29th Congress, Doc. No. 52, Ho. of Reps., 2d Session
Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents
Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1846
January 23, 1847
Read, and referred to the Committee on Patents

Patent Office, January, 1847
Sir: In conformity to the provisions of the act of Congress relating to this office, approved March 3, 1837, the undersigned has the honor to submit his annual report.

During the year ending December 31, 1846, the whole number of applications for patents received, is twelve hundred and seventy-two. The whole number of caveats filed during the same time is four hundred and [fo?]rty-eight. The number of patents issued in 1846 is six hundred and nineteen, including thirteen reissues, five additional improvements, and [?]y-nine designs; classified, and alphabetical lists of which, with the names of the patentees, are annexed, (marked G and H.)

During the same period, four hundred and seventy-three patents have expired, a list of which is annexed, (marked I.)

Three applications for extensions were made during the year; two of which were rejected, and one is still pending. Two patents have been extended by Congress during the same period.

The claims embraced in the respective patents issued during the year 1846 are also annexed, (marked J.)

The receipts of the office during the year 1846, including duties and fees paid in on applications for patents, caveats, reissues, additional improvements, extensions, and for copies, amount, in the whole, to $50,264.15; of which sum, $11,086.99 have been repaid on applications withdrawn, and for money paid in by mistake, as per statement marked A.

The expenses of the office during the year 1846 are as follows, viz: for salaries, $16,142.97; temporary clerks $5,685.61; contingent expenses, including postage and fees paid to counsel in two suits in equity [?] pending against the Commissioner, in the United States district court for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, $7,485.19; compensation of the district judge, $100; library, $675.96; agricultural statistics, $3,610.68; amounting in the whole to the sum of $33,700.41, as per statement marked B.

There was also expended during the last year, under the act of March 3, 1837, for the restoration of records and drawings, the sum of $786.31, and for duplicate models, the sum of $585, as per statement marked C.

The aggregate of expenditures under the different heads above enumerated, including money paid back on withdrawals, and for the restoration of records, drawings, and models, is $46,158.71, leaving a balance to be carried to the credit of the patent fund of $4,105.45.

On the first day of January, 1845, the amount of money in the treasury to the credit of the patent fund was $182,459.69, which, with the balance paid in during the year 1846, will, on the first day of January, 1847, amount to $186,565.14.

Although the balance which the object has been able to place to its credit in the treasury during the year just past, in consequence of the decreased amount received on applications for patents, caveats, etc., (there being fewer foreign applications during the last year,) and the additional amount refunded to applicants on the withdrawal of their claims, is not so great as that of the previous year, yet it is more than the average balance of former years, and indicates the flourishing conditions and prospects of the Patent Office.

Thus far the office has more than sustained itself, and fully realized the anticipations of Congress when it was reorganized upon its present footing. And if a conclusion may be drawn from the activity of the inventive genius of our countrymen, as exhibited in past years, we may rely confidently in the belief that this useful and noble institution of the government will never become a charge upon the treasury.

The reports of the two principal examiners, giving a very interesting review of the inventions patented at this office during the past year, are annexed, (marked D and E.)

On reference to them, it will be seen that the year just past has not been without its valuable discoveries, which, if they do not surprise and delight the mind with their novelty and brilliancy, will contribute much to the convenience and welfare of man. It will be seen that almost every kind of invention and discovery has been explored by our ingenious, persevering, and indefatigable countrymen, and many very valuable improvements in machinery, and processes of manufacture, brought to light; and contributing more or less to the improvement and progress of society. The operations of this office during the past year prove, as the circle every year proves, that the inventor is ever the benefactor of his race. His genius bestows its favors on all. The manufacturer, the mechanic, the agriculturist, the merchant, all are the recipients of the benefits which are ever flowing from his toils, energies, and sometimes his great and sublime conceptions. No theme is more interesting for contemplation than this, and there is none which more deeply impresses the mind with a sense of the continued and onward progress of society in the grand career of civilization.

