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bill, on the 25th of April. His argument set out with an admission which was hardly calculated to help his case. He said he perfectly agreed with the publishers in the evidence given in 1818, that the extension of time would be a benefit to only one author in five hundred, and that they were then about to legislate for that five hundredth case. Why not? he asked; it was the great prize which, out of the five hundred risks, Genius and Goodness win. Granted that only one author in five hundred attain this end; does it not invite many to attempt it, and impress on literature itself a visible mark of permanence? What was the suggested injury to the public? That the price of books would be enhanced to the great prejudice of the community. But even supposing that to be the consequence, if justice required the sacrifice, it ought to be made. The community have no right to be enriched at the expense of individuals. But he denied that there was ground for this apprehension. The existence of the copy-right would not increase the price of the work, because whoever engaged the monopoly would be enabled to supply the article at a cheaper rate, when a single press was employed to print all the copies, instead of the presses and establishments of competing publishers.
But continued the Sergeant, similar apprehensions were entertained in 1813, when the publishers themselves claimed and obtained an extension of copy-right to twenty-eight years. Had then the number of books diminished since that time? Had the prices increased? Had the printers and bookbinders suffered from want of
employment? Had the profits of the booksellers failed? The contrary was notorious. But then it was boldly asserted that authors themselves were indifferent to the measure. True it was that the greatest living writers had not thought it befitting the dignity of their cause to appear as petitioners at the bar. But there were few who did not feel the honour of literature embarked in the cause. Mr. Wordsworth, emerging for a moment, from his retirement, had publicly declared his conviction of its justice. And Mr. Lockhart had stated his belief, that the total emancipation of Sir Walter Scott's estate from its encumbrances depended upon the success of this bill.
The measure was opposed by Mr. Hume, who stated the simple question to be, whether a copyright of twenty-eight years duration was a sufficient privilege to induce an author to devote his talents to the instruction or amusement of the public? Every man of talent ought to derive a fair advantage from the exercise of his abilitythe inventor of a machine, as well as the author of a poem. And men who made steam engines ought to be placed on a footing with those whom it was the object of this bill to protect.
But, it may be remarked, that the analogy here asserted between literary works and mechanical invention is evidently false. The distinction was well put by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who spoke in favour of the bill. By conferring upon a patentee an immortality of his patent, you would be giving him what was useless. One invention supersedes another with the greatest rapidity, and what was valuable in 1830, became obsolete in 1837. The learned
sergeant himself also had previously disposed of this objection, with some ingenuity of reasoning, however florid the garb in which he dressed his argument. "In cases of patent, the merits of the invention are palpable, the demand is usually immediate, and the recompense of the inventor in proportion to the utility of his work, speedy and certain. In cases of patent, the subject is generally one to which many minds are at once applied; the invention is often no more than a step in a series of processes, the first of which being given, the consequence will almost certainly present itself, sooner or later, to some of these inquirers; and if it were not discovered this year by one, would probably be discovered the next by another. But who would suggest, that if Shakspeare had not written Lear, or Richardson Clarissa, other poets or novelists would have invented them. In practical science every discovery is a step to something more perfect; and to give to the inventor of each a protracted monopoly, would be to shut out all improvement by others. But who can improve the masterpieces of genius? They stand perfect, apart from all things else, self-sustained, the models for imitation, the sources whence rules of art take their origin. And if we apply the analogy of mechanical invention to literature, we shall find, that in so far as it extends there is really in the latter no monopoly at all, however brief. For example, historical or critical research bears a strong analogy to the process of mechanical discovery, and how does the law of copyright apply to the treasures it may reveal? The fact discovered, the truth ascertained, becomes at once
the property of mankind-to accept, to state, to reason on; and all that remains in the author is the style in which it is expressed. No one ever dreamed that to assume a position which another had discovered, to reject what another had proved to be fallacious, to stand on the tableland of recognized truth, and start from it anew, was an invasion of the author's right. How earnest has been the thought, how severe the intellectual toil, by which the noblest speculations in the human mind and its destiny have been conducted! They are the beatings of the soul against the bars of its clay tenement, which, if baffled in the collision, attest at once, by their strength and their failure, that it is destined to move in a wider sphere. And yet the products of divine philosophy melt away into the intellectual atmosphere which they enrich and become the dreams and the assurances of others! So that the law of literary property of necessity accommodates itself to the nature of its subject, when the work is properly a creation, leaving it preserved in its entirety; when it is mere discovery, rendering the essence of truth to mankind, and preserving nothing to its author but the form in which it is enshrined."
