Page images

have now gone further northward, but will visit us again in autumn.

The smaller birds-the little songsters of the woods, and those that haunt man's dwellings, and claim human friendship by building their nests under the sheltering eaves, or among the orchard trees-these require a touch more delicate, and a gentler heart than mine, to do them justice. Their outburst of melody is like a brook let loose from wintry chains. We need not deem it a too high and solemn word, to call it a hymn of praise to the Creator; since Nature, who pictures the reviving year in so many sights of beauty, has expressed the sentiment of renewed life in no other sound, save the notes of these blessed birds. Their music, however, just now, seems to be incidental, and not the result of a set purpose. They are discussing the economy of life and love, and the site and architecture of their summer residences, and have no time to sit on a twig, and pour forth solemn hymns, or overtures, operas, symphonies, and waltzes. Anxious questions are asked; grave subjects are settled in quick and animated debate; and only by occasional accident, as from pure ecstasy, does a rich warble roll its tiny waves of golden sound through the atmosphere. Their little bodies are as busy as their voices; they are in a constant futter and restlessness. Even when two or three retreat to a tree-top, to hold council, they wag their tails and heads all the time, with the irrepressible activity of their nature, which perhaps renders their brief span of life in reality as long as the patriarchal age of sluggish man. The blackbirds, three species of which consort together, are the noisiest of all our feathered citizens. Great companies of them-more than the famous "four-and-twenty" whom Mother Goose has immortalized-congregate in contiguous tree-tops, and vociferate with all the clamor and confusion of a turbulent political meeting. Politics, certainly, must be the occasion of such tumultuous debates; but still-unlike all other politicians they instil melody into their individual utterances, and produce harmony as a general effect. Of all bird-voices, none are more sweet and cheerful to my ear than those of swallows, in the dim, sun-streaked interior of a lofty barn; they address the heart with even a

closer sympathy than Robin Red-breast. But, indeed, all these winged people, that dwell in the vicinity of homesteads, seem to partake of human nature, and possess the germ, if not the development, of immortal souls. We hear them saying their melodious prayers, at morning's blush and eventide. A little while ago, in the deep of night, there came the lively thrill of a bird's note from a neighboring tree; a real song, such as greets the purple dawn, or mingles with the yellow sunshine. What could the little bird mean, by pouring it forth at midnight? Probably the music gushed out of the midst of a dream, in which he fancied himself in Paradise with his mate, but suddenly awoke on a cold, leafless bough, with a New England mist penetrating through his feathers. That was a sad exchange of imagination for reality!

Insects are among the earliest births of spring. Multitudes, of I know not what species, appeared long ago, on the surface of the snow. Clouds of them, almost too minute for sight, hover in a beam of sunshine, and vanish, as if annihilated, when they pass into the shade. A musquito has already been heard to sound the small horror of his bugle-horn. Wasps infest the sunny windows of the house. A bee entered one of the chambers, with a prophecy of flowers. Rare butterflies came before the snow was off, flaunting in the chill breeze, and looking forlorn and all astray, in spite of the magnificence of their dark velvet cloaks, with golden borders.

The fields and wood-paths have as yet few charms to entice the wanderer. In a walk, the other day, I found no violets, nor anemones, nor anything in the likeness of a flower. It was worth while, however, to ascend our opposite hill, for the sake of gaining a general idea of the advance of spring, which I had hitherto been studying in its minute developments. The river lay around me in a semi-circle, overflowing all the meadows which give it its Indian name, and offering a noble breadth to sparkle in the sunbeams. Along the hither shore, a row of trees stood up to their knees in water; and afar off, on the surface of the stream, tufts of bushes thrust up their heads, as it were, to breathe. The most striking objects were great solitary

trees, here and there, with a mile-wide waste of water all around them. The curtailment of the trunk, by its immersion in the river, quite destroys the fair proportions of the tree, and thus makes us sensible of a regularity and propriety in the usual forms of nature. The flood of the present season though it never amounts to a freshet, on our quiet stream-has encroached further upon the land than any previous one, for at least a score of years. It has overflowed stone-fences, and even rendered a portion of the highway navigable for boats. The waters, however, are now gradually subsiding; islands become annexed to the mainland; and other islands emerge, like new creations, from the watery waste. The scene supplies an admirable image of the receding of the Nile-except that there is no deposit of black slime; -or of Noah's flood-only that there is a freshness and novelty in these recovered portions of the continent, which give the impression of a world just made, rather than of one so polluted that a deluge had been requisite to purify it. These up-springing islands are the greenest spots in the landscape; the first gleam of sunlight suffices to cover them with verdure.

Thank Providence for Spring! The earth-and man himself, by sympathy with his birth-place-would be far other than we find them, if life toiled wearily onward, without this periodical infusion of the primal spirit. Will the world ever be so decayed, that spring may not renew its greenness? Can man be so dismally agestricken, that no faintest sunshine of his youth may revisit him once a year? It is impossible. The moss on our time-worn mansion brightens into beauty; the good old pastor, who once dwelt here, renewed his prime, regained his boyhood, in the genial breezes of his ninetieth spring. Alas for the worn and heavy soul, if, whether in youth or age, it have outlived its privilege of spring-time sprightliness! From such a soul, the world must hope no reformation of its evil-no sympathy with the lofty faith and gallant struggles of those who contend in its behalf. Summer works in the present, and thinks not of the future; Autumn is a rich conservative; Winter has utterly lost its faith, and clings tremulously to the remembrance of what has been; but Spring, with its outgushing life, is the true type of the Movement!