In my last annual report I embraced the occasion to bring to the notice of Congress the embarrassed condition of this office in consequence of the great increase of its business, without a corresponding increase of its clerical force, particularly in its scientific department.

When the office was reorganized in 1826, the Commissioner was allowed but a single examiner. By the 11th section of the act of March 3, 1837, an additional examiner was authorized to be appointed; and by the act of March 3, 1839, two assistant examiners were provided for; since which time no addition to the examining corps has been authorized, and none has been made.

In 1840, the first complete year after the last addition to the examining force was authorized, the number of applications for patents received was 765, the number of caveats filed 228, and the number of patents granted 475.

During the year 1846 the number of applications for patents was 1,272, the number of caveats filed 448, and the number of patents granted 619. During the same year the number of applications for patents which were examined and rejected was 398.

Thus does it appear that, since the last addition to the examining force in 1839, the business of the office has increased nearly one hundred per cent. It has increased beyond the physical ability of the present examiners and assistants to keep up with it, although constantly and industriously engaged in the performance of their onerous and fatiguing duties. The consequence is, that business accumulates upon their desks; applicants are delayed in having their cases examined, often to their great detriment, and always to the injury of the office; which is complained of for its delays by persons, not knowing the condition of its business and the inadequacy of its force, when it is constantly exerting itself to the utmost to accommodate the public, as well as to relieve itself from inconvenience resulting from a pressure of its duties.

When it is considered that the Patent Office derives its revenues entirely from the inventors, and sustains itself without charge upon the treasury, the justice of their complaints cannot be denied nor evaded. But I am confident they cannot attach to the Patent Office, nor to any of its officers. The state of its business was fully presented to Congress in my last report, and again in a subsequent communication addressed to the chairman of the Committee on Patents and the Patent Office of the Senate at the last session.

It is therefore respectfully submitted, whether, in view of the fact that its revenues are ample for the increased expenditure, which will in that even be required, it is not expedient for Congress to authorize the addition to the examining corps which the present state of the business of the office imperatively demands.

By the 11th section of the act of March 3, 1837, I am authorized to employ all the necessary temporary clerks for writing and copying, at a compensation of ten cents for every hundred words. This provision enables me to provide for any exigency in the clerical department of the office. No addition, therefore, is deemed necessary to this branch of service in the office.

In connection with the subject of an increase of the scientific force of the Patent Office, I would again respectfully suggest the propriety and expediency of increasing the salaries of the principal and assistant examiners. This subject was brought to the attention of Congress by my predecessor in his last annual report, and its expediency and justice portrayed with great force as well as earnestness. Convinced, from my own observation, of the justice of his recommendation, I cordially concurred with him in the views which he expressed, and enforced the recommendation with such additional reasons as my own experience had placed at my command.

Deeming it unnecessary to repeat the reasons in favor of the proposition, which I again submit, I would respectfully refer to the last report of my predecessor previous to his retiring from this office, and to my own of the last year, for all the information which is deemed necessary to enable Congress to come to a correct conclusion in relation to the subject.

But I would again refer to the able and interesting report of the examiners attached to the reports of the Commissioner for the last two years, and to this report, for proof of the talents and scientific qualifications requisite to enable the incumbents to fill those laborious and responsible desks with credit to themselves and usefulness to the country. The remark may be safely hazarded, that there are but very few offices in the government which require more ability for sound and nice discrimination, more extensive and varied acquirements, and, it may be added, more inflexible integrity of character, than the office of examiner of patents.

The revenues of the Patent Office are ample for the proposed increase of force and salaries in the examining corps; and the interests of the public, as well as of the inventors, requires that it should be made.

In my last annual report I had the honor to submit to Congress a proposition for certain modifications of the existing patent law, which I deemed important and necessary for the protection of the inventor, as well as the public. A bill, embodying most of the modifications suggested, was reported in each House, by the committees having the matter in charge; but, in consequence of the great amount of business pressing upon Congress at the last session, it failed to become a law.