Sir Robert Inglis, Mr. D'Israeli, Mr. Milnes, Mr. Williams Wynn, and Lord Mahon expressed their concurrence in the object of the bill; contending, that the present system did not provide a sufficient remuneration for authors. It was said, indeed, that the necessary consequence of extending the period of copyright would be a rise in the price of books. That, said Mr. D'Israeli was an objection to be decided by an appeal to facts.
He would take six standard works of the present age, and six of a similar stamp of the productions of the last generation, and he could shew that the modern works were offered to the public 100 per cent. cheaper than the older ones. He would further remind the House, that though Mr. Gibbon received 6,000l. for his history, this sum only just equalled his disbursements in the collection of books of reference for the purpose of writing it. Mr. Southey had projected a his tory of the monastic orders; but found himself, in the existing state of the laws affecting literary property, obliged, from the consideration of what was due to his family, to abandon that great work.
The solicitor-general, Mr. Pryme, Mr. Ward, Mr. Grote, the Attor ney-general, Mr. Jervis, Sir Edward Sugden, and Mr. Warburton opposed the bill. They argued, that, if it had any effect at all, it would only narrow the circle of the public, amongst whom literature would circulate. That it would be no benefit to authors, because they dispose of their copyright for a sum in hand, and their families might still remain exposed to the consequences of their proverbial improvidence. That the booksellers would not give higher prices for unpublished works than they do at present; as they could not afford to invest more in a copyright privilege of sixty years, than of fourteen. That the property in literary works was divisible be tween the public and the author, for though the one produced the thing, it only derived its value through the co-operation, and under the sanction of the other. Finally, that it was not question of abstract right, since this sort of property was at
present entirely founded on statute law.
Many of these objections consisted of general assertion, or vague anticipations, and were encountered by corresponding statements on the other side. But the argument that would assign part of the property in a literary composition to the public, as furnishing the mind necessary to give it value, is equally applicable to any species of manufacture; for it is clear enough, that without consumers no article can be pronounced valuable. to the remark, that there was no abstract right of property in copyright, it is unquestionably true; but we conceive that there is no kind of property which is not open to the same observation. "All property," observed the Chancellor of the Exchequer, " is the creation of the law, justified by the prin ciple of usefulness. If then there is any general utility connected with the recognition of this particular species of property, it becomes as much entitled to the protection of the state, as any other."
The bill was admitted to a second reading by the slender majority of 39 to 34.
The House then divided on a proposal made by Mr. P. Howard to refer the bill to a select committee, which was negatived by 38 to 31.
On the 6th of June, Lord John Russell, who had been silent on the subject, during the two long discussions to which the bill had been submitted, surprised all parties, by declaring himself unfavourable to it in its present state, and by throwing out a hint, that it would be better to defer legisla tion upon the subject, until it had been reconsidered. The discouraging attitude assumed by the
noble lord, who it will be recollected is himself an author of some volumes, was fatal to the farther progress of the bill, which did not get beyond the committee.
Towards the close of the session, the subject was taken up by Lord Brougham, in the House of Lords. He proposed to enable authors, or their assignees, by application to the judicial committee of the privy council, to obtain an extension of time, when their copyright was about to expire. This plan, which, as his lordship observed, had already been adopted with respect to patents, is, however, open to obvious objections. We have heard of "tribunals of criticism," but this would be the first instance in which the term will be applicable in a literal sense; and a judicial body be required to pronounce solemnly upon the merits of a play, or novel, or poem, after argument heard on both sides.
