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FEDERAL DEPARTMENT PROPOSED

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The three decades following the midpoint of the 19th century, which produced the Johnson-Atwater philosophy of administration for a State-sponsored station, gave simultaneously to the Federal Government a remarkable opportunity to conduct scientific research in agriculture. The Committee on Agriculture of the House of Representatives favorably reported in August of 1856 a bill proposing the establishment of a Department of Agriculture. This bill provided for the severance of the Patent Office from the Department of the Interior and recommended the promotion of the enlarged Patent Office to the status of a “Department" under a Commission of noncabinet rank.

The House Committee in its accompanying report urged Congress to subsidize the study of agricultural science and to make scientific research in agriculture a major assignment for the proposed department. The Federal Government ought to accept the new responsibility, the Committee contended, because that Government, unlike the State and local agricultural societies whose attempts at research had proved unsatisfactory and unproductive, could supply sufficient means and administrative capacity to employ a force of experimenters, to coordinate the efforts of experiment-minded personnel in the States, and, in short, to accomplish the necessary research activity (11).

The committee stressed the technical function of their "economical, practical, and scientific department.” They specified that under no circumstances should a politician fill the Commissioner's chair. Responsible for the active direction of his department, the Commissioner should have the competence to select and direct a group of assistants including among others “four men of sufficient scientific and practical qualifications to prosecute investigations in agricultural science and rural economy. ." Though the committee did not limit the Commissioner's duties solely to the administration of scientific research, they clearly revealed their intention to encourage the emerging scientific bent of the Agricultural Division in the Patent Office, which recently had added an entomologist and a chemist to its staff.

Thus there appeared in 1856, the same year in which Johnson aired his station philosophy in New York, the beginnings of a Congressional sympathy for a federally subsidized laboratory concentrating on agricultural research. The desired department, however, did not appear in 1856. Despite the approval of the Committee on Agriculture, the bill lay on the table in the busy House for the remainder of the session.

The movement to institutionalize experimentation on a formal and practical basis at Federal expense gathered momentum during the following 6 years. In 1862 the sponsors of a revised proposal successfully guided through the Federal Congress a bill establishing a Department of Agriculture. The House bill of 1862 specifically directed the Commissioner "to acquire and preserve in his Department all information concerning agriculture which he can obtain by means of books and correspondence and by practical and scientific experiments (accurate records of which experiments shall be kept in his office), by the collection of statistics, and by any other appropriate means within his power ..." (12). Although this provision did not insist on the exclusive use of techniques of experimentation in the Commissioner's

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dutiful and comprehensive search for information, another provision did emphasize the importance of scientific research when it empowered the Commissioner to employ, when Congress so provided, “chemists, botanists, entomologists, and other persons skilled in the natural sciences pertaining to agriculture."

The House Committee on Agriculture in Febrvary of 1862 stoutly contended, furthermore, during the floor discussion of the duties to be assigned to the proposed commissionership, that scientific experi. mentation would constitute an essential duty of the new Federal agency because that research, in turn, would provide a needed service (13).

The Committee insisted that a separate Federal Department of noncabinet status should shoulder complete responsibility in the United States for the study of agricultural science and the discovery of new facts useful to farming. Their insistence not only reaffirmed the views of the Committee of 1856; it resolutely maintained in effect that the Federal Government should immediately and determinedly enter a field of activity which thus far the State governments had refused to enter. The House, not quarreling with this position, passed the Committee's bill without significant change.

RIVAL GROUPS BATTLED

The Senate, however, subjected the House bill to the pressures of opposing amendments. One Senatorial group objected to the creation of a separate department. Convinced that the Commissioner ought to head a Bureau of Agriculture and Statistics within the Department of the Interior, this bloc favored a type of fact-gathering which in practice would pertain more to commerce and manufacturing than to farming. Assuming that a search for "information ... valuable in relation to the mode of cultivation, renovation, and drainage of the soil" would give satisfactory scope to the Commissioner's investigatory duties for agriculture, their substitute measure eliminated all indications that the new Bureau should have power to conduct scientific research (4). A rival group battled for a separate department of four bureaus, each of which should concentrate by direction on a clearly defined area of investigation in agricultural science and technology (14). This proposal urged the empty-pocketed Congress in wartime to authorize a large and expensive department devoted exclusively to scientific research.

