  education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in  life.”

This was one of the most important pieces of legislation to ever pass, bringing college education to the masses. As Pierce notes, the arguments against the act are similar to the ones against national healthcare:

Democratic Senator Clement Clay of Alabama was by far the most eloquent to stand  against it. He insisted that the land grants were a “magnificent bribe” to  encourage Alabama to “surrender to the federal power her original and reserved  right to manage her own domestic and internal affairs.” He argued that public  lands were never meant to support such arrangements. This was followed with a  long, vivid picture of judicious forefathers building limitation after limitation  into the Constitution concerning the powers of the Federal Government. With the  last stroke of his brush, Clay asked if one could believe that such a careful  limitation was only a sham, that through deliberate intent or stupidity these  great men had provided a means to circumvent their careful limitation of federal  power.

Change a few words and this is the argument against Obamacare–I wonder if we can charge plagiarism? I can’t imagine that this type of legislation could pass today.

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