The bill provided for two important and essential changes in the existing law in relation to patents. One of those provisions was, that in all suits brought by the patentee for infringements of his invention, the letters patent securing his invention should be received by the courts trying the same as conclusive evidence of his right to recover damages, until they were set aside by the institution and prosecution to final judgment of a process for their repeal. The other was a provision for the institution of a process for the repeal of letters patent which had been obtained by fraud, misrepresentation, or upon false suggestion, or which were void, in whole or in part, for want of novelty, or other cause. The very inadequate protection afforded to the patentee by the present law, seems to me to furnish sufficient reason for the proposed modification.

After the rigorous and searching ordeal through which every invention passes at the Patent Office, it seems reasonable that the letters patent, under the seal of one of the offices of the government of the United States, should be received in courts of justice as conclusive evidence of the title of the patentee to his invention, and his right to recover, until his patent shall have been revoked and annulled for good and sufficient cause, by a tribunal competent to investigate the matter.

But the present law extends no such protection to the patentee. At present his letters patent are only presumptive evidence of the novelty of his invention, and of his right to recover. Consequently, the validity of his patent may be, and for the purposes of embarrassment often is, put in issue in suits for infringement, and he is compelled to prove the novelty of his invention over and over again, as often as the depredator upon his rights, whom he seeks to punish, is disposed to put him to that trouble.

Many instances of this wanton aggression upon the rights of the meritorious inventor have come to the knowledge of the undersigned since he has had the honor to be at the head of the Patent Office. And many of these instances of aggression proceed from wealthy and powerful companies and corporations, and the subjects of them are the inventors of the most useful and valuable machines and improvements. The more valuable the invention, the more liable it is to piracy and infringement. These wealthy and powerful bodies know well the benefit to them of the law's delay, and its ruinous expense to the single-handed individual who dares to resist their unlawful and unjust invasion of his rights; and hence, in the end they hope to win, either by the defeat of the patentee by means of some trifling defect in his title deed, or his inability to procure the necessary evidence to substantiate his right, or by a compromise, in which he will be forced to sacrifice a portion of his claims in order to relieve himself from the embarrassment and expense of the unequal contest.

As the law now stands, the great burden of the controversy falls upon the patentee, and not upon the wanton violator of his rights, as it should.

In this view of the matter, I think all candid men will agree that when a patentee has established, in the judgment of the office or tribunal whose duty it is to pass upon his claims in the first instance a right to letter patent of the United States, this document should be his shield and protection until it is shown by others, who dispute his title, that he has no right to it.

I am aware that there is a prejudice existing in the minds of a portion of the community (small I believe it is) against the claims of inventors. It is contended by some that patents securing exclusive rights to the discoverers of new machines or processes of manufacture are monopolies, operating to the detriment of the best interests of the community, and existing against the true policy of all just governments; and, therefore, are to be regarded with suspicion, construed with great strictness, and defeated if possible.

I am fully persuaded that, on a little reflection, such a view of the rights of inventors will disappear from the minds of candid and reasonable men. What are the grounds on which all civilized and enlightened governments grant to persons making valuable discoveries in the arts and manufacture a limited monopoly of the benefits of their inventions? The main ground is to encourage discovery and invention -- those great agents of social improvement -- by securing to those who make them to remunerate themselves for their toils and expenditures, and to induce others to explore the vast and limitless field of invention.

Every new discovery in science and art contributes to the wealth, convenience, and comfort of individuals, and to the improvement of society. Some of the inventions of the last few centuries have burst upon the world with the brilliancy of the morning sun, changing the whole aspect of society, and conferring incalculable benefits upon the human race. I need mention only the art of printing, the discovery of gunpowder, the steam engine, the cotton gin, the spinning jenny, the power loom, the steamboat, the railroad, and the magnetic telegraph. These great discoveries in science and art have revolutionized the condition of the civilized world, and their influence at this moment is probably more potent and more sensibly felt than ever before.

