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the end? Is the inventor he who takes the first step, he who stops at the second, or he who completes the invention? All cannot have the reward, though all may be meritorious. The invention is the end, not the beginning. "Finis coronat opus," is a maxim of sound philosophy, that has come down to us through a thousand generations. The law praises and approves the end, and rewards the final inventor. And for this there is a reason, founded in immutable justice, because he alone is a benefactor. He who thought of the invention was a well-wisher to his race. He who desisted and left it unfinished was unfortunate or unworthy. But till it was perfect and practical, the invention was of no value. The final inventor is the benefactor, and for him the odious monopoly was created.
What other rule could there be? The thought may perish and has often perished. Men have died victims to their zeal, in grasping to reach the last link in the chain, which offered itself by accident to him who came after. But he was successful, and he alone became entitled to the reward. All who preceded him, though deserving, merited only praise.
This is no speculation. There is a rule of law founded in this principle. He who commences an experiment, but only experiments, and produces an imperfect thing, and abandons it because it is unsuccessful, is adjudged not to be the inventor.
The abandonment of a mode raises a strong presumption, either that it failed or was merely an experiment.
If an alleged invention be not pursued, the presumption is that it was not made in a useful form.
The abandonment is an important question for determining whether what took place was experimental, or a perfected and complete invention.
Mere experiment, though successful, is, if abandoned, no ground for a claim to invention. The plaintiff's wheel may have been made before his patentees made it. But if the making of it was abandoned, then there was only experiment, which avails nothing. If those who made it before did not know that they had been successful, the reward belongs to the more fortunate and more persevering inventor.
DEFENCE OF ABEL F. FITCH, AND OTHERS.*
INTRODUCTORY NOTE.-In May, 1851, an announcement was made by the press of Detroit, that an atrocious conspiracy (embracing fifty citizens of Jackson county, in the state of Michigan,) for the destruction of the property of the Michigan Central Rail Road Company, and an indiscriminate war against the lives of passengers travelling on the road, had been discovered, through the activity of agents of that company, and of the police, and that the guilty parties had been suddenly surprised, arrested, and conveyed to jail in Detroit.
The accusation took the form of an indictment for arson, in burning the depot of that company at Detroit, and the proof that of a conspiracy, for the commission of that and other great crimes. The prisoners alleged their entire innocence, and declared that the prosecution was itself a conspiracy, to convict them, by fabricated testimony, of a crime that had not even been committed.
The accused parties denied combination with each other, and even all knowledge of the principal, who was alleged to have committed the crime, and who, as they supposed, had been fraudulently induced to confess it and charge them as accomplices. In applying to be admitted to bail, the sums were fixed so high as to practically deny them that privilege.
Public opinion was vehemently and intensely excited against them, by reason of aggressions, that had been committed in their neighborhood for a long time, seriously endangering the lives of passengers. Among the accused were persons in every walk of life, and while the guilt of some seemed too probable, that of all appeared to be quite impossible. The ten most distinguished lawyers of Michigan, were retained, before the arrest, by the Rail Road Company, to conduct the prosecution, and it was said that every other counsellor in the city and state qualified to defend them, except one, had been induced to decline to appear in their behalf.
They applied to Mr. Seward, at Auburn, by telegraph, after the trial had begun, stating these facts.
He did not hesitate to appear for men whom the public had prejudged and condemned, and whom the legal profession, except for his going to their aid, would have been deemed to have abandoned.
The issues were perplexed. The evidence was of a most extraordinary character. Even now, it is impossible on reading it, to decide which was most improbable, the existence of the crime, or the truth of the defence. The trial lasted four months, and so was the longest, in a jury case, that was ever held. The alleged principal died before the trial began.
One of the chief defendants, and another more obscure, died during its progress
* Detroit, Michigan, September, 1851.
Twelve of the fifty defendants were convicted, and all the others acquitted. All these circumstances, together with the ability and learning displayed, mark the case as one of the great state trials of this country. Mr. Seward's Argument was published at the time; it reviewed, collated and condensed the testimony of four hundred witnesses, presenting a very complicated series of transactions, private and public.
This speech fills more than one hundred pages in the report of the trial. To that report we refer the reader, regretting that our limits allow us to present only the introduction and the close of so elaborate and interesting a speech.-Ed.
MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT-GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY:
This is Detroit, the commercial metropolis of Michigan. It is a prosperous and beautiful city, and is worthy of your pride. I have enjoyed its hospitalities liberal and long. May it stand and grow and flourish forever. Seventy miles westward, toward the centre of the Peninsula, in the county of Jackson, is Leoni, a rural district, containing two new and obscure villages, Leoni and Michigan Centre. Here, in this dock, are the chief members of that community. Either they have committed a great crime against this Capital, or there is here a conspiracy of infamous persons seeking to effect their ruin, by the machinery of the law. A state that allows great criminals to go unpunished, or great conspiracies to prevail, can enjoy neither peace, security, nor respect. This trial occurs in the spring-time of the state. It involves so many private and public interests, develops transactions so singular, and is attended by incidents so touching, that it will probably be regarded not only as an important judicial event in the history of Michigan, but also as entitled to a place among the extraordinary state trials of our country and of our times.
Forty and more citizens of this state were accused of a felony, and demanded, what its constitution assured them, a trial by jury. An advocate was indispensable in such a trial. They required me to assume that office, on the ground of necessity. I was an advocate by profession. For me the law had postponed the question of their guilt or innocence. Can any one furnish me with what would have been a sufficient excuse for refusing their demand? Hoc maxime officii est, ut quisquam maxime opus indigeat, ita ei potissimum opitulari,* was the instruction given by Cicero. Can the American lawyer find a better rule of conduct, or one derived from higher authority?
A word, gentlemen, on the origin and progress of this
*The clear point of duty is, to assist most readily those who most need assistanco.
controversy not to excuse the defendants nor to arraign the
Fifteen years ago, Michigan attempted to stretch a railroad across the peninsula, from shore to shore. It was honorable even to fail in so noble a design. An imperfect road was built, reaching from Detroit to Kalamazoo, and was travelled by a few slothful engines. The state conducted it, as the state conducts every thing, with conciliation and kindness toward the people. Necessity obliged the state to give the enterprise over to a corporation, which speedily extended the road to the western waters, and brought it into a perfect condition. Engines increased equally in numbers and in speed, and the road became a thoroughfare alike useful and important to the citizens of Michigan and to the whole country. This public gain was attended by the usual conflict between the corporation and citizens, about routes, titles, prices, stations and property unavoidably taken, injured or destroyed. The regions through which it passed were newly opened. Their inhabitants were settlers, and settlers are generally poor. Their farms were not fenced. Public roads, as well as public lands, were habitually used as ranges for pasturage. Cattle, often the settler's only convertible property, were frequently destroyed. The change was sudden and abrupt. The corporation refused to pay damages; the settler insisted on them. Litigation ensued, and failed to settle the contested claim. The corporation offered half price, as a compromise. The settler regarded this as a concession of the right and insisted on the whole. Jealousy of wealth and power inflamed the controversy. Occasionally a settler retaliated, and ultimately several united in committing trespasses. The corporation invoked the legal tribunals, but failed for want of evidence. The controversy became embittered, chiefly in Jackson county. On the night of the 19th of November last, the freight depot at Detroit took fire and was reduced to ashes. No one dreamed, or ever would have dreamed of an incendiary, had not a public outcast, lured by the tempting rewards of the corporation, conceived the thought of enriching himself by charging the crime committed here upon persons in Jackson county, obnoxious for trespasses committed there. He secretly gave body and form to that suspicion, and on the 19th of April last, it resulted in the alleged disclosure of a long concerted, profoundly contrived, and deliberately
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When all was matured, an indictment was speedly found against Abel F. Fitch and others, for burning the depot at Detroit; another for conspiracy to burn the new depot which had arisen in its place; another for burning the depot at Niles; another for conspiring to burn the depot at Marshall: another in the United States Court, for manufacturing and passing counterfeit money; and still another for burning the public mails. Civil actions were simultaneously brought against the defendants. Bail in frightful sums, was exacted in each of these actions and on every one of these indictments. Able and sympathising friends were ready to become bound; but the wealth of Jackson county could not meet the large demand, and the defendants, ever since, have been held fast as in a cage of iron. The corporation employed ten lawyers among the most eminent within the state, and assuming the direction of the prosecution and defraying a large portion of its expense, has poured forth, through the lips of its witnesses, the compiled volume of secretly gathered accusations. The prisoners have come daily into court to encounter these accusations, and have returned at night to confront pestilential disease in the jail. The press of Michigan received the disclosures as true, and proclaimed them to the world. The press throughout the whole country, accepting the disclosures, responded in expres