Page images
PDF
EPUB

that relate to government, were never left to any man's liberty to print, that would. This cannot be made a precedent in favor of the right, claimed in other copies, which stand on a different foundation.

This therefore is a new right, arisen within the time of memory; but no original, incorporeal right, which is not founded on agreement of the parties, can at this day be created. What numerous inconveniences would arise, if every man could at his pleasure create a new species of property, to the support of which he might demand the aid of the law, however repugnant to its principles. As if the wild imaginations of men were to control the law, and not the law to curb their extravagances. The courts have been ever jealous of new inventions, even of those, which are founded on its most unquestionable principles, till experience and length of time have given them a sanction. The perpetual, exclusive right, of which we now treat, hath as yet received no countenance from the courts, and it has been demonstrated to be incompatible with every legal principle. It is observable, that it may as well be extended to many other things, which were never as yet imagined to be susceptible of property. For instance an author composes a tragedy, of this he makes. two profits; the copy is sold to the bookseller, the right of representation to the manager of the theatre. These rights are in every respect perfectly alike. The common law has favored neither the one, nor the other ; yet is it contended, that the purchaser of the copy shall recover in damages against those, who multiply impressions of his book; whereas the manager, who purchased the right of representation, can have no remedy against his brother manager, who gains an undue profit by representing the piece, for which the former paid a valuable consideration. Compare the pretensions of the advocate to his reward with those of the author. In the copy the property is uncertain ; the utility problematical. But the opinion, which the advocate gives, or the cause, which he pleads, is important, and very easy to be ascertaine ed. Whatever advantages the client may derive from the industry, the learning, and abilities of his advocate, he cannot be compelled to make him a suitable recompense.

If one were to take into consideration all the inconveniences, resulting to authors themselves from the establishment of this property, they would be found very numerous. The profession of an author is of all others the least profitable. By the study of ancient poets and philosophers they easily contract a contempt for riches. Hence ensue a neglect of domestic concerns and distressed circumstances. If their works were to become a property, they might be taken in execution for debt. Creditors would ravish from dramatic writers their half formed tragedies, from clergymen their pious discourses, the spiritual food of their respective flocks ; a moral essay might go in discharge of a debt, contracted in a bagnio ; philosophy, poetry, metaphysics, history, and dirinity would be taken in satisfaction for staytape, buckram, and canvass, or legs of mutton, calves' heads, and other articles, which usually compose a taylor's and a butcher's bill. If an author had been willing to have taken the benefit of the insolvent act, he would have been guilty of perjury, if he had not discovered his manuscripts. His creditors might insist on publishing his familiar letters ; for that species of composition is as much a property, as any other. If the insolvent were an ingenious man, his letters might have been sold for a good price. If literary property consist in the ideas, the creditors would have an interest in all the ideas of their debtors. Ideas are in their nature equally susceptible of property, whether they exist only in the brain of the author, or are by him transmitted to paper ; or whether they be written, or printed. The parliament of Paris seems to have considered this in a proper view. When the creditors of Crebillon would have attached in the hands of the actors a sum of money, arising from a representation of a tragedy, it was decreed, that the fruits of learning and genius, though actually converted into money, was not liable to the demands of creditors. Though the old Roman law delivered the insolvent debtor into the hands of his merciless creditor, that a be stripped de mind itser or the

by his bodily labor he might make some satisfaction for the debt ; yet no one ever imagined, that the mind itself could be taken in execution, and be stripped of its ideas ; which absurdity necessarily results from the supposition of ideas being capable of property.