I mention these great discoveries as striking instances of the effect of the labors of the inventor upon society and civilization. There are others of less note, producing their due influence upon the condition and welfare of the world. Even the most humble discovery contributes its due proportion to relieve the human family of its burdens, and administer to its comforts, and to accelerate and aggrandize its unceasing and triumphant progress in the improvement of its condition, and the expansion and perfection of its lofty nature and destiny.

Therefore, there is ample reason why society should reward and encourage that class of its benefactors whose claims I am now considering, by securing to them, for a limited term, the exclusive enjoyment of the fruits of their genius and labors.

But it cannot be denied that, upon the principles of abstract justice, the inventor has a complete and unquestionable claim to the fruits of his discoveries until his labors and sacrifices are adequately remunerated.

Many valuable and profitable discoveries in the arts are the result of a sudden and lucky conception in a happy moment; but most of them are the fruits of days and years of incessant toil, anxious and harassing thought, and great pecuniary sacrifices. This toil, this mental efforts, and these pecuniary sacrifices, establish a title to the product which is their offspring, as sacred and irrefragable in the eye of justice as the title to his farm, his workshop, or his merchandise, which a man has acquired by his labor, skill, and economy. So clear and convincing is this view of the right of the inventor to the fruits of his genius and labor, that argument in its support would seem to take from its strength. Yet the reasons are equally strong that the inventor's exclusive enjoyment of his discoveries should not be perpetual, but should be permitted only for a limited period.

All inventions, great and small, generally have their period of birth, growth, maturity, and perfection, if the latter term be allowable. And if one mind conceives and gives birth to the first idea, many assist in its development and expansion. Probably no piece of mechanism was ever made which was perfect in all its parts at its first creation. The steam engine is an interesting and beautiful illustration of the gradual progress of an invention, from its first conception in the mind of the inventor to its present wonderful state of perfection and efficiency. It first appeared in a rude form, unwieldy ad dangerous to those who dared to operate it -- a thing designed ore for experiment than utility; and now, after passing through nearly two centuries of improvement, and taxing the highest intellectual energies of thousands of ingenious and skilful men, it appears to us with a perfection, in the nice and delicate adjustment of its machinery, which astonishes and delights us, and an efficiency and power of action which enable it to confer the greatest and most lasting benefits upon mankind.

The history of this wonderful engine and instrument of civilization shows as clearly and conclusively that the claims of the inventor to the fruits of his genius should not be perpetual, as it does that he should be permitted to enjoy them until he is adequately remunerated for his labor and expenditures. For, if his right to his invention were perpetual and exclusive, no other person could improve it, because he could not use his improvement with the original invention, and therefore not at all. This would immeasurably retard, if not wholly prevent, all improvement of original inventions, and would result in incalculable injury and mischief to society.

Hence, while admitting the unquestionable justice of the claim of the inventor to the fruits of his genius for a period of time sufficient to enable him to remunerate himself adequately for his toils and expenses, it is absolutely necessary, for the progress of improvement and the welfare of society, that his exclusive right should then cease, and his invention become the common property of the public. Others will then have an opportunity to remedy the defects of, and to improve and perfect, his original creations.

And, in accordance with this view of the subject, the constitution of the United States authorizes Congress to enact laws for the promotion of the useful arts and the protection of the inventor in the enjoyment of the fruits of his genius and skill for a certain period, the duration of which is limited to fourteen years; at the end of which time, in consideration of such protection, his invention, and the secret of it, shall become the property of the public.

I have been thus particular in setting forth the general principles of the patent law, because, as before remarked, a prejudice prevails to some extent in the community against the justice of the claims of the inventor to temporary protection in the enjoyment of the fruits of his labors. I am, however, happy to see that juster sentiments are growing more prevalent in relation to the rights of that valuable and meritorious class of citizens. During the past year courts of justice have displayed a more earnest desire to give protection to the inventor, as evinced by the liberal construction which they have given to the present imperfect patent law, whenever questions relating to patents have come before them for adjudications.

