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Let us have, without further delay, at least one real university on the American Continent."1

In 1873 Mr. Hoyt was a member of the Congressional committee appointed to report on a national university. The committee, after considering the conditions of education in America and the endowments of colleges, reported the following reasons why a national university should be founded, viz: (1) That none has, or is likely to have for a century to come, resources essential to the highest and most complete university work. (2) That none can be made so entirely free from objection on both denominational and local grounds as to insure the patronage of the people regardless of sectional or partisan relation. (3) That no institution not established on neutral ground, or other than national in the important sense of being established by the people of the whole nation and in part by a national end, could possibly meet all of the essential demands made upon it."

2 The bill reported at this time provided for a university at the capital, endowed by the Federal Government to the amount of twenty million dollars, yielding 5 per cent interest; the income to be used for buildings, furnishings, and for the general support of the university. It is hardly necessary to state that the bill did not pass.

It is not intended to discuss the question of a national university, but attention should be called to the great changes that have taken place in higher education in the last fifteen years.

The old colleges have broadened their courses and increased their endowments. State universities have come into power during this period, and the agricultural colleges, many of them then begun, have developed into flourishing institutions of learning. There has arisen a new class of universities, created by heavy private endowments; such are Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Tulane, Clark, Boston, Stanford, and others. With these new additions and the progress of the old schools, many of the evils complained of in the above report have disappeared. Whether these new institutions, working with the old, will fill the national demands for education, and thus render a national university unnecessary remains to be seen. It is evident that it is not an easy task to create a national university.

1 Report on Education, U. S. Commission, Paris Exposition, VI. John W. Hoyt deserves great credit for his observations of higher education abroad.

House Report No. 89, 42d Congress, third session, I, 90:

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The first western boundary of the United States was the Mississippi River, and to this boundary the original States extended their claims. There were many conflicting claims, in the settlement of which there seemed to be a prospect of great contention. However, a plan was en: tertained by the leaders of the nation to cede to Congress this vast territory, to be used as a means of payment of the war debt. The States were invited to make concessions, and were assured that any lands thus ceded would be used for the common national benefit, and be formed into States as soon as expedient, similar to the origival thirteen. One after another the States gave up their claims on slightly varying con. ditions.

While the proposition of Virginia to cede all of her lands north of the Ohio River, on certain conditions, to the United States was before Congress, a measure was on foot in New England to form a State in the territory between Lake Erie and the Ohio River, to be settled by "army veterans and their families.” Col. Timothy Pickering drew up a plan of government of the prospective State, and Rufus Putnam prepared a petition signed by soldiers and forwarded the same to Congress through General Washington. This petition is important, because it contains the first mention of a national reserve of lands for the support of education.

The plan proposed that, after lands had been devoted to the payment of soldiers for services in the war, the remaining lands should belong to the State, to be used in " laying out roads, building bridges, erecting public buildings, establishing schools and academies, defraying expenses of the Government, and other public uses.94 In Mr. Putnam's letter to Washington he urged the reservation of portions of the land for schools and the ministry. Nothing direct came of this project, although its indirect influence in shaping affairs was considerable.

1 For a full discussion, see Knight's Land Grants for education in the North-West Territory; Sato's History of the Land Question in the United States.

2 New York gave up her claims in 1781 ; Virginia, in 1784; Massachusetts, in 1785; Connecticut, in 1786. 3 Pickering, I, 457,

546. 4 Life of Pickering, I, 546.




In the same year (1783) Colonel Bland moved to accept the Virginia proposition as offered, and that the lands be divided into districts, in which the Continental soldiers were to receive bounty lands. The income of one-tenth of the territory was to be devoted to “ the payment of the civil list of the United States; the erecting of frontier forts, the founding of seminaries of learning, the surplus, if any, to be appropriated to the building and equipping of a navy. The resolution was referred to a committee, and never came up again.


The Virginia cession was accepted by Congress with modifications, and there was guaranteed to the State sufficient land in reservation to pay off her obligations promised to her soldiers in the war.

On the first day of March, 1784, the date of the acceptance of the Virginia cession, Thomas Jefferson offered a plan for the temporary government of the Northwest Territory, in which no mention was made of provisions for seminaries of learning nor even for education in any form. The plan was accepted with amendments, yet without mention of education. In the following month Thomas Jefferson brought forward a plan for the survey and sale of the lands in question, which was indefinitely postponed by Congress. In 1785 it was again brought up and referred to a committee. This plan contained no mention of the provision made for ministers of the gospel, nor even for schools and academies." 2

The committee reported a new ordinance containing many propositions of the old, and in addition provided that “There shall be reserved the central section of every township for the maintenance of public schools, and the section immediately adjoining for the support of relig

ion." 3

For over a month the ordinance was debated before Congress, and the clause on religion was omitted and many other amendments made before its final adoption on the 20th of May, 1785. There was no mention of seminary grants in the ordinance, but the clause reserving " from sale lot number sixteen of every township for the maintenance of public schools within the township,” 4 marks the commencement of the policy since uniformly observed in the reservation of one section in each township of each State for the support of common schools.5


The petition of the New England officers of the army having failed, a body of citizens met on the 1st day of March, 1786, in Boston, at the

1 Bancroft: History of the Constitution, I, 312.
2 Life of Pickering, I, 509. King to Pickering.
3 Journals of Congress, IV, 500.
4 I bid., 521.

