Mr. Morrill Goes to Washington

On Monday (June 25) at the Library of Congress – in a conference anybody can attend, free of charge – the contributions of a congressman you’ve probably never heard of, but really should know about, will be explored.

Justin Morrill of Vermont may never be as well-known as his executive-branch supporter in these endeavors, Abraham Lincoln.  (It’s probably safe to predict that you will never see a movie titled “Justin Morrill: Vampire Hunter.”) But Justin Morrill set a standard that was more than just admirable: he was the central figure in the establishment of the land-grant colleges that made higher education a reality for generations of Americans; he championed the establishment of the National Academy of Sciences; he even helped get the congressional library (yes, the Library of Congress) out of its cramped digs over in the U.S. Capitol and into its own building on Capitol Hill.

When you think about it, that combination of illuminations — higher ed, science, and access to libraries – had a lot to do with making the United States a world power.

The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, who will speak about Morrill at the conference, says he was a low-key congressman who didn’t hold major leadership positions or call a lot of attention to himself.  His name lives on in his good works.

But what good works!

Also speaking at the conference, “Creating a Dynamic, Knowledge-Based Democracy,” will be U.S Sens. Patrick Leahy and Lamar Alexander; U.S. Rep. Rush Holt; Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corp. of New York (which is sponsoring the event); Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences; M. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities; Anthony W. Marx, president of the New York Public Library; and Carla D. Hayden, CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

Information about the conference, which starts at 8:30 am. in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium (10 First St. SE, Washington, DC) and will end at 3:30 p.m. and be followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial at 4 p.m., is here.

Come on down to the Library and indulge in a little significant history!


  1. Lee Ann R. Benkert
    June 22, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Will anyone be tweeting live from the conference? If so, conference hashtag? Thanks!

  2. Jennifer Gavin
    June 22, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Yes! My colleague John Sayers will live-tweet it, using the hashtag #morrill

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.