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LITIGATION BETWEEN THE VINCENNES UNIVERSITY AND THE STATE

OF INDIANA.

In the year 1828 the Legislature authorized a loan of the seminary funds and the payment of the interest to Indiana College.

From the above acts, under which seventeen thousand acres of Gibson County lands were sold and the proceeds placed to the credit of the State seminary fund, sprang the famous litigation between the trustees of Vincennes University and the State of Indiana. The history of this litigation is briefly stated in Woodburn's History of Higher Education in Indiana as follows:

“ The withdrawal of State care and attention from this early school is not fully explained. The removal of the capital of the Territory, and consequently of public influence from Vincennes to Corydon, in 1813, the carelessness and suspension of its own board of trustees, and the indifference of its friends, the rise of similar academies' and “seminaries' in other portions of the State, the desire to have the State seminary near the center of population, which was moving rapidly toward the north, and perhaps political influence-all these worked adversely to the continuance of the school at Vincennes as a State institution.

“But after the school had continued for some years as the Knox County Seminary, the old corporation was resuscitated by an act of the Legislature in 1838 making provision for supplying vacancies in the board of trustees. A clause, however, was inserted in this act intended to prevent the renewal of any claim to the seminary township taken from it in 1822. But in 1845 the trustees of Vincennes University, thus revived, laid claim to the Gibson County lands and to the proceeds of previous sales made by the State, which had been transferred to the Indiana University, formerly the State seminary, and suit was brought to test the question of title.

"In January, 1846, in order to make legal a suit against the State and to relieve the occupants of the lands of responsibility and litigation, an act was passed by the State Legislature authorizing the trustees of Vincennes University to bring suit against the State of Indiana for other purposes. This suit in the Marion County circuit court resulted in a decree in favor of the trustees in the amount of $30,099.66.

“On an appeal to the supreme court of the State the decision was reversed, the court holding that the act of the Territorial Legislature of 1806 granting the lands of the Vincennes University was nugatory, because no such power was vested in it by act of Congress, and that they were not, at the time of sale and disposal, in existence as a corporation, having allowed their corporation to lapse.

“The trustees of Vincennes University were pot satisfied with this decision, and they sued out a writ of error from the Supreme Court of the United States, which at the December term, 1852, reversed the decis.

Laws of 1828, chap. 87, p. 127.

ion of the supreme court of the State, holding that when the Territorial Legislature of 1806 incorporated a board of trustees for the Vincennes University,' a grant of a township in the Vincennes district by the Congress of 1804, and which was located by the Secretary of the Treasury in 1806, attached to this board, although for the two preceding years there had been no grantee in existence; and holding further that if the board of trustees, by a failure to elect when vacancies occurred or through any other means, became reduced to a less number than was authorized to act by the charter, the corporation was not thereby dissolved, but its franchises only suspended until restored by legislative action."

The Vincennes University obtained judgment in its favor to the amount of $66,585, but as one-fourth went for counsel fees? only about forty thousand dollars were realized.

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS.

The attitude of the State of Indiana toward the promotion of education and the establishment of a system of schools including all grades from the elementary to the university is plainly indicated in the first State Constitution, adopted in 1816. As in its Territorial organization, so now legislators were ambitious for the advancement of learning. The statesmen provided for a system of education by a constitutional act, and the people voted for the same; but many years were to elapse before a respectable system of schools should be established. There was need of the schools, but the nascent state of the country would not admit of a full organization. Even the beginnings of colleges and universities, started under whatsoever auspices, were feeble institutions at best.

Section one of Article IX of the Constitution of 1816 treats of the necessity of a general diffusion of “knowledge and learning” for the “preservation of a free government,” enjoins upon the General Assem. bly the duty of protecting and improving the public lands granted for school purposes, and finally closes with the following clause: “The General Assembly shall, from time to time, pass such laws as shall be calculated to encourage intellectual, scientifical, and agricultural improvement by allowing rewards and immunities for the promotion and improvement of arts, sciences, commerce, manufactures, and natural history, and to countenance and encourage the principles of humanity, industry, and morality.”2 This was followed by a more specific statement, which enacts that, “It shall be the duty of the General Assem. bly, as soon as circumstances will permit, to provide by law for a general system of education, ascending in a regular gradation from township schools to a State university, wherein tuition shall be gratis

1 The trustees brought suit against their counsel, Mr. Judah, for retaining an exorbitant fee. Mr. Judah, after sustaining defeat in two lower courts, finally won the case in the Supreme Court of the United States.

2 Constitution of Indiana (1816), Art. IX, sec. 1.

and equally open to all.”1 It was further provided that, " For the promotion of such salutary ends, the money which shall be paid as an equivalent by persons exempt from militia duty, except in times of war, shall be exclusively and in equal proportions applied to the support of county seminaries ; also all fines assessed for any breach of the penal laws shall be applied to said seminaries in the counties wherein they shall be assessed.92

THE NATURE OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM.

Thus “the pioneer legislators of Indiana conceived an educational system that should meet the entire wants of the people. The common school was to be its base and the State university its apex. The county. seminary was to fill the space between and furnish a preparatory course for the university. The conception was good in theory, but did not succeed well in practice. The failure was caused by a general want of successful educators at the head of the county seminaries who could draw support and build them up.3

But this plan has been approximated to after many years of partial success and failure. The undeveloped state of the country must be taken into account for the greater part of the failure. It is shown by the history of every State in the Union that where a territory is settled by individuals, and local interests have been first inaugurated, a complex school system can not exist until a comparatively highly developed state of society is reached.

