網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

665. But the power of the States does not extend to passing Bankrupt* or Insolvent Laws which discharge the obligation of antecedent contracts; for, under the restriction contained in the Constitution, a State Law can discharge such contracts only as were made subsequently to its enactment, within the State and between its own citizens, and it does not extend to contracts, although made within the State, if made with a citizen of another State; nor to any contract, by whomsoever made, if made in other States or foreign countries.

666. The Legislature of the Union possesses the power of enacting Bankrupt Laws, and the State Legislatures of enacting Insolvent Lavys; and a State lias, moreover, authority to pass a Bankrupt Law when no Act of Congress exists on the subject with which the State Law might conflict. But whether Congress legislate on the subject or not, no Bankrupt, Insolvent, or other Law passed by a State, is permitted by the Federal Constitution " to impair the obligation of Contracts."

667. Although Congress has heretofore exercised the power vested in it relative to the subject, yet its former Bankrupt Laws were suffered to expire by their Own limitation; and at present there is no uniform system of Bankruptcy in operation in the United States.

668. The power of Congress " to prescribe,"'' in Us discretion, " by general Laws, the manner in which the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of each State shall be proved, and the effect they shall have in other Slates," has been found, as was intended, a convenient instrument of justice, and particularly beneficial on the borders of contiguous States, where persons and effects liable to judicial process, may be suddenly and clandestinely removed to a foreign jurisdiction.

669. The clause vesting this power previously declares that" full faith and credit shall be given in each State, to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other State f and the Act passed by Congress in execution of this power, not only prescribes the manner of authentication, but declares that when so authenticated, they " shall have such faith and credit given to them in every Court within the United States, as they have by Law or usage in the Courts of the State from whence they are taken."

670. The Common Law gives to the Judgments of the Courts of one State the effect of prima facie evidence, or evidence open to impeachment, expla*nation, or contradiction, in the Courts of every other State; but the Constitution contemplates, and Congress have executed, a further power of giving a conclusive effect to such judgments as evidence admitting neither of impeachment, explanation, or contradiction, in the Courts of every other State, provided they have that effect in the State in which they ara rendered.

CHAPTER IV.

OF THE POWERS VESTED IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, RELATIVE TO CERTAIN MISCELLANEOUS OBJECTS OF GE-NBRAL UTILITY.

671. The Powers vested in the Federal Government, in relation to certain Specified objects of general utility, comprehend

I. A Power " to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their writings and discc*veries."

672. Before the American Revolution, the right of property of authors- and inventors in their inventions and discoveries, was made a question in England; and it was finally settled by a Judgment of the House of Lords, reversing an almost unanimous decision of the Court of King's Bench, that this right had no foundation in the Common Law.

673. Even those Judges in the Court below, who, reasoning upon different principles, arrived at the opposite conclusion, seem to have been perplexed with the indefinite nature of such a right, and embarrassed by the consequences of admitting it.

674. To deprive men of genius of the right to the profits of invention was, on the one hand, discouraging to the useful arts, and injurious to the progress of learning and science ; whilst, on the other hand, an unlimited right to the exclusive enjoyment of the fruits of genius and discovery, although for a time it. might stimulate both, would, in its consequences, levy a perpetual tax on posterity, and impede the progress of invention itself.

675. Yet, to deny to inventors the fair profits derivable from their talents and exertions, seemed to be at variance with the dictates of natural justice and liberal policy, as it was, in effect, to deny to genius its appropriate reward; and to withhold from the powers of intellect, one of tha strongest stimulants to their activity.

676. The existing Statute, enacted in the reign of Queen Anne, limiting the rights of .authors and inventors to a term of years, was regarded as a compromise by which their claims were acknowledged, their rights defined and protected, and their reward secured; whilst a public interest was effectually created, and its benefit transmitted to posterity.

[ocr errors]

677. With this Statute, and this decision before them, and with a full knowledge of the principles and policy on which both were founded, the several States ceded to Congress the power " to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their writings and discoveries.''

678. The English Law had limited the right to a term of years; the Power ceded by the Federal Constitution was to secure it for limited times; the former restricting the right to a definite term; the latter adopting the same principle, but leaving the quantum of interest to the discretion of Congress.

679. In execution of this power, several Acts have "been passed by Congress, and are now in force, defining the times for which the exclusive rights of authors and inventors to their respective writings and discoveries, shall be enjoyed, and securing them in such enjoyment for different periods in different eases.

680. The object, therefore, of this provision of the Constitution, and of the Laws enacted under it, was twofold; first, to secure to inventors and authors a reward for their genius, by granting them an exclusive privilege for limited times; and secondly, to secure to the public the benefit of their inventions, by bringing the property in them into the common stock, after the expiratioA of the exclusive grant.

681. This double object can only be effected by such a construction of the Constitution as will leave to Congress the exclusive power of legislation on the subject; although it has been held in some of the State Court* that the power is concurrent and may be exercised by the State legislatures, provided their laws do not contravene the Acta of Congress

[graphic]
« 上一頁繼續 »