5 In the case of Oregon and all States admitted thereafter, two sections were granted for the support of common schools.

call of General Putnam and General Tupper, to consider the question of occupying “the Ohio.” At this meeting the Ohio company was formed, for the purpose of settling the said territory by soldiers of the Revolutionary War. A memorial was presented to Congress, which led to the reference of the subject to a committee, which reported a new bill differing from the plan referred to them. The committee in their report wished to reserve one section in each township for common schools, one for the support of religion, and four townships for the support of a university." Congress thought these concessions to this company too liberal, and desired to hold to the ordinance of 1785, which provided for the reservation of one section only for common schools. This was unsatisfactory to the company, whose case was managed by Dr. Manasseh Cutler, and a compromise was effected, by which Congress reserved one section for the support of religion, one for common schools, and two townships for the support of a “literary institution, to be applied to the intended object by the legislature of the State.” The bill became a law on the 13th of July, and is now commonly known as the “ordinance of 1787 for the government of the North-West Territory.”

Of the six articles of compact which form a párt of the Ordinance, the third is remarkable as indicating the future policy of the Federal Government and the several States. The oft-quoted passage is referred to which declares that “religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

This Ordinance was immediately followed by a contract with the Ohio Company, which fulfilled the conditions of the land grant and insured to the State of Ohio two townships of land for the support of a university.” f


In the same year (1787) John Cleves Symmes formed a company for settlement in the North-West Territory, and contracted with the board of treasury for a large tract of land. The land was purchased on nearly the same conditions as that obtained by the Ohio Company; the reservations for common schools and for the ministry were similar, but only one township was granted for a university.” Thus Ohio received three townships of land for the support of advanced learning.

No general law was passed by Congress concerning the granting of land for seminaries of learning, but the precedent of the celebrated Ordinance of 1787 became a national policy. After the year 1800 each

Bancroft, II, III. 2 Bancroft, II, 433, appendix. 3 Poore: Constitutions and Charters, 429. *These two townships were given to endow the State University at Athens, called the Ohio University. *This township was used to endow Miami University.


State admitted into the Union, with the exceptions of Maine, Texas, and West Virginia, received two or more townships of land for the purpose of founding a university. This national educational policy was inaugurated almost by accident. Congress was very desirous of disposing of the lands and to turn them to financial account at once. On the other hand, there were a few men like Pickering, Putnam, and Cutler, who were intensely earnest on the subject of education, and doubtless there was a majority of the members of Congress who favored the plan on account of its educational policy as well as the means which it afforded of facilitating the disposal of the public lands; but no one at that time could apprehend the far-reaching results of such a measure. And, as the matter stood, it is doubtful whether such a measure would have been carried in Congress at that time on the basis of national aid to education alone." Nevertheless it was a great measure, and if all were not fully alive to its importance as an educational movement, let us remember that the Constitution of the United States was at this period undergoing a narrow escape from defeat by those who did not understand its greatness.


Daniel Webster recognized the greatness of the Ordinance when he said:” “I doubt whether one single law of any lawgiver, ancient or modern, has produced effects of more distinct, marked, and lasting char. acter than the Ordinance of 1787.” And again: “It set forth and declared it to be a high and binding duty of Government to support schools and advance the means of education.”



In 1803 Congress extended the privileges of the Ordinance of 1787 to the States in the Mississippi territory, granting the sixteenth section of every township for the purposes of common-school education, and one entire township for the support of a seminary of learning." In 1806, by a special act of Congress, one hundred thousand acres were granted to Tennessee for two colleges, one to be established in East and one in West Tennessee, and one hundred thousand acres to establish an academy in each county. Thus, through the national policy inaugurated in 1787, 1,082,880 acres of land have been granted for seminaries of learning. in the United States. The actual results of this grant will be discussed in connection with the policy of each separate State. It is

1. Cf. Knight, 17.

* Webster's Works, III, 263.

*See Appendix B.

*In the admission of the States each received at least two townships. Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, and Minnesota received, respectively, 69,120, 92,120, 92,120, and 82,640 acres,

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