The bills reported by the respective committees of the two houses contained other provisions less important than the two which I have been considering, deemed, however, to be necessary modifications and improvements of the existing law in relation to patents; but as they were particularly explained in my former report, it is unnecessary further to consider them.

In connection with the subject of the amendment of the existing patent law, I would respectfully suggest the expediency of making some new provision in reference to the applications of the citizens and subjects of other countries for letters patent in the United States.

By the existing law a subject of Great Britain is required to pay into the treasury a duty of $500 before his application can be examined. The citizens and subjects of all other foreign countries are each required to pay into the treasury a duty of $300 on their respective applications. These duties were designed to bear some proportions to the duties required of American citizens making applications for patents in other countries, and on that ground may, perhaps, be justified and defended.

The effect of this provisions is unquestionably to prevent the introduction into this country of many useful and valuable discoveries, which would otherwise be patented and introduced. Similar high duties have the effect to exclude American inventions from other countries. Thus all countries are injured by this system of taxing genius for the exertion of its powers, in order to obtain comparatively a very small and trifling amount of revenue.

It affords no protection to the American inventor to keep out the discoveries of his foreign emulator (not rival) in the arts, by taxing the emanations of his genius with high duties, while the country would derive much benefit from their introduction.

Therefore, it is respectfully submitted whether it would not be expedient, if Congress should make the amendments to the patent law already proposed, also to provide contingently for the reduction of the duties required on application for patents by the citizens or subjects of foreign governments to thirty dollars, whenever it shall appear that corresponding reductions have been made, by those governments, of the duties required of American citizens. I have reason to believe that the proposition would be received with favor by some, if not all, of the European governments.

As constant inquiry is made, by citizens residing in all parts of the Union, for information in relation to the laws of foreign governments respecting the granting of patents, I have, for the accommodation and convenience of such persons, caused abstracts to be made of the legislative provisions and ordinances of all foreign governments of which this office is in possession, which are hereto annexed, marked F.

The law providing for the admission of Texas into the Union failed to make provision for the transfer to this office of the records, models, and drawings of the patent office of Texas. Nor has there yet been made by Congress any provision by which patents granted in Texas, before the admission of that State into the Union, shall be valid in the United States. Under the new relations of that State to the Union, it would appear to be necessary for the public convenience, and the protection of those citizens of Texas who obtained patents under the government of that State when existing as an independent republic, that the contents of the patent office of Texas should be transferred to this office, and that such legal provision should be made by Congress as may appear to be necessary to secure the validity of all patents granted under the authority of that State prior to its annexation to this republic.

Congress, at its last session, having declined to make the usual appropriation for the annual agricultural report by this office, I regarded the act as an instruction to me not to prepare a report of that character for the year just past, and accordingly, none has been prepared, and none will, of course, be made to Congress at its present session.

Whether or not such a report as this office has been required to make for some years past upon the state of the crops, the amount of agricultural products, and the discoveries and improvements in the science and practice of agriculture, is of any value to Congress or to the country, it is not for the undersigned to affirm.

Yet it is respectfully submitted that from no other source could so much accurate and valuable information in relation to the condition and progress of agriculture be obtained, as from the reports of this office upon that subject; of course, not referring to the report of last year.

The remark,I am confident, may be safely hazarded, that from no other source could such accurate estimates of the amount of agricultural production of each year be obtained from the reports of this office; as the statement of a few facts, showing the ground on which those estimates were made, will clearly prove.

In the first place, the office assumed the returns of the census of 1840 as the basis of its estimates. It then observed the progress of the growth of each crop in each succeeding year in every district and county in the Union, from the planting of the seed until the harvest of the matured crop; carefully noting, day by day and week by week, all the causes which operated favorably or unfavorably upon it; the effect of the weather, the ravages of insects, the effects of blight and mildew, and decreased or additional cultivation.

