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The University of California: What Makes It Unique?

Mind Before Mines

Land and a Charter

The University

President Gilman

The Constitutional Convention of 1878

Early Benefactors

Growth for the Twentieth Century


Chapter 3: Land and a Charter

Debt stalked the College of California from the beginning, and bill collectors routinely waylaid Durant in the streets of Oakland.

Once when the college bell was to be repossessed by a San Francisco hardware dealer for the $100 still owed, three students asked for a leave of absence and managed to raise the sum. Despite the intense commitment of Durant, the students, trustees, and friends of the College, the future remained doubtful.

In 1853 Congress bestowed upon the state 46,000 acres of public lands, proceeds of the sale of which were to be used for a "seminary of learning." In 1862 the Morrill Act offered a grant of public lands to each state that would establish a college to teach agriculture and the mechanic arts—and California's share was 150,000 acres. Taking advantage of this grant, the state legislature in 1866 established an "Agricultural, Mining and Mechanic Arts College."

The new College had funds but no campus. The College of California had an adequate site, but limited funds. Therefore, when the College of California in 1867 offered its buildings and lands to the state on condition that a "complete university" be established to teach the humanities as well as agriculture, mining, and mechanics, the legislature accepted. The act of 1866 was repealed and a new act passed. Signed by Governor H. H. Haight on March 23, 1868—Charter Day—the new act created the University of California.

The College property, in addition to the Oakland site, included land for a new campus among the oak trees and open fields, four miles to the north.

After prolonged deliberation by leaders of the university movement, the surrounding townsite was named for George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, who had visited America in 1729 in the hope of founding an educational institution for the evangelization and education of "aboriginal Americans." Finding the time not right, he had provided the model for Columbia University and endowed three scholarships at Yale.

He is the author of the poem whose last three stanzas hold a special meaning for Californians:

There shall be sung another golden Age,
The rise of Empire and of Arts,
The Good and Great inspiring epic Rage,
The wisest Heads and noblest Hearts.

Not such as Europe breeds in her decay;
Such as she bred when fresh and young,
When heav'nly Flame did animate her Clay,
By future Poets shall be sung.

Westward the Course of Empire takes its Way;
The four First Acts already past.
A fifth shall close the Drama with the Day;
Time's noblest Offspring is the last.




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Last updated 08/15/05.