(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.
The debate coach watched the Debate while I, knowing that it would upset me—as in the past—refrained. I did catch a brief answer by the President speaking about government involvement in which he praised Lincoln for establishing the National Academy of Science, subsidizing the transcontinental railroad and establishing Land Grant Colleges.
OBAMA: But as Abraham Lincoln understood, there are also some things we do better together. So, in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, let’s help to finance the Transcontinental Railroad, let’s start the National Academy of Sciences, let’s start land grant colleges, because we want to give these gateways of opportunity for all Americans, because if all Americans are getting opportunity, we’re all going to be better off.
The Academy (National Academy of Sciences) was chartered by Congress in 1863. Lincoln signed the charter on March 3 and the Academy was organized on April 22 of that year. (Note here that Earth Day was proclaimed on April 22, 1970.) The NAS in a private organization that holds a charter—much like the Boy Scouts—but does not receive federal funds.
The transcontinental railroad had no greater lobbyist than Abraham Lincoln who had drawn a line on a map with Grenville Dodge in 1858 to mark the route. (The War Department had surveyed four possible routes and recommended one from New Orleans to Los Angeles. The State Department had made the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 to facilitate this route which would have been built in far less time. Lincoln and Dodge drew a line on a map.) Lincoln had also purchased land in Council Bluffs, Iowa, as an investment. The Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 and 1864 established a funding mechanism of 30 year bonds and extensive land grants.
They federal government “owned” millions of acres from the Louisiana Purchase aka “Bonaparte’s Big Flip.” These lands were, in 1862, surplus and therefore expendable. The companies sold much of the land to acquire capital. The railroads were required to reimburse the government for the bonds and there was some default. The bonds and land grants paid about two-thirds of the costs and it was still necessary to raise private investment. (Note: Brigham Young was a serious investor of Union Pacific.)
Lincoln did have a setback in that his Illinois-Central railroad was not chosen, but rather Congress created the Union Pacific and Central Pacific.
One of the ideas that gave rise to the use of land grants was the Morrill Act. The Illinois Legislature had passed a resolution trying to get federal assistance for states to promote agricultural and mechanical education. Sen Lyman Trumbull recruited Rep Justin Smith Morrill to introduce the act which was vetoed by James Buchanan. In 1861 the act was re-introduced with the addition of training in military tactics. Added to the fact that this act and the Homestead Act were necessary to passage of the Transcontinental Railroad Act of 1862, Lincoln signed the Morrill Act.
The funding mechanism is that the States would sell the lands and use the funds to finance the schools. Again, like the National Academy of Sciences, no expenditure was made of federal funds.