This extended system of observation it was enabled to adopt through the aid of agricultural and other newspapers and journals, and of letters from distinguished practical agriculturists, received from every neighborhood in our widely extended country. To show the extent of this system of operation, it is only necessary to state the fact that the great number of 5,000 newspapers, journals, and letters were carefully read and examined in making up the report for the last year.

It may, therefore, be safely assumed that no institution or association of individuals in the country had such extensive means at command for estimating the amount of agricultural products within the Union as were in the possession of the Patent Office.

Of course, it is not pretended that the estimates of this office were mathematically precise and exact, for in relation to such subjects precision and exactness are absolutely impossible. It is only assumed for them that they approximated as near to precision and exactness as the nature of the subject rendered it possible to approach to certainty. But their general accuracy and value are sufficiently proved by the fact that they were received in this and foreign countries as the best and most reliable estimates of the amount of the agricultural products of this country that could be obtained from any source. And they are cited and referred to in public documents, and in the leading journals of trade and commerce, as the only authentic estimates of the crops of the United States worthy of reference and confidence.

Assuring the general accuracy of those estimates, it is hardly necessary to speak of their value. The time has gone by when legislation for great communities is to be based upon theories or abstract axioms in political philosophy. Facts, now, are deemed the only solid foundation for the superstructures of the modern statesman. And without a knowledge of the statistics of a nation, which embrace every fact relating to its condition and welfare, physical, moral, or political, it is almost impossible to legislate wisely for its interests. And no statistical knowledge is more important than that which exhibits the resources of a nation, as indicated by the products of its labor. An important part of that knowledge the agricultural estimates were designed to furnish. Another objects of the agricultural report of the Patent Office was to collect and embody every fact within its reach, which tended to show the improvement and progress of agriculture in the United States during the year; and, in order to accomplish this result, so desirable and so valuable, and those kindred and auxiliary sciences from which it derives its most essential aid -- namely, geology, chemistry, and botany -- and every new improvement and experiment in the practice of agriculture, in this and all foreign countries, were carefully noted, collected, and embodied in a form which enabled every intelligent citizen to see and comprehend the progress that greatest and noblest occupation of man during the year. In order to perform this portion of its duties, this office was amply provided with the ablest and most approved publications of this country, England, Scotland, France, Germany, and Prussia, not only relating directly to the science of agriculture, but to all branches of science with which it had immediate or remote connection. It also availed itself of the labors of eminent experimenters in our own country, who kindly and generously communicated to the head of the office the results of their labors and experiments.

All this mass of valuable information, collected from a thousand different sources, was embodied and presented in a comparatively narrow compass to the American agriculturist, and at a comparatively small expense to the treasury.

I think it may be safely affirmed that in no other country in the world was so large an amount of valuable information collected and presented to the people at so little expense, the annual appropriation to this office for the purpose not exceeding $3,000 per annum. In proof of this remark I would refer to a single fact. The importance of the potato crop -- the annual value of which is equal to one-half the value of the whole cotton crop of the Union -- which has, during the last three years, been greatly injured by the ravages of that remarkable and fatal disease which has assailed the potato in the northern and middle States, and in most of the countries of Europe, rendered it, in my judgment, expedient to collect and embody every fact which would tend to throw light upon the origin and progress of the disease, and if possible point out the remedy. With that view a large portion of the report of the last year was devoted to that subject, and a large amount of valuable information was collected, and at very little expense. During the same year a commission, composed of eminent scientific gentlemen, was appointed by the British government to proceed to Ireland and investigate the potato disease as it appeared in that island. The expense of the commission amounted to nearly $90,000; yet the results of the labors of that enlightened committee, which were very valuable, were all embodied in the agricultural report of the Patent Office, with twenty-fold as much more upon the same subject.

The alarming nature of the calamity which had befallen the potato attracted the attention of many of the governments of Europe, but from none emanated publications containing so large an amount of valuable information upon the subject as the report from this office. The industry of this office in collecting information in reference to this subject enabled it to answer the inquiries of many of the governments of Europe.