This pair of contradictory attitudes demonstrated the extent to which the Senators grappled with the central question implicit in the assignment of duties to a Federal administrator, namely, whether the Federal Government should limit its activities to the collection of assorted statistics or, instead, specialize in laboratory research in agriculture. The rival viewpoints neutralized each other. The Senate finally agreed to accept the original House bill which directed the new Department “to acquire useful information on subjects connected with agriculture in the most general and comprehensive sense of that word. ..." It did not require the Department to concentrate exclusively on the conduct of "practical and scientific experiments;" it enumerated additional duties of a nonscientific nature.

Nowhere did the spokesmen for the act of 1862 announce an intention to build an experiment station within the Department, nor did

they disclose any tangible familiarity with the European movement or with Johnsonian proposals. The House Committee in February 1862, observed that European "experimental stations" were conducting precise experiments in animal and plant nutrition. Content with this vague allusion, the committeemen did not thereupon advocate that the Department should become an American station; instead they used their brief reference to European institutions only as one of many arguments that the American Federal Government should subsidize the study of agricultural science and publish the results of experimentation, as the European governments already had done. Behind the scenes, the United States Agricultural Society, practically from its birth in 1852 a prime mover in the effort to secure a separate Department of Agriculture (2), did not lobby for a Federal station. Though favoring the increase of scientific knowledge for farming purposes, it remained unresponsive to the station idea as an effective technique for the administration of agricultural investigation.

EARLY POLICIES SET

The Department of Agriculture received from its organic act ample powers and opportunity, nevertheless, to accommodate admirably in the following years the emerging Johnson-Atwater formula for an ideal research institution. Located by law in the District of Columbia, the Department erected its buildings on a nonfarm plot in a suburban environment. Administratively, it was independent and free from the ties of either an agricultural society or an agricultural college. Authorized to employ scientists and directed to acquire facts pertaining to agriculture, the Department appeared ready to function as a scientific institution. Only in two respects, apart from the substitution of Federal for State sponsorship, did the new agency show significant departures from the high standard of Johnson and Atwater. The act of 1862 did not require or intimate that the Commissioner must be a scientist, nor did it designate scientific research as his sole duty. That act specified, in fact, that the Department not only must acquire information but also must "diffuse" it.

While passage of the 1862 legislation gave the Department of Agriculture a scientific reputation, its early Commissioners were unfamilar with the intricacies of scientific research. There was a tendency in those early years to become preoccupied with other responsibilities outlined in the Act. Many problems combined in delaying until the late 1880's crystallization of any clear departmental research policy based on "long continued experiments" (8).

Slow progress in developing the Department as a national experiment station served as an incentive in the States to go ahead with State stations. Atwater's labors, given recognition in the establishment of the first regularly organized experiment station at New Haven in 1877, encouraged legislatures in other States to grant subsidies for station purposes. North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Maine initiated the Johnson-Atwater format and established "independent" institutions during the station-founding decade 1877–87 (10, pp. 82-106). The precise format, however, did not characterize the administrative origins of every American experiment station emerging in that period.

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An assertive movement, rooted in a native American philosophy of agricultural education, secured generous Federal aid for station purposes in the years preceding passage of the Hatch Experiment Station Act. This movement deeply influenced the succeeding development of the station story in the United States, and it compelled the introduction of significant revisions in the administration of station research.

LITERATURE CITED

(1) ATWATER, W. 0. 1876. AGRICULTURAL-EXPERIMENT STATIONS IN EUROPE. U.S. Dept. Agr.

Rpt. 1875: 517-524. (2) CARRIER, LYMAN. 1937.

THE UNITED STATES AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY, 1852-1860. Agr. Hist.

11 (4): 278–288. (3) CONNECTICUT BOARD OF AGRICULTURE. 1882. EXPERIMENT STATION. Conn. Bd. Agr. Ann. Rpt. (1881-82) 15:

264-270. (4) FOSTER, [L. S.) 1862. DEBATE ON H.R. 269. Cong. Globe, 37th Cong., 2d Sess., pp. 1755–

1757 ; 2017. (5) HUBBARD, R. D., and BREWER, W. H. 1878. REPORT OF THE BOARD OF CONTROL. Conn. State Agr. Expt. Sta.

