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1824. one mode, viz. by securing, for a limited time, to om authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their Gibbons
v respective writings and discoveries. This might Ogden.
be an exclusive power, and was contended to be 80. Yet, there are a thousand other modes in which the progress of science and the useful arts may be promoted, as, by establishing and endowing literary and philosophical societies, and many others which might be mentioned. Hence, note withstanding this particular exclusive grant to Congress, of one mode of promoting the progress of science and the useful arts, the States may rightfully make many enactments on the general subject, without any repugnance with the peculiar grant to Congress.
But; to come now to the c iestion, whether these State laws be repugnant to this grant of power, we must first inquire, why it was conferred on Congress ? Why was it thought a matter of sufficient importance to confer this power upon the national government? The answer to this question would be found in the history of the country, in the nature of our institutions, and the great national objects which the constitution had in view. The country was in its infancy; its population was small; its territory immense: it had recently thrown off its bondage by the war of the revolution, and was left exhausted and poor-poor in every thing but virtue and the love of country. It was still dependent on the arts of Europe, for all the comforts, and almost all the necessaries of life. We had hardly any manufactures, science, or literature of our own. Our statesmen saw, the
great destiny which was before the nation, but 1824. they saw also the necessity of exciting the ener. Tim
Gibbons gies of the people, of invoking the genius of in
.. vention, and of creating and diffusing the lights of science. These were objects, in which the whole nation was concerned, and were, therefore, naturally and properly confided to the national government. The States, indeed, might have exercised their inherent power of legislating on this subject; but their sphere of action was comparatively small; their regulations would naturally have been various and conflicting. Discouragement and discontent would have arisen in some States, from the superior privileges conferred on the works of genius in others; contests would have ensued among them on the point of the originality of inventions; and laws of retortion and reprisal would have followed. All these difficulties would be avoided by giving the power to Congress, and giving it exclusively of the States. If it were wisely exerted by Congress, there could be no necessity for a concurrent exercise of the power by the States.
The terms of the grant are, “ Congress shall have power to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing, for a limited time, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” This exclusive right is to be co-extensive with the territory of the Union. The laws to be made for securing it, must be uniform, and must extend throughout the country. The exclusive nature of every power is to be tested by the character of the
1824. acts which Congress is to pass. This is the case
with the naturalization laws. The exclusiveness Gibbons
of the power to establish them, resulted from Ogden.
their character of uniformity. So here, the exclusiveness results from the character of the right which they are to confer. It is to be exclusive. It is not, indeed, said, that Congress shall have the exclusive power, but it is said that they shall have power to do a certain act, which, when done, shall be exclusive in its operation. The power to do such an act, must be an exclusive power. It can, in the nature of things, be performed only by a single hand. Is not the power of one sovereign to confer exclusive rights, on a given subject, within a certain territory, inconsistent with a power in another independent sovereign, to confer excluside rights on the same subject, in the same territory? Do not the powers clash? The right to be conferred by Congress, is to exclude all other rights on the subject in the United States; NewYork being one of those States. The right to be conferred by New-York, is to exclude all other rights on the subject within the State of NewYork. That one right may exclude another, is perfectly intelligible; but that two rights should reciprocally exclude each other, and yet both continue to subsist in perfect harmony, is inconceivable. Can a concurrent power exist, if, from the very nature of its action, it must take away, or render nugatory, the power given to Congress? Supposing the power to be concurrent, Congress may secure the right for one period of time, and the respective States for another. Congress may
secure it for the whole Union, and each State may secure it to a different claimant, for its own territory. Congress possesses the power of granting an exclusive right to authors and inventors, within the United States. New-York claims the power to grant such exclusive right within that State. An author or inventor in that State, may take a grant for a period of time far longer than that allowed by the act of Congress. He may take a similar grant from every other State in the Union; and thus this pretended concurrent power supersedes, abrogates, and annuls the power of Congress. What would become of the power of Congress after the whole sphere of its action was taken away by this concurrent power of the States? Who would apply to the power of Congress for a patent or a copy-right, while the States held up higher privileges ? This concurrent legislation would degenerate into advertisements for custom.
These powers would be in the market, and the highest bidder would take all. Are not powers repugnant, when one may take from the other the whole territory on which alone it can act? Is not the repugnance such as to annihilate the .power of Congress, as completely as if the whole Union was itself annihilated? · Something had been said of Congress repealing the laws of the State, wherever they should conflict with those of the Union. But where is this power of repeal? There is no such head of power in the constitution. Congress can aot only by positive legislation on any subject, and this it has done in the present instance. But this action
1824. would be in vain, if another authority can act on
the same subject. If this concurrent power would Gibbons
defeat the power of Congress; by withdrawing Ogden.
from it the whole territory on which it is to act, it would also defeat it by giving a monopoly of all the elements with which invention is to work. This has been done by these laws, as to fire and steam. Why should it not be done equally with all the other elements, such as gravitation, magnetism, galvanism, electricity, and others? What is to consecrate these agents of nature, and secure them from State monopoly, more than fire or steam? If not, then is the power of Congress subject to be defeated by this concurrent power, first by a monopoly of all the territory on which it can act, and then by a monopoly of all the elements and natural agents on which invention can be exerted. Still it would be said, that there is no direct repugnance between these powers, and that the power of Congress may still act. But on what can it act? The territory is gone, and all the powers of invention are appropriated. There is no difference whatever between a direct enactment, that the law of Congress shall have no operation in New-York, and enactments which render that operation impossible. If, then, this process of reasoning be correct, the inevitable conclusion from it is, that a power in the States to grant exclusive patents, is utterly incon atent with the power given to the national govern, ent to grant such exclusive patents: and hence, that the power given to Congress is one which is exclusive from its nature.