My soul's sweet sister! I had sighed,

Long years had sighed, and knew not why;
Hope after hope sprang up and died,
And Joy in silence passed me by:

I wept--but wherefore could not tell ;
Save that, sometime, there came a dream
Of one, whose voice about me fell
Like moonlight on a forest-stream.

It came and passed-and then my heart
Was dark till it returned again;
For though the Presence might depart,
The Shadow haunted still my brain.

And thus I wandered, sad and lone,

Scarce knowing why, or what I sought, Till in thy look, and smile, and tone, There lived the Image of my Thought!

New Bedford, Mass.



WHATEVER difference of opinion may be entertained of the views expressed in the February Number of the Democratic Review, on the subject of International Copyright, or the force of the argument by which its conclusions are sought to be sustained, there can be no question that the permission to use its pages as a medium for opposing the principles there advocated, is an act of courtesy not usual even in literary controversy, and which demands warm and sincere acknowledgment.

Independent of its authorship, the article in question is entitled to claim, from all holding opposite sentiments, the respect due to every opinion which is found to court, rather than to shun, the test of open and candid discussion; and we therefore cannot help regretting that the question should have been presented in a form which, in some minds, might create a prejudice against it at the outset-as a claim set up by the authors of a particular country, rather than as, what it really is, a claim urged by the great body of American as well as European writers. If it was an attempt by Mr. Dickens, or any other English author, who has been " richly enough paid" at home, or by any body of English authors, to procure for themselves a pecuniary benefit for the republication, in this country, of works from which they have already derived a "munificent compensation," the demand might be justly treated with ridicule; but the claim is based on no such principles of narrow selfishness, nor is it obnoxious to any such construction. It has no sectional or national prejudices: it is made by Americans as well as Englishmen, and its English advocates who claim to have an interest in the republication of their works here, support the same principle in favor of all American and other writers foreign to England, whose works are to be found in every well-selected English library,



yielding thence to their authors no recompense but barren praise.

By considering the question in this narrow point of view, we are in danger of doing as great injustice to the subject itself as to the individuals thus prominently placed before us. The very term international gives a denial to the charge, and plainly shows that its English advocates, by supporting the principle, undermine the foundation of the valuable copyright monopoly, the possession of which would be secured to them alone, under a more restricted system, and voluntarily seek to throw open its large and rich resources to American and other foreign writers; thus inviting competition, and becoming (so to speak) the advocates of free trade in the commodity from which they derive their subsistence-a proceeding we should have thought to be in entire accordance with the principles of the Democratic Review. It should also be borne in mind that, at their instance, the British legislature has already made the first advance, by a late enactment authorizing the grant of copyright to authors of works published out of that country, for a term not exceeding that secured to native authors, conditionally upon the works of their writers having a like protection in the foreign country.

Although we entirely differ from the Review, as to the effect of the competition with which American literature has to contend, and believe that a system of international copyright, upon equitable terms between authors and the public, would be no less an act of justice to native than to foreign authors, we do not intend to discuss this "meaner argument of expediency;" the present object being to show that the claim, in its "moral aspect," is founded on principles of justice and equity. It here becomes material to ascertain what right or property an author is considered by the Review to have in the works of

his own creation-the results of his own labor; and as this is merely given in a negative form-the statement of what it is denied to be, the only method of placing it before the reader is by the extracts which follow; in considering which it should be kept in view, that the proposed International Copyright is not retrospective-is not an ex post facto law-does not seek remuneration for that which has al ready been richly enough paid-is not claimed for works already published, and therefore public property, on the terms upon which they were published; but seeks to embrace those only which have no existence, or which, if they have the semblance of being, exist only in the mind of the author, or at most, in manuscript, the work of his own hands.

"We once thought otherwise, but would now deny altogether the principle of a natural right of literary property, absolute, exclusive, and perpetual. The inspiration which speaks through the organ of the poet or the philosopher, or which directs the ingenuity of the inventor, is not his own, nor has he any such right of individual property in that which it has at once commanded and taught him to give to the world, as to be free, for himself, his heirs, executors, administrators, or assigns, for ever, to do with it what may seem meet to him or them-to destroy or suppress it, or forbid access to it to the whole or any portions of the


There is, doubtless, great difference of opinion, whether an author has an exclusive and perpetual right of property in his literary works; but as the International Copyright question does not necessarily involve this demand, and as no such claim is now sought to be enforced, it would be useless to enter into the discussion.

