LEE, ROBERT E., General, C.S.A. Autograph manuscript (unsigned), a transcript of the 1862 Morrill Land Grant Act, [Lexington, Virginia, c. 1866]. 3 full pages, 4to, lined stationery, two miniscule losses at central fold, a few tiny separations at folds.
THE FORMER CONFEDERATE COMMANDER AS AN ADVOCATE OF LAND GRANT SUPPORT FOR COLLEGES
A highly unusual manuscript attesting to Lee's strong advocacy of educational initiatives to help rebuild the war-shattered South, particularly his home state of Virginia. Lee became President of Washington College in October 1865 and in January 1866 was sent by the Washington College board to Richmond to confer with the Committee on Education of the Virginia Legislature to secure funds for the nearly bankrupt college (now Washington and Lee University). It is highly probable that the present complete transcript of the historic Morrill Act, signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862, dates from this period when Lee devoted his considerable energy to educational initiatives. "...An Act donating Public lands to...states & territories, which may provide colleges for the benefit of Agriculture & the mechanic arts. Be it enacted, That there be granted to the several states...an amount of public land... equal to [30,000] acres...apportioned to the several states in sections..." The conditions under which the grants are to be made are outlined, concluding with a stipulation that, "any state which may take & claim the benefit of the provision of this Act shall found within five years, at least not less than one College..."
The Agricultural College Land Grant Act, known as the Morrill Act after the Vermont Senator who sponsored the bill, was the result of a long campaign by agricultural groups, labor journals and journalists, including Horace Greeley. Each state was offered 30,000 acres of land for each Representative or Senator they had in Congress to serve as an endowment for the founding of state universities and agricultural colleges.