# Primary Sources on Copyright - Record Viewer
Letter from Joel Barlow to the Continental Congress (1783)

Source: The National Archives, Center for Legislative Archives: Papers of the Continental Congress, RG 360, 4: 369-373 (No. 78).

Letter from Joel Barlow to the Continental Congress (1783), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

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Hartford 10th Jan 1783


      After having been honored by a slight
acquaintance with your Excellency in your
private capacity, & receiving marks of attention
which I bear in mind with gratitude, I take
the liberty of addressing you on a subject in
which I conceive the interest & honor of the
Public is very much concerned. I mean the
embarrassment which bears upon the interests
of literature & works of genius in the United
States. This embarrassment is natural to eve-
ry free Government; it is one of the evils of
society, which requires to be removed by posi-
tive statutes securing the copy-rights of Au-
thors, & in that way protecting a species of
property which is otherwise open to every in-
vader. It is a subject which, during the more
important affairs of the present revolution, we
could not expect to see attended to by any of the
Legislatures, but is now much thought of by many
individuals, & perhaps can not be too early pro-
posed to the attention of Congress & the several
      It would be needless to recall to your Excellen-
cy's mind, the encouragement that has been uni-
versally given in other countries to the exertions
of genius, in every way which might serve to
elevate the sentiments & dignify the manners
of a nation. The Historian, The Philosopher,
the Poet & the Orator have not only been con-
sidered among the first ornaments of the age
& country which produced them; but have been


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