The Morrill Act was a law passed by Congress to encourage agricultural and technical colleges in the states. Long advocated by agricultural societies and farm journals, and sponsored by Senator Justin S. Morrill, the act offered 30,000 acres of land to the states for each representative and senator in Congress. In some states, the land was given as an endowment to newly established colleges while in others it went to existing institutions. With the notable exceptions of Cornell and MIT, almost all the beneficiary institutions were public.
The first attempt to pass the act succeeded in Congress, but was vetoed by President Buchanan in 1861. The secession of many of the southern states that did not support the plan made it easier to pass in 1862. The rebelling states were not part of the 1862 act. However, after the Civil War, southern states were included in the program. Senator Morrill is also known for his sponsorship of the Morrill Tariff.