Governor Edmund J. Davis, Ezra Cornell, and
the A&M College of Texas
WILLIAM T. HOOPER, JR.*
W HEN EDMUND J. DAVIS TOOK OFFICE AS PROVISIONAL GOVERNOR OF
Texas on January 8, 1870, he found a great many unanswered
letters which had accumulated since the resignation of Elisha M. Pease as
chief executive on September 30, I869. Included in this mountain of cor-
respondence was a letter from Ezra Cornell, a New York financier and
philanthropist for whom Cornell University was named.
The purpose of this letter was to invite the governor's attention to the
fact that Texas would be receiving college land scrip from the federal gov-
ernment for agricultural and mechanical education. In selling this scrip,
Cornell recommended that Texas deal with a single agent in order to obtain
the best possible price and suggested the services of Gleason F. Lewis of
Cleveland, Ohio. Cornell pointed out that when he "took the New York
scrip it was selling in small parcels at fifty-five cents per acre." Later he
met Lewis and "suggested to him the policy of concentration, which he
accepted, and in less than three months thereafter... [Cornell] sold New
York scrip to him at ninety cents per acre."
Cornell had long been interested in the concept of agricultural and
mechanical colleges and in the implementation of the Morrill Act of 1862.
This act of Congress, originally vetoed by President James Buchanan in
1859, enabled the several states to establish agricultural and mechanical
colleges funded by grants of federal lands in the amount of 30,0oo acres
per United States representative and senator from each state, provided that
such colleges be established within five years of the passage of the act.
An amendment was passed on July 23, 1866, which granted an extension
of up to eight years from that date for each state to establish at least one
*Mr. Hooper is a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin.
2Ezra Cornell to "Dear Sir," December 15, 1869, Governors' Correspondence (Archives
Division, Texas State Library, Austin).
2Carl L. Becker, Cornell University: Founders and the Founding (Ithaca, 1943), 62-
63; The Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations, of the United States of America,
from December 5, x859, to March 3, x863, XII (Boston, 1863), 503-505; Congressional
Globe, 35th Cong., rst Sess. (Serial xi 6), 1742; ibid., -d Sess. (Serial xI1g), 857,
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117149/. Accessed July 3, 2015.