It is freely admitted that all who are endowed with superior mental powers, are bound by an obligation to the source from whence their qualifications are derived, to employ them as shall most conduce to the object for which they were conferred, the spread of truth and knowledge, and most advance the great interests of society; that their being allowed to "fust in us unused," is a fault differing only in degree from their misapplication; but is this obligation confined to those only

to whom are granted superior mental qualifications? Certainly not. The natural talents and qualifications of all men, whether of mind or body, are alike gifts from the Creator, and impose upon all a like responsibility for their use, abuse, or misapplication. The same duty attaches to each individual -to the laborer who, by his physical strength, earns his bread by the sweat of his brow-to the mechanic, whọ lives by the exercise of his manual skill-to the farmer, who cultivates the soil-and to the seaman, who navigates the ocean: all are alike responsible; and he to whom "one talent" is granted is under the same obligation as he is to whom are entrusted five talents."

As between man and his Creator, it may therefore be correct to allege that "the inspiration which speaks through the organ of the poet or the philosopher, is not his own ;" nor in this view is the skill of the mechanic, or the corporeal strength of the laborer, his own. Even man's life itself is not his own: the power which granted that and all his other attributes, mental and bodily, is under no obligation for their continuance: one and all may at any mo ment be snatched from his possession, without his daring even to question the justice of the decree. Man, however, was made for society,-it is his natural state,-in no other condition could the purposes and ends of his existence be accomplished; and as there is an universal obligation from mankind to the Creator, so there are social and moral duties from man to man which are alike obligatory upon all. But there is this difference, the social obligations of mankind are in every instance recipro cal; each duty draws with it a corre sponding claim. The duty of obedi ence from the citizen to the laws, enforced through the legally constituted authorities, involves a corresponding right of protection of life and property, which is no less a duty on the part of those to whom the task of government is entrusted. Parental affection and filial reverence, and even the claims of friendship, are in like manner recipro cal. No one will deny the mutual obligations of the laborer and his em ployer, and it matters not whether the labor be performed by mere physical strength, by manual skill and dexterity, or by the more toilsome and more ex

hausting labors of the intellect; "natural morals," no less plainly than the divine word, teach us that the laborer is worthy of his hire. It is upon this ground that we support the natural right of an author to his works, and the claim which he has upon society for remuneration.

The Review then proceeds:

"The unanimous good sense of all the nations which have legislated on the subject has not been mistaken in regarding this privilege of ownership in copyright or patentright as an artificial and limited, not a natural and absolute right of property. Accordingly, it has been granted unlike other species of property-for limited terms of years, and generally confined to the subjects of the legislating sovereignty."

It may here be as well to observe, that the argument of the Review bears equally against the existing copyright, as it does against international copyright. In fact the only conclusion to be drawn from it is a denial that the author has any "property" in his works, or any "absolute right" to compensation for his labor. The inspiration is not his own."- "The unanimous good sense of all nations" has not regarded copyright as an "absolute property," but as a "privilege of ownership."

[ocr errors]

Although, as before stated, difference of opinion exists as to the perpetual right of property of an author, we are not aware that any nation has denied him “a natural and absolute right of property" in his works. In this country, as well as in England, such right is distinctly recognized up to the time when they are published with his consent. Previous to such publication it has every incident of property, and the author possesses over it absolute and unlimited control. He can hold, transfer, sell or mortgage it; he can alter, enlarge, curtail, suppress or destroy it; and although it is neither lands, tenements, goods nor chattels, yet, divested of mere technicality, it is in the eye of the law as much property as houses, lands or merchandise. There is not a more firmly established rule than that previous to publication the law, at the instance of the author, will restrain all persons from printing, selling, making public, or in any way infringing or trespassing on the results of his labor; and this action is totally independent of

any copyright law, and is founded on the absolute right of property or ownership.

It appears that a mistake, not unfrequently made, has influenced the whole train of reasoning on this part of the subject, and led to what we conceive to be an erroneous conclusion. This mistake consists in identifying the natural right or property of the author, with the legal property of copyright created, or invented for the express purpose of securing his natural right to a just and equitable remuneration, in the only manner in which it was possible to do so. But while we admit the author's property in copyright to be "artificial" in its creation, and "limited" as to its duration, we most strenuously object to the term "privilege of ownership." Who, we would ask, has, or claims to have, the right or power of conferring upon any man the privilege "of remuneration" for his labor? If it is admitted that he is entitled to be compensated, and that the copyright is secured to him as the means of remuneration, then, unless justice is a privilege, he cannot be said to have a "privilege of ownership."

That the products of the mind differ in many essential qualities from those of the hands, is no reason why the parties, by whose labor they are matured, should have no property in them; although it is obvious that such property must be guarded, and the fruits of it protected in a different manner. One man fells timber from the forest, and with the labor of his hands builds a house, the possession of which is the reward of his labor, and is secured to him by the law. Another constructs some work of art, from the exhibition of which he anticipates being able to derive the means of subsistence, and its inviolability is equally secured to him. But neither the mere possession of his works, nor the exhibition of them, would be the means of rewarding an author for his toil and pains. To make them available for his support he must multiply and spread them abroad by means of the press, and even this would be useless to him unless guarded by some provision against literary piracy. This security the laws of different nations have afforded by what is termed copyright, and it is the only mode in which remuneration could be secured, and at the same time made to depend

« PreviousContinue »