Journal Article

“Patent Property”: The Fulton Lawyers and the Franchising of Progress

Timothy Milford

in American Journal of Legal History

Volume 58, issue 1, pages 87-125
Published in print March 2018 | ISSN: 0002-9319
Published online December 2017 | e-ISSN: 2161-797X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ajlh/njx025
“Patent Property”: The Fulton Lawyers and the Franchising of Progress

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  • History of the Americas
  • Legal and Constitutional History
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  • Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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ABSTRACT

Cadwallader D. Colden and Thomas Addis Emmet could not help but practice intellectual property law: Robert Fulton was their client. Yet their engagement with the subject went far beyond what professional expediency demanded. Their transatlantic backgrounds and careers encouraged their affinity for liberal political economy and for entrepreneurial adventure. On the frontier, in the shadowy zones between early-nineteenth-century empires and land speculations, the line between enterprise and piratical intrigue was easily leapt, and Colden and Emmet were involved in the era’s cross-border confusions. More typically, their work anticipated a world where private business and public improvement were managed in tandem, by interested franchisees, and underwritten by more sophisticated financial arrangements. The defense of Fulton’s patent privileges was an unabashed apology for banks, corporations, and wealth. These lawyers celebrated canals and steamboats and argued that such tangible achievements were impossible without a flexible understanding of property. Their practice was bound up in the franchise model of development and reconciled government patronage with what was then, and is still, a controversial and liberal vision of progress.

Journal Article.  22444 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; Legal and Constitutional History ; Constitutional and Administrative Law ; History of Law ; Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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