James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Horatio Gates Spafford, 18 April 1816

Albany, 4 Mo. 18, 1816.

Esteemed Friend-

I wrote thee, some time since, concerning an Essay of mine, which I proposed to have sent to thee for examination, before I should publish it: & I am now to explain why that Paper was not sent to thee as I intended. Presuming thy time would be all occupied at that time, I sent it to thy friend Jefferson to read, requesting him to return it to thee, as soon as might be convenient, & to favor me with his opinion of the plan proposed. That Gentleman, by reason of absence, having detained the Paper longer at Monticello than I had proposed, had only time to read it & return it to me, within the time till I should want it. He favored me with his approbation of the paper, & I much regret that it is not yet in print, as he expressed a wish to see it in that form, fully persuaded it must do much good.

It is an Inquiry on the propriety of establishing A National School of Science & the Mechanic Arts, & on New Modeling the Patent System of the United States.

President Jefferson was pleased to speak highly of it, & nothing but impossibilities could have persuaded me to rest so long without offering it for thy consideration, & that of the Congress. For myself, I am fully persuaded the Subjects embraced in it, are of very great interest to this community. The plan of the Patent Department, which I propose, is designed to remedy some existing evils, & to afford relief to such Inventors, as dare not trust their inventions to the protection of the present laws, & the present administration of the Patent Office. I am one of this description of persons, & I dare not confide my discovery to the care of the present laws, or the Officer who has charge of that Office: How far the plan I have ventured to propose may meet thy veiws, is impossible for me to say; but it is but justice to myself to declare that I have done all in my power to meet the case presented by the occasion. Whenever the laws on the subject of Patents are such that I can confide my discovery to their Keeping, my Patent will bring me in an income of 3000 dollars a year, on a single contract. This I mention that my anxiety on this subject may seem to thee excusable.

I am much pleased to observe thy Message to Congress of the 11th. instant, & hope thy better knowledge has conceived a better plan than mine: & that the remedy I am so anxious to see provided, will soon be found to exist.

So soon as I can publish my Essay, I will send thee a copy.

Permit me, in the concern which my recent losses & misfortunes inspire, to solicit thy Friendly remembrance. With esteem & respect, thy friend,

H. Gates Spafford

DLC: Papers of James Madison.

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