In his heated recounting of developments in the previous weeks, Stuart reported that in order to procure the patent he had sent to Washington in mid November a petition and specifications accompanying the drawings of the machine invented by his slave. Moreover, Mississippiís senator, Albert G. Brown, had received from Stuart a model of the machine, which the senator then promised to deliver to the Patent Office. With all necessary papers properly signed and witnessed, Stuart had submitted to Commissioner Holt a letter discussing the political philosophy of patent law, concluding that he deserved a patent because the spirit of the law upheld his case, though the letter of the law opposed him.

      To this, complained Stuart, the Patent Office had first responded by returning the drawings, though without any accompanying explanation. A week later Commissioner Holt had sent a pamphlet containing patent laws and a note explaining that an applicant must make an oath or affirmation of citizenship, an impossible procedure in Nedís case because United States law did not recognize slaves as citizens. Therewith, Holt had also returned the petition and the specifications.

      Stuart found such handling of his application offensive because it assumed that Ned had been the applicant, whereas Stuart alone had made application. He admitted that friends had persuaded him to include with the papers of application Nedís affidavit that he was Stuartís slave and the machineís inventor, as set forth also in the petition. Because Stuart regarded a slave to be a masterís "automaton," he denied that the affidavit implied the foolish assumption that Ned could receive a patent. The affidavit, said Stuart, could be regarded only as "mere surplus sage, neither strengthening or diminishing" the merit of his application. Holtís response, it seemed to Stuart, reflected the "monstrous conclusion" that held the surplus sage to the main substance of the matter. 


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June 2001