The greatest grievance; of which the learned complain, cannot be remedied by the common law. This grievance arises from the disingenuity of some, who vindicate to them. selves the discoveries, which have been made by the labor and abilities of other men. As if the mistaken praise, due to another's merit, could afford a homefelt satisfaction. It was owing to the modesty and diffidence of Sir Isaac News ton, that he communicated some of his discoveries to his friends, before he published them. Unfortunately they came into the hands of a foreigner, who contested the invention. In what court of justice could Sir Isaac have instituted a suit for the reparation of this injury ? I will venture to affirm, that he could have had no redress in any.court, either ancient or modern, where it was to have been determined on the principles of other property. He might prosecute his suit with some effect in a literary court of judicature. It was the wisdom of the French to erect the court of Marsa challes, the object of whose jurisdiction was the point d'honneur. Let it be ours to terminate the disputes of authors in a literary court of judicature, where may be inflicted paino and penalties, suitable to the nature of the offence ; for im. aginary rights should always have imaginary remediese

SELECTIONS.

[ocr errors]

« PEACE be with the soul of that charitable author," says lord Shaftsbury,

« who for the common benefit of his fellow authors introduced the ingen« ious way of miscellaneous writing !” Among early writers in this manner of composition the honest and ingenuous Jeremy COLLIER must be allowed to hold no mean rank. His works, we believe, are not so much read in this country, as they deserve ; nor has any bookseller as far, as our knowledge extends, ever attempted to reprint them here, Should the following essays however, published by him in the year 1703, recommend his writings again to perusal, perhaps, like those of Ennius, when perused by the poet of Mantua, they may be found to contain a portion of “ gold,” that may yet ornament and enrich the work of some more favored modern.

OF POPULARITY.

OPULARITY is a courting the favor of the people by undue practices, or for unwarrantable ends. By the people I mean those, who are under the government of false reasoning, or vitious inclinations, let their condition be what it will. The popular man's designs are power, wealth, reputation, or all together. He, that is conscious how much his vanity exceeds his force, and that his merit will never carry up to his ambition, if he gets but a favorable juncture and a rising ground, to work he goes. He pretends a great concern for his country, and a more than ordinary insight into matters. Now such professions, as these, when they are set off with somewhat of gravity and figure, especially when they are recommended by a treat, are very proper to dispose an audience to hear reason. So that now he ventures to acquaint them with the secret of their privileges ; that the people are the original of power ; that government is always conveyed with an implication of trust and reservation ; that governors are only the executors and administrators of the people's will; that in strict reasoning it is a nobler prerogative to give a Vol. II. No. I.

crown, than to wear it; that the pomp of princes is no." thing, but the livery of the subjects' bounty ; and that the greatness of the wages ought not to exempt them from the condition of a servant. This, with a little flourish about miscarriages and arbitrary designs, is strangely taking. He, that has such a burning zeal, and springs such mighty discoveries, must needs be an admirable patriot. What can a civil people do less, than resign themselves up to his conduct, and present him with their understandings ?

To come from the state to the church. He, that would be an agreeable ecclesiastic, must survey the posture of things, examine the balance of interest, and be well read in the inclinations and aversions of the generality; and then his business will be to follow the loudest cry, and make his tack with the wind. Let him never pretend to cure an epidemical distemper, nor fall out with a fashionable vice, nor question the infallible judgment of the multitude. Let him rather down with a sinking faction, charge a straggling party, and hang upon a broken rear. Let him declaim against a solitary error, and batter a public aversion, and press the people upon those extremes; to which of themselves they are too inclinable. And, when fears and jealousies become clamorous, wlien discontents run high, and all grows mutinous and mad; then especial care must be taken not to dilate upon the authority of princes, or the duties of obedience. These are dangerous points, and have ruined many a good man, and are only to be handled, when there is least occasion. There are other nice though inferior cases, in which a man must guard, if he intends to keep fair with the world, and turn the penny. For the purpose, if he is in the city, he must avoid haranguing agaist circumvention in commerce, and unreasonable imposing upon the ignorance or necessity of the buyer. If you meddle with Diana of the Ephesians, you must expect to lose Demetrius' friendship. The dues will come in but heavily at this rate ; but to be sure all the voluntary oblations in presents and respects are absolutely lost. We are a trading people, say some of us, and must have no interfering,

« PreviousContinue »