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CHAP. III. PROOF AND EFFECT OF STATE RECORDS. 171
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 Laws; and a State has, 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 sys. tem of Bankruptcy in operation in the United States.
668. The power of Congress " to prescribe," in its 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 States," 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 ju. risdiction.
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 ;" 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, explai nation, or contradiction, in the Courts of every other State ; but the Constitution contemplates, and Congress have executed, a further power of giving a concluside 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 are rendered.
OF THE POWERS VESTED IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT,
RELATIVE TO CERTAIN MISCELLANEOUS OBJECTS OF GENERAL 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 Sci
ence and the useful Arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their writings and disco.. veries.”
672. Before the American Revolution, the right of property of authors, and inventors in their inventions and discoveries, was made a question in Eng, land; 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 pow. ers of intellect, one of the 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
ated, and its benefit transmitted to posterity.
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 for. mer 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 cases.
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 expiration 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 Courts that the power is concurrent and may be exercised by the State legislatures, provided their laws do not contravene the Acts of Congress.
682. Prior to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, legislative Acts in favour of valuable discoveries and improvements had been passed in some of the States; but their efficacy being confined to the respective limits of those States, the privileges they conferred were of little value; and it was provided in the first Act of the National legislature, in relation to the subject, that the applicant for the benefit of the national protection, should surrender his right under any State Law.
683. Hence it seems to have been supposed that Congress could not effectually secure the exclusive rights of authors and inventors, without the exercise of an exclusive power of legislation on the subject ; and the necessity of such a power was an adequate reason for vesting it in the paramount authority of the Union.
684. The power under consideration falls under that class of cases, in which the exercise of a similar power by the States would be repugnant and contradictory to the power vested in Congress ; and in relation to its particular objects, the power of Congress seems to be necessarily exclusive, both from the terms, and the nature, of the grant.
685. The power of Congress being to secure the exclusive rights of authors and inventors for limited times, a concurrent power in a State over the subject, must arise from the unceded portion of its sovereignty, and must consequently be a power without limit of time ; but Congress could not secure to the inventor for a limited time the enjoyment of that which a State might grant to another forever.
686. The power of Congress seems, moreover, to be exclusive, in this case, from the nature of the grant ;