UIHistories Project: A History of the University of Illinois by Kalev Leetaru
        F O U N D A T I O N


A World Gone Mad

The foundations of the Illinois Industrial University were finally cast in a world gone mad, a tumultuous time that would soon see the country march off to war against itself and destroy the unity it had so newly secured. If the Universitys seeds had been sown in January of 1859, then 1860 was dedicated to the cultivation, and February of 1861 would see the harvest. It would also be the start of a year that would soon see the birth of the Civil War. The sacred bonds of brotherhood, which had formerly crystallized the country, were to be shattered that year, as Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union on January 9th. It was followed the next day by Florida, and Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina all followed suit within the coming months. On April 12th, just 51 days after the Universitys fledgling start, the country finally plunged into war at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

There were a few bright spots in 1861, as the country found time to take a break from its war mongering to admit Kansas as the 24th state on January 29, and Colorado and Nevada were first organized into United States territories on February 28 and March 2, respectively. The literary classicGreat Expectations by Charles Dickens was published in this year, providing ample fodder for literary critics for nearly a century and a half. The cost of the new war forced the creation of the first income tax in the United States, established August 5, as part of the Revenue Act of 1861.

Order From Chaos

Into the midst of the chaos that was 1861, scholarly order would soon arise as the infant seminary finally received its charter.

On January 31, 1861, a group of 62 representatives from Urbana and Champaign presented a proposal to the state legislature offering a 7% tax from the Illinois central railroad to help fund the new state university if it was built in Urbana-Champaign. They also argued, without success, that Urbana-Champaign had thus far received no patronage from the state treasury. [1] The state took notice of their campaign and, on February 21, 1861, chartered the Urbana and Champaign Institute with the goal of establishing and maintaining a seminary of learning comprehending an agricultural, [sic] or other departments as the public may demand. However, ignoring their pleas for monetary support, the charter included no pledge of state funds. This lack of funding caused the Board of Trustees to delay construction of the seminary building during their first meeting on August 31, 1861. [2]


On July 2, 1862, when the country was solidly in the throes of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the first Morrill Land Grant Act into law, entitled AN ACT Donating Public Lands to the several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. The stage had been set for the Land Grant University.

With the passage of the Morrill Land Grant Act, federal aid had come to the rescue where state support had been so critically lacking. The Act placed a one-year waiting period on the states before they could make good its promise of a federally financed educational institution, but the internal politics of which region in the state would receive this windfall ensured that it would be several years before the institution would finally open its doors.[3]

On May 4, 1864, Supervisor Bailey, acting on the advice of Dr. C. A. Hunt of Urbana, proposed that the Twin Cities once again press the state to locate the forth-coming university locally by offering the new Institutes building as a political carrot. On December 12, 1864, Stoughtons company notified the cities that the building could not be leveraged for transference to the state until the remaining $24,000 of the buildings cost was paid in full to the company. [4] Seven days later the County Supervisors moved to pay the remaining costs and to purchase a farm for $15,000 for additional revenue. [5]

Governor Richard Yates established a committee on January 2, 1865 to evaluate each of the sites clamoring to be the new home of the university. [6] Upon visiting the proposed site at Urbana-Champaign, they proclaimed the general appearance of the country is unsurpassed in the west, for the beauty of its landscape, the richness and variety of its soil, interspersed with groves of fine timber and streams of pure water. [7] Although the committees role was purely an advisory one, they voted unanimously to locate the new university the Urbana-Champaign site. On January 10, 1865, State Representative Daniel Cook [8] amended a now-famous section 11 of a bill being drafted, suggesting that the new Land Grant Institution be located in Urbana-Champaign, and that the building, grounds and appurtenances, certain lots and ten acres of ground composing the college campus and a farm of one hundred and forty acres connected therewith of the Champaign Urbana Institute be donated as its new home. [9] This, of course, was met with fierce opposition from the other prospective sites, chief among them the southern regions, which argued that they had long been neglected by the rest of the state. An editorial on February 13, 1865 in the Journal epitomized the public diatribes that were used in an effort to sway Springfield, stating the buildings at Urbana, no matter how well adapted to the use for which they were originally designed, can scarcely be adapted to the use now proposed to be made of them. [10]

[1] Powell p201
[2] An Act to Incorporate the Urbana and Champaign Institute quoted in Powel, -202
[3] AN ACT Donating Public Lands to the several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts
[4] Powell, 203
[5] Powell, 204
[6] Powell, 192
[7] Powell, 206-207
[8] First attorney general of Illinois and US Congress Rep from 1819-1827 http://www.sos.state.il.us/departments/archives/irad/cook.html> accessed July 31, 2004
[9] Powell, 193
[10] Powell, 196
Bookmark and Share

Search Site:

Advanced Search

Site Navigation
   Welcome to the ...
      About The UIHis...
      All Buildings
      Gifts & Memoria...
      Other UI Histor...
      Special Feature...
      Student Life
      University Mile...
         Life Springs Fo...
         Settling into a...