A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States

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Chapter XVIII: Post Office and Post Roads—Patents for Inventions

§179. The next power of Congress, is to "establish post offices, and post roads." This power is peculiarly appropriate to the National Government, and would be at once unwieldly, dilatory, and irregular in the hands of the States, from the utter impracticability of adopting any uniform system of regulations for the whole continent, and from the inequality of the burdens, and benefits of any local system, among the several States, in proportion to their own expenditures. Under the auspices of the General Government, the post office has already become one of the most beneficent, and useful of our national establishments. It circulates intelligence, of a commercial, political, literary, and private nature, with incredible speed and regularity. It thus administers, in a very high degree, to the comfort, the interests, and the necessities of persons in every rank and station of life. It is not less effective, as an instrument of the government; enabling it, in times of peace and war, to send its orders, execute its measures, transmit its funds, and regulate its operations, with a promptitude and certainty, which are of incalculable importance, in point of economy, as well as of energy. The rapidity of its movements has been, in a general view, doubled within the last twenty years; and therewere, at the close of the year 1838, twelve thousand five hundred and fifty-three post offices in the United States; and mails then travelled, in various directions and on various routes, more than one hundred and thirty-four thousand miles. The net amount of postage, in the same year, amounted to little short of three millions of dollars. It seems wholly unnecessary to vindicate the grant of a power, which has been thus demonstrated to be of the highest value to all the people of the Union.

§180. The next power of Congress is, "to promote the progress of science, and the useful arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors, and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings, and discoveries." The utility of this power has never been questioned. Indeed, if authors, or inventors, are to have any real property or interest in their writings, or discoveries, it is manifest, that the power of protection must be given to, and administered by, the General Government. A copyright, or patent, granted by a single State, might be violated with impunity by every other; and, indeed, adverse titles might at the same time be set up in different States to the same timing, each of which, according to the laws of the State, in which it originated, might be equally valid. No class of men are more meritorious, or are better entitled to public patronage, than authors and inventors. They have rarely obtained, as the histories of their lives sufficiently establish, any due encouragement and reward for their ingenuity and public spirit. They have often languished in poverty, and died in neglect, while the world has derived immense wealth from their labors, and science and the arts have reaped unbounded advantages from their discoveries. They have but too often possessed a barren fame, and seen the fruits of their genre gathered by those, who have not blushed to purloin, what they have been unable to create. It is, indeed, but a poor reward, to secure to authors and inventors, for a limited period, only, an exclusive title to that, which is, in the noblest sense, their own property; and to require it ever afterwards to be dedicated to the public. But, such as the provision is, it is impossible to doubt itsjustice, or its policy, so far as it aims at their protection and encouragement.

§181. The power, in its terms, is confined to authors and inventors; and cannot be extended to the introducers of any new works or inventions. This has been thought, by some persons of high distinction, to be a defect in the Constitution. But perhaps the policy of further extending the right is questionable; and, at all events, the restriction has not hitherto operated as any discouragement of science or the arts. It has been doubted, whether Congress has authority to decide the fact, that a person is an author or inventor, in the sense of the Constitution, so as to preclude that question from judicial inquiry. But, at all events, such a construction ought never to be put upon the terms of any general act in favor of a particular inventor, unless it be inevitable.

§182. The next power of Congress is, "to constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court." But this will hereafter properly come under review, in considering the structure and powers of the Judicial department.

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Chicago: "Chapter XVIII: Post Office and Post Roads— Patents for Inventions," A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States in Joseph Story, a Familiar Exposition of the Constitution (1859; Washington D.C.: Regnery Gateway, Inc., 1986), Pp.151-153 152–155. Original Sources, accessed June 19, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4BJJHHGD942C78U.

MLA: . "Chapter XVIII: Post Office and Post Roads— Patents for Inventions." A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, in Joseph Story, a Familiar Exposition of the Constitution (1859; Washington D.C.: Regnery Gateway, Inc., 1986), Pp.151-153, pp. 152–155. Original Sources. 19 Jun. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4BJJHHGD942C78U.

Harvard: , 'Chapter XVIII: Post Office and Post Roads— Patents for Inventions' in A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States. cited in , Joseph Story, a Familiar Exposition of the Constitution (1859; Washington D.C.: Regnery Gateway, Inc., 1986), Pp.151-153, pp.152–155. Original Sources, retrieved 19 June 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4BJJHHGD942C78U.