America’s First Copyright Law – 1790

America’s First Copyright Law – 1790

America’s First Copyright Law - 1790
America’s First Copyright Law – 1790 – Just nine days after enactment of America’s first copyright law, John Barry of Philadelphia received the first copyright of the United States on his Philadelphia Spelling Book.

George Washington (1732–1799)

The Copyright Act of 1790 was adopted by the United States Congress in 1790 to establish copyright laws for intellectual works made by US citizens and lawful residents.

“An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by securing the Copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of such Copies, for the Times therein specified,” was the formal title of the first such federal statute. For a once-renewable time of 14 years, the legislation gave writers (or their executors, administrators, or assigns) “the exclusive right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing, and selling” their works.

To protect a work’s copyright, an author was obliged to send a copy to the clerk of the local district court and another copy to the United States Secretary of State within six months after the work’s publication. A fine of 50 cents per printed page of copyrighted material in a person’s possession was imposed on those found guilty of breaching another’s copyright. Within two weeks after the law’s adoption, the first copyright was awarded under it.

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The Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789

The Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789

The Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789
The Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789

Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790),

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826),

Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834)

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, also known as the French Declaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, is a foundational charter of human rights that contains the ideals that inspired the French Revolution. Its 17 provisions, enacted by France’s National Assembly between August 20 and August 26, 1789, served as the prologue to the Constitution of 1791. The preambles of the Constitutions of 1793 (renamed simply Declaration of the Rights of Man) and 1795 (renamed simply Declaration of the Rights of Man) were similar papers (retitled Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the Citizen).

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The Judiciary Act of 1789 – the USA

The Judiciary Act of 1789

The Judiciary Act of 1789
The Judiciary Act of 1789 – Inside the East Courtroom of the Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio—one of the federal courts created as a result of the Judiciary Act.

George Washington (1731–1799)

The Judiciary Act of 1789 was one of the first actions of the new Congress, and it established a federal court system. According to the Constitution, the judicial branch shall be comprised of one Supreme Court and such lower courts as Congress may establish from time to time.

However, unlike the legislative provisions, in which the authors clearly stated the powers of Congress, Article III of the Constitution is ambiguous as to what judicial powers should be.

Because the three judicial systems in the British system — Common Pleas (private law), King’s Bench (criminal law), and Chancery (equity) — functioned separately and received their power from the King’s writ, Congress had no precedent to guide it.

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The U.S. Constitution 1787 – We the People

The U.S. Constitution 1787

The U.S. Constitution 1787
The U.S. Constitution 1787 – The first of the four pieces of parchment that contain the U.S. Constitution.

The United States Constitution, which was written in 1787, passed in 1788, and has been in effect since 1789, is the world’s oldest surviving written charter of governance. Its opening three words, “We the People,” declare that the United States government exists to serve its citizens.

Article I, which establishes a Congress consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives, recognizes the people’s primacy via their chosen representatives. The Constitution’s placement of Congress at the start confirms its standing as the “First Branch” of the federal government.

Congress was given authority for establishing the executive and judicial departments, generating money, declaring war, and enacting any legislation necessary to carry out these duties, according to the Constitution.

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Blackstone’s Commentaries 1765 – Oxford Press

Blackstone’s Commentaries 1765

Blackstone’s Commentaries 1765
Blackstone’s Commentaries 1765 – This portrait (c. 1755) of Sir William Blackstone hangs in London’s National Portrait Gallery.

William Blackstone (1723–1780)

Although William Blackstone had a varied career—attorney, college administrator, Oxford University chaired professor, member of Parliament, solicitor general to the queen, judge on the Court of King’s Bench and the Court of Common Pleas—his most lasting contribution and source of enduring renown is his Commentaries on the Laws of England.

From 1765 to 1769, the Clarendon Press in Oxford released the four volumes of his opus.

It divided English common law into four categories:

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The Writs of Assistance Case 1761

The Writs of Assistance Case 1761

The Writs of Assistance Case 1761
The Writs of Assistance Case 1761

George II (1683–1760), James Otis Jr. (1725–1783)

Americans were protesting to the British government’s seemingly unlimited ability to inspect private property via writs of assistance more than thirty years before the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution barred arbitrary searches and seizures. The Revolutionary War was sparked by opposition to such writs.

Following the French and Indian War—the Seven Years’ War’s North American theater—Britain became worried about the colonies’ commercial trade with foreign countries. The British used writs of assistance, which are similar to general warrants, to combat smuggling.

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The Gin Act of 1751 – London, England

The Gin Act of 1751

The Gin Act of 1751
The Gin Act of 1751 – William Hogarth’s engraving Gin Lane depicts the ills that befell Londoners from the unrestricted sale
of gin in the eighteenth century.

William Hogarth (1697–1764)

Gin is the anglicized, abbreviated version of Genever, the Dutch name for the juniper berry, which is the main flavoring ingredient in the spirit. In the late 1600s, English troops returning from battle on the continent brought this clear wine to London in their bags. It was an instant hit, and by the 1680s, Holland’s exports had surpassed 10 million gallons.

Then, in 1689, England outlawed the importing of all spirits in order to promote domestic manufacture. Domestic distiller incentives made gin cheap and plentiful, changing the kingdom’s drinking habits. Gin supplanted beer and ale as the most readily available of the few viable social pleasures, and the working people embraced it wholeheartedly.

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