A bill for " securing to authors, in certain cases, the benefit of international copyright," passed the legislature in the course of the session. It empowers her Majesty in council to direct that the authors of books, published abroad, shall have a copyright here, provided there be a reciprocal protection in favour of this country, in the state in which such publications first make their appearance.
It should not be omitted, that a bill for amending the present faulty system of registering parliamentary electors was discussed in both houses during the session. In its passage through the upper house, it received several amendments, to all but two of which the Commons assented. Of these two, the one proposed to measure the distance of seven miles from a borough, in a straight line, or as the crow
would fly, instead of taking the nearest road; the other declared, that trustees, not having a beneficial interest in property, should not be entitled to vote.
The nature of the question in volved in these points will be understood on reference to the "Lords reasons" for insisting on their amendments, which we subjoin in the note."
A bill was this year brought in by Lord Denman, which aimed at a considerable alteration in the practice of administering oaths, in courts of justice. It was divided into two parts, the first being framed with a view to declare and restore the common law of England, which allows any person who offers to speak the truth, according to the form binding on his conscience, to be admitted as a witness. Such an enactment was rendered necessary by reason of certain difficulties, which existed
The Lords insist on their amendment in press 28, line 5, to which the Commons disagree, because they consider it to be the strict legal interpreta tion of the words of the Reform Bill; because those words having been so interpreted in numerous instances, parties now legally possessed of votes would be disfranchised by allowing the distance to be measured in a different manner, and because it appears to the Lords to be expedient, in determining a right of franchise, to adopt a limit which will remain invariable, and not one liable to
change by the alteration of a road, the building of a bridge, or by any of those improvements in the internal communications of the country which are daily taking place.
The Lords insist on clause B, added by their Lordships to the said bill, to which the Commons disagree, because they are of opinion that it was never intended to give in the Reform Bill a more extended right of voting to mortgagees and trustees than they before enjoyed; because, unless a man is in
in Ireland, in the case of Presbyterians, who are sworn after a form of their own, and whose testimony could not on that account be, according to the construction put upon a certain Irish statute passed in 1783, on some occasions be received in a court of justice. The noble and learned Lord said, that the second and more important part of his bill, which provided that persons believing an oath to be unlawful, should be permitted to make affirmation in lieu thereof, was founded on a similar principle with the first. If it were not fit to impose on a witness an oath, in a form which he thought unlawful, or which he did not consider to be binding; it was equally wrong and impolitic to impose any at all upon an individual, whose conscience would not permit him to be sworn. The best principle was, in the learned Lord's opinion, to elicit the truth, in the form the most binding upon the consciences of the witnesses, and he appealed to the example of the Quakers and Moravians whose affirmation was found by experience to answer all the purposes of the most solemn oath. He then presented a petition from certain inhabitants of London, who though neither Quakers nor Moravians, thought oaths opposed to their duties as Christians, and in some cases, had suffered severe hardships, in consequence of their conscientious scruples.
The House of Lords however was not prepared to sanction so sweeping an innovation, as would be implied in the entire abolition of the sanction of the oath, and after an endeavour, upon the part of Lord Denman, to modify his measure, with a view to diminish the prevailing objections, the bill was lost by a majority of 32 to 16.
The first clause of the bill was afterwards embodied in a separate statute, and passed the legislature in the course of the session. And the principle of the second clause was, by another act, extended to persons who had been Quakers or Moravians, though they might have since seceded from those sects.
Several complaints were made in the House of Lords, during the Session, respecting the mode pursued by the Lord Chancellor in the nomination of magistrates in England and Scotland. It was more than insinuated that the noble and learned Lord had no other than political motives for many of his appointments, and considerable dissatisfaction was the result amongst the Conservative Lords-lieutenant of counties.
On the 5th of July, the Earl of Harewood, called the attention of the Upper House to a change which had taken place, as he alleged, in the practice regulating the appointment of persons to the magistracy. He did not deny, that, according to the theory of the constitution, the Crown had an absolute right to appoint magistrates under the Great Seal: but at the same time, he desired to remind their Lordships, that it had become customary for the recommendation to proceed, in the first instance, from the Lords-lieutenant, who in fact had been per