Ann. Rpt. 1877: [7]-11. (6) JOHNSON, S. W. 1856. LECTURE, “ON THE RELATIONSHIPS THAT EXIST BETWEEN SCIENCE

AND AGRICULTURE.”. N.Y. State Agr. Soc. Trans. (1855) 15:

[73]-95. (7) OSBORNE, E. A. 1913. FROM THE LETTER-FILES OF S. W. JOHNSON. 292 pp., illus. New

Haven. (8) Ross, E. D. 1946. THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE DURING THE COM

MISSIONERSHIP. Agr. Hist. 20 (3): 129–143. See also: DUPREE,
A. H. SCIENCE IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. 460 pp., 1957.

Cambridge. (9) THE HARTFORD DAILY COURANT. 1875. THE FARMERS' EXPERIMENT STATION. The Hartford Daily Courant

39 (134): 2. June 4, 1875. (10) TRUE, A. C. 1937. A HISTORY OF AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENTATION AND RESEARCH IN

THE UNITED STATES, 1607-1925. U.S. Dept. Agr. Misc. Pub. 251,

321 pp., illus. (11) UNITED STATES CONGRESS, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE.

1856. REPORT H.R. 321, TO ACCOMPANY H.R. 550, ON THE DEPARTMENT OF

AGRICULTURE. Cong. Globe and app., 34th Cong., 1st Sess., pp.

8-10. (12) 1862. H.R. 269: A BILL TO ESTABLISH A DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.

Cong. Globe, 37th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 855. (13) 1862. A REPORT TO ACCOMPANY H.R. 269. Cong. Globe, 37th Cong., 2d

Sess., pp. 855–856. (14) WRIGHT, [J. A.]

1862. DEBATE ON 8. 249. Cong. Globe, 37th Cong., 2d Sess., pp. 1690–1692.

Chapter Four-
THE HATCH MOVEMENT: Winning

Federal Support for the Land-Grant
College Station

Collegiate experimentation in agriculture appeared very early in the agricultural colleges founded in the mid-19th century. The first States to institute the new schools explicitly directed, either by charter provision or by separate enactment, that the collegiate governing bodies initiate and maintain a program of experiments (21, pp. 71-75). These directives did not authorize, however, or imply the establishment of experiment stations. The pioneer agricultural colleges of the fifties did not immediately provide for organizing stations, nor did the legion of institutions endowed by the Land-Grant College Act of 1862. Nevertheless, the colleges assumed the responsibility for research. That duty immediately placed an unavoidable and heavy burden on the college staff, for it compelled those college officers charged with research duties to find effective procedures of administration at a time when the conventional system of experimenting, relying heavily on empirical field and livestock tests, had not yet incorporated laboratory techniques.

The governing board of the Michigan Agricultural College, recognizing by 1862 that productive experimentation called for the talents of professional scientists, gave to its academic professors full responsibility for selecting and conducting all experiments; it authorized a laboratory-and-field approach, and appointed a faculty member to superintend the departmental programs (21, p. 74). This practice, a notable improvement over customary practices in sister institutions, gave early promise that Michigan would steadily develop specialized routines of administration and before long refine its system of research into a distinct stationlike organization which, in function, in budget, and in position, would approximate the well-established stations of Europe. Despite this promising beginning, a distinct station did not develop at this pace-setting college during the following quarter century.

Similarly, in broad expanse of the Mississippi Valley, collegesponsored stations appeared only after long and disappointing delay. Prior to the passage of the Hatch Act in 1887, only three Valley colleges voluntarily launched station ventures: Tennessee in 1882, Wisconsin by direction of the State legislature in 1883, and Kentucky in 1885 (21, pp. 100-105). Elsewhere in the Nation the governing boards of the land-grant colleges proved almost equally hesitant to organize stations. Customarily until the mid-eighties they accepted as satisfactory the State legislative actions which founded and subsidized stations operating independently of college control. Only in California did the University trustees act at an early date (1875) to encourage a station movement and, aided by a subsidy from the State

* Italic numbers in parentheses refer to Literature Cited, p. 52.

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