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Thomas Hedden '76
Unveiled in 1909 as a gift of the sculptor, Adolph Weinman, the Abraham Lincoln statue sitting atop Bascom Hill is the only replica of a statue Weinman previously erected in Hodgenville, Kentucky - Lincoln's birthplace. However, the inscription attributes the gift to Madisonian Thomas Brittingham, who paid for the casting and pedestal. The choice of Lincoln, as you'll see below, was by no means arbitrary. Abraham Lincoln was instrumental in passing the federal land-grant legislation that allowed state universities like the UW to grow and thrive, while allowing more students from all economic walks of life access to higher education. He signed three acts in 1862 that were key to enhancing the quality of UW-Madison: the first created the Department of Agriculture, the second was the Homestead Act and the third was the Morrill Act. The Morrill Act, originally vetoed by President Buchanan, donated public lands to several states, the sale of which was for "endowment, support and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life." Some states used the funds to start new colleges, while others, like Wisconsin and Minnesota, used the money to enhance institutions that were already established. With the passage of this act, equality of educational opportunity became a reality. The act was hailed as the "Education Bill of Rights" and proved to be instrumental in aiding those of modest financial status who were striving for a college education. "I can only say that I view education as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in." - Abraham Lincoln

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