Localism and sectionalism, which have brought into existence so many premature institutions, and have likewise caused their early death, have had their influence upon State systems of learning everywhere. Not until a new territory becomes sufficiently thickly settled, so that the interests of different sections touch each other and a common sentiment of justice flows, and a feeling of unity prevails throughout the State, will there be a successful system of education. Commonwealths grow into real being, and in nearly every case the first legislators anticipate the needs of a people by a long period of time.

The university was not organized for eighteen years after the adoption of the Constitution, although a seminary was soon started. There was provision in 1824 for the organization of county seminaries, while the common school system was not established until 1851, thirty-five years after the adoption of the Constitution, forty-seven after the Territorial organization, and one hundred and twenty-one after the settlement of the country (1730).

FOUNDING OF THE UNIVERSITY.

When Indiana was admitted to the Union in 1816, an additional township of land was granted to the State for the support of an institution

3 Smart: Schools of Indiana, 26.

Constitution of Indiana (1816), Art. IX, sec. 2. * Ibid., sec. 3.

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of advanced learning. A provision in the Constitution required that no lands should be sold prior to 1820. In this year the State Seminary was incorporated,' and located at Bloomington, in Monroe County. This was the organic beginning of the present Indiana University. The seminary was endowed with the new township, and also with the Gibson County lands, hitherto referred to as granted to Vincennes University, with the exception of four thousand acres already sold.

TREATMENT OF PUBLIC LANDS.

The first plan was to derive an income for the new institution by lease of the lands, but afterwards it was determined to sell the remainder of these lands, the minimum price being fixed at five dollars

per acre.3

“This is the earliest instance," says Knight, "in the North-West Territory where the system of leasing university lands was formally aban-' doned in favor of the method since adopted by the five States.” 4 But t seems that the Legislature returned to the old plan and leased the Monroe County lands at public auction by an act of 1825, the minimum rental being fixed at sixty-two and one-half cents per acre. All the rents and accumulations of the fund of the Gibson County lands were appropriated at this time by the Legislature.

Two years later it was enacted that all the unsold lands should be divided into three classes, and the minimum prices be graded at three dollars and a half, two and a quarter, and one and a quarter, respect. ively.

These lands, with the exception of three sections near the university, were to be sold at public auction within a year, and the proceeds placed in the State treasury, while the interest was placed under the control of the trustees. The fund was loaned in small amounts to private parties on not more than five years' time, at six per cent. per annum, instead, as had been the custom previously, of loaning to the State.?

In 1828 the three sections near Bloomington, previously reserved, were placed under the control of the trustees. Subsequently (1830) one section was sold, at a minimum price of five dollars per acre, and finally the remaining two, to purchase apparatus for the college. The lands not sold at auction might be purchased privately at the minimum prices established in 1827. The minimum prices of the three grades of land above referred to were placed in 1830 at two dollars and a half, one and a half,

1 Laws of Indiana, 1820, chap. 48, p. 32. 2 Ibid., p. 160. 3 Ibid., 1822, p. 111. 4 Land Grants for Education in the North-West Territory. 6 Laws of Indiana, 1825, p. 97; see Knight, 126. 6 See Knight, 127. ? Laws of Indiana, 1828, p. 127. 8 Ibid., 1830, p. 166.

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and seventy-five cents per acre, respectively.' At these low prices a greater proportion of the lands were soon sold, but the remainder was taken up slowly.

By 1843 forty-two thousand acres had been sold, which yielded an income of about five thousand dollars to the university, the fund itself amounting in 1846 to $59,770, exclusive of balances still due from purchasers.

After the case in litigation between the Vincennes University and the Indiana University was finally decided in the former's favor, the United States granted to the Indiana University an amount of land equivalent to the amount for which the Vincennes University had obtained judgment; and again, in 1852, the Federal Government granted 4,136 acres in lieu of the four thousand acres sold by the Vincennes University. Thus more than a township of new lands accrued to the Indiana University, which were appraised in 1859 and sold at auction, From sixty thousand acres thus sold $139,036.74 were realized, and composed the fund in 1882. This was at an average of about two dollars and thirty cents per acre. At that date there were 8,526 acres still unsold.

INDIANA COLLEGE.

To place the seminary under more immediate control of the Legis. lature, a board of visitors was instituted and required to report annually to the General Assembly.5

In the following year (1828) the seminary 6 was changed into the Indiana College, which was placed under the control of fifteen trustees.' The college was established for the education of youth in the American, learned, and foreign languages, the useful arts, science, and literature." It was enacted that no sectarian principles were to be inculcated, and that instructors and students were not to be denied any rights and privileges on account of religious opinions. Immediately following this change, the vigorous and popular administration of Dr. Andrew Wylie took place. The old-time classical college curriculum was followed, which afterwards gave place to the "one study” system.

INDIANA UNIVERSITY.

Again, in 1838, the Indiana College was enlarged, and became Indiana University, which latter name it has retained to the present time.

? Laws of Indiana, 1830, p. 167.
2 Auditor's Report, 1845 ; quoted by Knight, 127.
3 Knight, 130; cites U. S. Statutes, X, 267.
4 Auditor's Report, 1882.
5 Woodburn, MS. ; Laws of Indiana, 1827, chap. 101, p. 99.
6 Smart, 138.
7 Laws of Indiana, 1828, chap. 82, p. 115.
8 Woodburn, MS.
9 Smart, 138.

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