It is unnecessary to refer to other subjects connected with agriculture which were embraced in the reports of this office. It is believed that the value of the services of this office in relation to the interests of agriculture are appreciated by that great and intelligent class of people engaged in agricultural pursuits, as would seem to appear from the expressions of numerous letters and public journals received at this office.

If Congress deemed it expedient to continue the report, several valuable improvements and additions to it were contemplated. A larger field of inquiry had been marked out than had been previously investigated. It was designed to embrace within the scope of future investigation additional crops and products, the amount of cultivated land in the Union, the statistics of the movements of agricultural products from the interior to the commercial marts and their export to foreign countries, the prices of agricultural products, the wages of labor, etc., etc.; which, connected with the information previously furnished in a more condensed form, would not have failed to add to and increase the value of the report.

I am aware that it has been objected against the agricultural report of the Patent Office, that it was unauthorized by the constitution, and that, if permitted to be continued, it would endanger the liberties of the people.

If collecting and laying before the country valuable statistical information is unconstitutional, I have no argument with which to meet the objection; and I am equally unable to comprehend how the operations of this office, connected with agriculture, can endanger the government or the people. It has not its thousand agents scattered through the country, to impress its influence unduly upon the public mind; it has but little money to expend, and no patronage to bestow; its operations are silent and unseen, and they are as harmless as they are silent. Its whole expenditure in this branch of its duties amounts to but a few hundred dollars, and most of that small amount goes in payment of clerks, the purchase of seeds, and in subscriptions to agricultural publications; but these objections require no further answer.

Nor should it be forgotten that the Patent Office has been instrumental, within the last few years, in introducing into the country many varieties of grains and vegetables; and it has aided much in introducing into the newly settled portions of the Union valuable varieties of grains and vegetables well known in those portions of the Union which have been longer settled, and are more highly cultivated; and, although the popular names of the varieties of seeds it has distributed have given occasion for ingenious irony and dignified ridicule, from sources evidently but little acquainted with such humble yet important matters, no seeds have received names at this office for the purpose of imposition or deception, and none have been distributed which have borne names not familiarly known to every intelligent farmer and horticulturist in the country.

All the varieties of grains and vegetable seeds distributed from this office may not have been valuable. Many, from want of adaptation to soil or climate, may not have been successful -- perhaps not germinated; but, if one valuable variety of either is introduced from abroad, or disseminated in parts of the Union in which it was not before known, the trifling cost of the operation is a million times repaid, and the cause of agriculture is promoted.

It has also been objected that the agricultural duties of this office have been assumed without authority of law, and were therefore a grave abuse and usurpation of power. It is not proper, perhaps, for me to vindicate the conduct of my predecessor under whose administration of the office it was introduced. It will not, however, be irrelevant to remark, that the subject had been a matter of serious consideration by the committee of the House of Representatives upon the Patent Office during the session of 1839-'40, and the Commissioner was then requested, by the able chairman of that committee, to communicate to the committee "any information relative to the collection and distribution of seeds and plants; also, the practicability of obtaining agricultural statistics, with the addition of any suggestions deemed important in relation to those subjects."

That inquiry was answered by the Commissioner in the liberal and enlightened spirit in which it was made, and the collection of agricultural statistics and the distribution of seeds and plants by the Patent Office were sanctioned and provided for by Congress, by small appropriations made each year, with one or two exceptions, since.

That a department or bureau of government should devote a portion of its duties to the important interests of agriculture, is no new thing in the history of nations. Most, if not all of the leading governments of Europe have departments charged with these responsible duties, under the supervision of officers called Ministers of the Interior. And such a department seems to have been contemplated by President Washington and the earlier statesmen of the republic.

