Front Page Titles (by Subject) RIGHT OF PROPERTY IN THE FRUITS OF INTELLECTUAL LABOUR - Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy
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RIGHT OF PROPERTY IN THE FRUITS OF INTELLECTUAL LABOUR - William Leggett, Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy 
Democratic Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy, Foreword by Lawrence H. White (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984).
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RIGHT OF PROPERTY IN THE FRUITS OF INTELLECTUAL LABOUR
February 25, 1837.
We have provoked such odds against us, in the contest on the subject of the rights of property in intellectual productions, that we do not know but that it would be “the better part of valour” to quit the field incontinently. To emulate the conduct of the bold knight whose determined heroism is recorded in Chevy Chase, and who, when his legs were off, “still fought upon his stumps,” might seem, in such a dispute as we engaged in, rather censurable obstinacy, than praiseworthy courage. Or if it provoked a smile, it would probably be one, not of approbation, but of that kind which we bestow on the logical prowess of Goldsmith’s Schoolmaster, who could argue after he was vanquished,1 as Bombastes Furioso continues to fight after he is killed.2
There is one motive, however, which might not be without some weight with us to persist in the controversy, even after being convinced we had espoused the wrong side. If our doing so would continue to draw such writers into the field as we have heretofore had to contend with, we should not be without excuse; as their forcible reasoning and perspicuous style would far more than counterpoise the influence of our erroneous opinions, exert what ingenuity we might to establish them.
But we choose to deal ingenuously with our readers. We took up arms to battle for the truth, and shall lay them down the moment we find we have inadvertently engaged on the side of her adversaries. That we are shaken in the opinions we have heretofore expressed, we freely admit. The idiosyncracies of style, to use the term aptly employed in the eloquent communication annexed, are marked with such distinctness, that a bare phrase of three or four words, from a writer of admitted genius, is often so characteristic and peculiar, as to indicate its source at once, even to those who have no recollection of its origin, but who judge of it as a connoisseur does of a painting.
How far this peculiar mode of expression can be considered property on the principles of natural justice, is the question in dispute. We are not entirely convinced that we have taken wrong ground on this subject; yet we by no means feel so confident of the correctness of our opinions as we did when we put them forth. One thing seems to us, and has all along seemed, very clear: if the author has a natural right of property in the products of his intellectual labour, it ought to be acknowledged as extensively as the capitalist’s right of property in his money, or the merchant’s in his goods. It is a common law right, not a right by statute, maugre all decisions to the contrary. If, on the other hand, his right is derived from a law founded on views of expediency, instead of the principles of natural justice, we revert to our first position, that the greatest good of the greatest number would be more effectually promoted by the total abrogation of copyright property.
Let the claim of natural right be established, and we should be among the last to invade it; but concede that the question rests on any other basis, and we think we should have no great difficulty in showing that the general welfare would be advanced by abolishing the principle of exclusive property in written compositions, as it is never asserted in those which are merely spoken.
The text of this book was set in a type called Caslon 540. It is a modern design based on the famous fonts that William Caslon cut more than two hundred years ago. William Caslon, born in 1692 at Cradley in Worcestershire, turned to letter-founding after being apprenticed to an engraver of ornamental gun locks and barrels. There was nothing startlingly new about his designs; he took as his models the best Dutch types of the seventeenth century, particularly those of Van Dijck. The fact that he started a great era of British typography was due less to his originality than to his competence and ability at engraving and casting types at a time when letter-founding in England was at a very low ebb.
Printed on paper that is acid-free and meets the requirments of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials Z39.48-1992. (archival)
Book design by Hermann Strohbach, New York, N.Y.
Editorial services by Harkavy Publishing Service, New York, N.Y.
Typography by Typoservice Corporation, Indianapolis, Ind.
Printed and bound by Worzalla Publishing Company, Stevens Point, Wis.
[1 ]This is likely a reference to the title character in Oliver Goldsmith’s novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1776).—Ed.
[2 ]In William Barnes Rhodes’s long-popular mock-heroic burlesque Bombastes Furioso (1810) the title character is killed in a fight but revives to join in the finale.—Ed.