James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Joseph Barnes, 20 December 1792 (Abstract)

From Joseph Barnes

Abstract. 20 December 1792, Philadelphia. A list of proposed alterations to the 1790 federal patent law, followed by “observations tending to demonstrate the Necessity and equity of the proposed amendments.” Includes remarks on how James Rumsey’s discoveries in working with steam power have been denied legal protection.1 “Since it is not the wish of any good Citizen, ’tis presumed the Legislature will not, if it can avoid it, put it in the power of any plagiarist, or designing person to force an honest Inventor to see a Lawyer, and go thro’ all the tedious and expensive processes of A Court, as the only possible means of possessing himself of the Inventors discovery.”

Ms (NjHi). A ten-page document, addressed to JM. Unsigned; in Barnes’s hand and docketed by him: “Amendments Suggested to the Bill reported, by a committee of the House of Representatives, of the U.S., to amend the ‘Act to promote the progress of useful arts’ with notes, tending to demonstrate the necessity of the Same.”

1Barnes, a Philadelphia lawyer, had represented James Rumsey’s interests when the patent legislation was sought in the First Congress (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77; vols. 11—, Charlottesville, Va., 1977—). description ends , XII, 352). Barnes petitioned Congress for revisions of the earlier law; however, JM was not on the committee appointed to examine the alleged inadequacies of the 1790 act (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, 1789–1824 (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., 671, 674). Rumsey died in London on the same day Barnes wrote JM. A revised bill was passed and became law on 21 Feb. 1793 (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , I, 323).

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