In the message of General Washington to Congress, in December, 1796, an agricultural or home department is recommended by that revered and illustrious statesman and patriot. In 1812, it was again recommended in a most able and enlightened report, drawn up and presented to the House of Representatives by the Hon. Adam Seybert, chairman of the select committee appointed to inquire into the state of the Patent Office. And again, in 1817, the subject was considered by a select committee of the House of Representatives, which, through one of its members, the Hon. M. Hulbert, reported in favor of the establishment by Congress of a National Board of Agriculture.

The views of the committee were expressed in the following brief and emphatic language: "The extent of territory,and the richness and consequent productiveness of the soil of our country, can never fail to invite and employ in the cultivation of the earth for the greater portion of American industry.

"The interests of agriculture must therefore be primarily important to the people of the United States, and must at all times deserve the warm support and liberal patronage of government. The committee observe, with pleasure, that President Washington, in his speech to Congress of the 7th of December, 1796, recommended to that body the interests of agriculture, and the establishment of a national board to promote the same.

"In different parts of Europe, as well as in several States of the Union, such boards have been instituted under the auspices of government, and have diffused much useful information, and contributed largely, as the committee believe, to the public welfare.

"After due consideration of the subject, the committee are of the opinion that it is advisable to establish at the seat of government a national board of agriculture, and report a bill for that purpose."

It is not recommended, nor is it desired by the undersigned, that any such department, or national board of agriculture, should be instituted by this government. The practices of other enlightened governments are referred to only to show that the exercise of such functions by government is not without precedent, nor without utility.

The concurring testimony of a very large number of intelligent citizens from every State and district in the Union, received at this office, furnishes convincing proof of the beneficial influences of the agricultural reports of the Patent Office. They have been distributed, through the agency of Congress, to every district in the Union; they have penetrated every neighborhood, and have been read in almost every family; and they have awakened an interest upon the subject of agriculture among the intelligent farming classes of our population not before exhibited or felt. If they have not always been led to efforts to improve, they have produced in the mind even of the humbler agriculturist a conviction of the true dignity of his noble avocation, and of its first and transcendent importance among the great interests of his country. If they had produced no other effect, the money which they have costs would not have been idly expended.

Nor should it be forgotten that it is the only expenditure which has been made by Congress for the especial benefit of the agricultural classes; the only expenditure for an interest in the pursuits of which ten-fold the amount of capital is invested that is invested in any other pursuit; many times the amount of value annually produced that is produced by any other interest; and many times the number of persons employed that are employed in all the other great interests of the country put together. Yet how much is expended, and how much time is employed, in legislating for those other interests, and how little for agriculture.

Edmund Burke
Commissioner of Patents

Hon. John W. Davis
Speaker of the House of Representatives


Statement of receipts for patents, caveats, disclaimers, 

improvements, and certified copies, in 1846.

Amount received for patents, caveats, 

  disclaimers, and improvements       $48,765.00

Amount received for copies              1,499.16

                                      ___________  $50,264.16

Deduct paid on withdrawals, and money 

  paid by mistake refunded                          11,086.99




Statement of expenditures and payments made from 

  the patent fund by the Commissioner of Patents, 

  from January 1 to December 31, 1846, inclusive, 

  under the act of March 3, 1839.

For salaries                            $16,142.97

For temporary clerks                      5,685.61

For contingent expenses                   7,485.19

For the compensation of the district judge  100.00

For the library                             675.96

For agricultural statistics               3,610.68

                                         _________  33,700.41





Statement of expenditures on the restoration of the Patent 

Office, under the act of March 3, 1837.

For restoring the records and drawings      $786.31

For duplicate models, including model cases  585.00





Amount of receipts from all sources      $50,264.16

Amount paid on withdrawals, as per 

  statement A                            $11,086.99

Amount paid for salaries, etc., as per 

  statement B                             33,700.41

Amount paid for restoration of records, 

  etc., as per statement C                 1,371.31


Leaving a net balance to the credit of 

  the patent fund of                       4,105.45

Balance in the treasury to the credit of 

  the patent fund  January 1, 1846       182.459.69


Balance to the credit of the patent fund, 

  January 1, 1847                       $186,565.14



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